Freewriting just means writing without stopping whatever is on my mind. So here it goes…
Thinking about pain on this fine Friday morning. What hurts more, emotional or physical pain? Doctors try to get patients to rate their physical pain on a scale. One to ten. Years ago, I tried to have my forearm tattoo removed. Laser removal. That pain. Screaming sharp. I felt it in my ears.
People always ask, “Was the laser treatment worse than that tattoo itself?” The tattoo was a 6. The laser was a 9. Or, a 10. I can’t imagine greater pain.
I don’t want to write about pain today because people want sunsets and pretty landscapes and happy family photos and funny memes.
Our culture doesn’t want to talk about pain.
I don’t either. But it’s what I’m thinking about right now.
Religion is for people that don’t want to go to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there.
It could be because I started watching Breaking Bad. Finished five episodes. And I see the pain in Walter. His cancer. He’s just trying to cope. And he’s attempting to manage the trauma.
The paradox: selling drugs for the sake of not leaving his wife in debt, should he die.
I remember traveling to Italy. With Mom. Visiting relatives. They’d make a beautiful meal. Then, later, we’d sit. They’d pull out old photos. Aunts and uncles and cousins. You had wedding pictures. Happy. You had birthdays. Happy. You had first holy communions. Happy. Baptisms. Happy.
But you had pictures of death — loved ones standing around the dead body of an elderly family member. He’s in his bed. In a suit. Laying there. Dead.
Women in black. Children. All surrounding the dead body. Sullen faces. Capturing the moment of sadness in photo, that moment in life when there’s pain.
As Americans, we think that’s morbid or something. A lot of Protestant funerals are happy and clappy and “he’s in a better place” and “God works all things for the good.” That’s okay. We do what we need to do in moments of despair.
Mom lost her brother Carlo to a horrible car crash. They were in their 20’s. He was married with children. Nonna wore black for years.
There’s a time for everything: laughing, crying, loving, hating, feasting, starving, embracing, refraining from embrace. We photograph the happy. I’m glad we do. There was once a time when the different seasons of life — happy and sad — were photographed.
Mom had her stroke. Just over a year ago. All these well-intentioned friends and family telling me to keep a positive attitude. And I wrote about how people can be addicted to hope today. How Christians think God is a genie. That you could just hope your way to whatever you want. That faith can do the trick. Hear that? Trick. Wrote about how that hadn’t exactly worked out for me in every area of my life.
Wrote about how it didn’t work for Jesus, either.
Wrote about how I wouldn’t be hoodwinked this time with Mom’s stroke. I knew she would never be the same. I wrote about how all the prayer and hope and faith and positive thinking just don’t change certain stuff.
Over 1,000 people shared that post.
I find refuge in truth. Not in fantasy. A big question Christian theologians and philosophers have been asking for centuries — the Bible talks about receiving a reward for faithfulness. Does the reward happen in this life, or the next? Lots of Bible verses to support each side.
Pain brings us closer to truth. Pleasure doesn’t. There are no pain addicts out there. No one in rebab for pain addiction. But we all struggle with various levels of addiction to pleasure.
What’s your pleasure addiction?
Pain brings us closer to truth than pleasure. It brings us face to face with our humanity. I don’t know exactly what that means. But I know pain has a sobering effect on our inner self. All those first world little problems with status and money and little petty quarrels, disappear, evaporate, vanish.
I remember that scene in the film, Gladiator. Russell Crowe. Returns to his home to see his wife and son. Burned and hanging by their necks. Then he falls and crawls and pulls them down and he lay next to them, face in the dirt, slobbering, in shock.
I had my moments in the fetal position. It was a January. On the cold hard floor of the garage. Nearly collapsing in the shower a few months later. I don’t ever want to feel THAT way again.
Read The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. If you are suffering from grief, read it.
I don’t want to ever want to walk in a deep valley again. Where you stare out onto the street or into the sky or at the TV or at a group of friends and feel it’s all in slow motion. That you’re watching a silent movie. No. The movie is not silent; the sound is like a dull buzz. And when you eat, the food no longer has flavor.
Everything was bland.
Symptom of depression: Loss of interest or pleasure in activities.
Went skiing this year. Mammoth. There were these jumps. Ski jumps. Took a deep breath. Flying down the hill. I hit one. I am sailing through the air. Feelings of utter exhilaration as I sped down that hill. Exhilaration as I soared through the air. Like a bird.
I wasn’t thinking of my humanity.
I won’t be thinking of my humanity on Sunday night. I will have had a couple Jamisons and will be playing bass lines to Chicken Fried and Man! I Feel Like A Woman and Sweet Home Alabama.
Another Weeeeeeeee! moment Sunday night. You should come!
Episodes of exhilarating pleasure bring out of body experience.
Episodes of excruciating pain bring in the body experience.
Pain brings focus. It brings you one single aim: whatever it takes to make it go away.
Physical versus emotional pain. Which is worse?
How do you rate emotional pain on a scale of 1 – 10?
Today the books of The Bible that make most sense to me: Job. Parts of Psalms (where there is lament). Ecclesiastes. Lamentations.
When I read those books, all the happy-clappy-suck-it-up-mind-over-matter-just-add-water-hope.com-bs is replaced by honesty.
Some well-meaning soul will tell you in your moment of despair, “Jesus is the answer.”
Those who have walked in your shoes will sit and listen.
A note on “Freewriting.”
Every Friday, I set my timer on my iPhone for 15 minutes. Then I start writing. I don’t stop. I write whatever pops into my mind. After 15 minutes, I go back and quickly correct all the blatant typos. Then I publish it.
I started “freewriting” in the early 1990’s because I had read this short article called “Freewriting.” I was a horrible writer back then, with the most severe writers’ block. The article said you have to write WITHOUT STOPPING. For a fixed period of time. Even if you have to write the same word over and over again. Over time, you get better, and more confident; writing becomes as easy as talking.
I can’t count how many freewriting exercises I’ve done over the years. Thousands for sure. I still do them almost daily. My kids know them well.
If you struggle as a writer, there is no better way to learn to write than to freewrite. But you have to be a reader, too. It all makes writing as easy to you as talking.