06 February 2010

The Avoidance of Pain

I've had more than enough time to think deep thoughts today—stuck at work, making Pandora stations and looking out the window at yet another rainstorm that is truly bringing me down.

Part of what's got me down, I finally realized, is pain. When it rains, I hurt. This was the case prior to receiving my titanium knee. I'm resigned to the fact that this reality won't change now that I've got the knee. For decades, I could predict the rain. It was presaged by a deep down ache in my osteoarthritic bones. Well, I realized today that the ache returns whenever there is precipitation even though those bones have been replaced with something which is prized for its ability to resist corrosion. For me, pain is a reason for melancholy. I don't like to hurt like that (but I don't mind the righteous pain you experience after a three-hour surf session in the sun).

Once I realized that it was the pain—not the rain—that was "harshing my mellow," I started thinking about why it is that so many of us in middle age surf, skate, ride bikes/run more miles than a human should or follow any passion that leads one to be single-minded in his or her dedication to that pursuit. I think it all has to do with pain. Not just physical pain. Psychic pain is just as palpable to the one experiencing it. We are not the 40 and 50 year olds of our parents' generation. Their lives, while certainly difficult in ways this generation cannot relate to, were somewhat predictable. Society told them what to do, told them how to do it and promised them a reward at the end (Social Security, pensions, retirement with gold watches).

Our generation was also promised those things, but we saw that our parents weren't necessarily happy living that life. We also see that there's nothing waiting for us at the end . . . just the end. Many of us tried to follow the party line; we attempted to work at jobs we hated, buy things we didn't need or want, live in houses that were too much. You know what I mean. Many of us quickly realized doing this was pointless and simply gave up, deciding instead to look for the things in life that made us happy. In other words, we surf and skate because even though it often hurts—when you get hit by a board or fall hard on asphalt—it doesn't cause the kind of pain that living that life does. When I work in cubicles, I'm in pain from the moment I park my car in the employee parking lot until I finally get home at night. No lie. Others can tell you similar stories. And this is why we choose to spend the bulk of our time surfing, skating and doing the things that make us smile for the rest of the day.

If I die tomorrow (with little money in the bank and not much to show for this life other than my child and my writing), I will die knowing I've lived my adult life on my own terms. My father died with quite a lot of money in the bank and in the stock market. I don't know that I can say he was ever really happy during the almost 38 years that I had him in my life. He worked. He saved. He didn't seem to have much of a life apart from those things. So, for me it's a no-brainer. I'd rather not be in pain. I surf/skate, therefore I am.

(The builder told me I don't need to cover the ramp when it rains. He told me that at least five times . . . since I asked him that at least five times. As you can see, I still don't follow directions very well. Having done my research long before I ever got the ramp built, I knew enough to position the tarp so that it doesn't rest on the surface of the ramp. How I'll get that tarp dried off and folded is beyond me. No matter. At least the ramp is safe and sound.)


At 2/6/10, 5:07 PM, Blogger gracefullee said...

Amen, Sister!

At 2/6/10, 6:08 PM, Anonymous Val said...

As usual, you've nailed it! We sure aren't the 50 year-old-plus women of our moms' and grandmas' generations! Besides your great entry here, I was inspired by a recent article in TSJ about a woman in her 70's who bodysurfs daily in San Francisco. For myself, I treasure living in my humble art-studio-with-surfboards -and-a-bed, and wearing my 501's, hoodie and Van's- even to work! (I'm a teacher.) I want to surf till the day I die! (Even if someday I have to switch back to a prone vehicle and fins exclusively - hopefully that won't be for a VERY long time though.) To live conventionally would be the ultimate pain for me too - maybe even a sort of death of who I am.

Thanks for brightening a rainy day with your great writing & insights!

At 2/6/10, 6:23 PM, Blogger reef said...

I hear ya, well said!

At 2/6/10, 8:54 PM, Blogger Christian said...

Quality post. You have such passion and it comes through in every thing you do.

At 2/6/10, 11:59 PM, Anonymous Glenn said...

This post was so beautiful it brought tear to my eyes. Tears of joy and happiness, knowing I am following my bliss and doing things that make me feel alive. As Gerry Lopez once said, "I am becoming rich in ways that don't count at the bank." Thank you for an amazing post.

At 2/7/10, 9:54 AM, Blogger Bill said...

surf on Sis

At 2/8/10, 11:05 AM, Blogger El Hefe said...

Right on! We're sometimes obsesive about our sports, but it's better than being obsessive about happy hours. Or work. Or golf.


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