I got a massage yesterday, at my local looks-like-a-brothel massage parlor. There were elbows involved, and climbing on the table to get leverage. It hurt like a motherfucker. But you know, in a good way.
It's so weird. As I was lying there, taking a beating from the small, middle aged therapist, I was thinking, "if I felt a pain like this just randomly, or if someone hit me with something I would probably yell out and run away. But because she's doing it, I don't know, it feels good." It feels virtuous maybe? Or is it my knowledge that it has to be done, or my trust in her expertise, that makes me accept it? Or is it that, like all of us I think, I'm just a little bit of a masochist?
But it's not all nice, obviously. Most pain isn't the hurts-so-good variety. To make up for that, people say things like what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and other platitudes meant to make suffering meaningful. Sometimes pain does mean something. Sometimes it instructs. When you burn your hand on a hot stove, you learn not to touch the hot stove, and etc., but that doesn't magically extend to everything.
I think I have learned that most pain is meaningless. And the times in my life when I have been in the worst pain, like after radiation, or while waking up from my most recent surgery, all I am left with, all I can express, is why? As I lay in O.R. recovery in August, hot pain dotted my chest. Tears rolled slowly down my cheeks. I sobbed silently, saying only to Matt why does this hurt so much why why... And scaring him so bad, and him calling the doctor, and an angelic nurse pushing more and more fentanyl until we switched to dilaudid, and it all just dissolved away, quicker than he could inject the full dose. And after it was over, I thought that maybe I was just being dramatic.
That's an odd thing about pain. How we don't remember it. I remember the intellectual experience of it; remember my tears and my fear, but the visceral thing is not something I can call up, the way I can with a tickle or hunger.
I think there's something about control. The hurt-in-a-good-way thing is predicated on my being able to stop it whenever I want. A few times, as the massage therapist dug into my knotty shoulder with her elbow, I almost told her to stop. But I didn't.