Pain and Pleasure

Yesterday at physical therapy I was standing there doing tug-o-war with my therapist. Yeah, it’s an exercise. I’m supposed to hold still while he attempts to move me away from my center by pulling in one direction or the other. It’s a hip strengthening and stabilizing exercise. The tool involved is stretchy. Once that was finished, we moved on to his pulling me (using the same stretchy tool) from the front. I was thinking about how great it’s been to be able to safely do so many things I want (and more that I don’t want, like yard work) so quickly after surgery thanks all the physical work I did before the surgery, the miles and miles on the bike-to-nowhere, the dog walks that were often excruciating.

“You need to give me a challenge,” I said to Ron, grinning. “I’m pretty strong.”

“You are,” he said. “You know, I think you’re ready to walk on uneven ground.”

“I have been.”

“Where?” I told him about our walks out at Shriver/Wright Wildlife Refuge with the heat the the horseflies, how beautiful it was, how silent and empty (because who wants to walk in heat with horseflies? Only a dedicated idiot stoic like me, I guess). “It’s mostly flat, but there are some little — very little — hills.” My new thing is finding hills. Not big hills, but hills.

I had been thinking that I’m now able to walk my dogs at the slough and do a lot of other things because of the way I was raised. I felt grateful to those “cowboys” who raised me to be tough and to have a sense of humor about it. There wasn’t a lot of indulgence in the Kennedy household. In my mind’s “ear” I heard my mom say, “Quit yer bellyaching,” followed by a slap across the face as enforcement.

I literally grew up expecting pain. One friend a long time ago called me a masochist, but that’s not it at all. A masochist LIKES pain. I don’t like it, but it doesn’t surprise me. What has surprised me is NOT feeling pain. That’s amazing.

I wonder how I would have raised children to expect both pain and pleasure and take neither for granted, to understand pain enough to know that it may be transitory but maybe not; it may need to be dealt with. Still, it’s universal to all people and so should inspire compassion. I would want to raise them to understand pleasure is also transitory and somewhat random, but can be the fruit of their kindness to others — which is intentional and which they can choose and can ameliorate a lot of the pain in the world.

All in all, the cowboy stoicism with which I was raised seems to have been a good thing, though I could’ve done without the slaps. It looks like I’ll be doing that mountain hike two months earlier than originally projected. ❤ Thanks mom.

Stoicism: an ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium. The school taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.

13 thoughts on “Pain and Pleasure

  1. Might as well take the useful part of that history.

    Another PT, who started the Boulder Center for Sports Med and worked with a lot of elite cyclists said that most of the men who were really good had fathers who could easily fit in the category of being abusive, generally both physical and emotional tyrants. Tolerating that in their growing up was useful for being able to tolerate the pain of endurance training. Frank Shorter, the olympic marathoner has recently also written about his hideously abusive father and how running was an escape.

    Its an interesting and somewhat horrible paradox there.

    I’m delighted to hear that you are progressing so quickly and well on your rehab!

    • Wow. This is going to demand some thought. My mother was an abusive and manipulative (sociopath) and there were times (a lot of them) when the only way I could mentally (and physically?) escape was by running. I’ve wondered occasionally since then if NOT running means I no longer have to. I’ll have to read Frank Shorter’s book — he was kind of a hero of mine.

      I asked my PT yesterday if (after September 20) he could help me relearn to run. He really looked perplexed. He said running is innate and began thinking of reasons I might WANT to run (like to get across a street ahead of a potato truck — a danger here). I said, “No, that’s not it. I want you know, the thing where you and your little brother or sister says, “Race you to that tree. Just fifty yards in the golf course would be perfect.” I think he got it. He said, “Oh like we start at the aspen tree and run to the spruce?”

      Otherwise, I’m not going to run. Trail running is verboten anyway. I will be allowed to run on tracks etc., but prostheses wear out faster for runners and looking at my family there’s a danger I might live to be very old. I’d rather save the risks for skiiing. I don’t want to go through a revision surgery. But I would like to run barefoot in the cool grass to the tree just one more time.

  2. I was horrified by that story, Martha, but if you can get something good out of that upbringing, all power to you.

    My body is not built for speed, Martha, but I do love sprinting with Makea when we run an agility course. It is the best feeling running with my girl. The longest course is 160m max.

    • 160 meters is a marathon to me. 🙂 My mom was what she was. I had a loving father and an extended family that saw what was going on and stood beside me. In its paradoxical way, it was good training for life, though it left me with some places that are just never going to work right. OH well. Don’t we all have some of those, one way or another?

  3. Congratulations, Martha. The thought of you climbing a mountain in two month makes me smile. I also smiled when I read the description of your tussles with your physical therapist and his stretchy cord. I’ve done the same exercises recently. And, my good news, I walked my first couple of steep hills today, not as fast as I used to charge up them, but I did it. Yay for us!!

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