I was thinking about pain the other day. My roommate and I are doing the Insanity workout and I’m not sure if I’d recommend it. I enjoy it, most of the time, but that’s because I like to push my body and challenge my stamina and all that jazz. So to me, it’s fun, but to my left knee, it’s a personal attack.
You see, about 8 years ago, I was a runner. I ran every day at 6am, rain or shine, cold or heat, no matter what. During one of those early morning runs, I tripped on a jagged piece of sidewalk and fell, twisting my knee. Being a tough- girl, I got right up and kept going. The next day, I got up and ran again, even though the knee was still sore. And again the next day, and the next, and the next.
The knee never healed properly and the pain got worse and worse over the years. At first, I could run through the pain and it would eventually disappear before I finished my run, but over time the pain wouldn’t fade. It hurt to run a block, let alone a full mile or 2 or 3. It hurt to walk up and down stairs.
I can’t run at all anymore, which is kind of a personal tragedy, since I know that my stride was pretty good, and I actually really enjoyed running.
And now, the Insanity workout attacks my knee on a daily basis with its squats, kicks, and especially its jumps. My knee woke me up one morning a few weeks ago at 5am with its pain. It felt like my leg was being run over by a train while the knee was being bent the opposite way. The weight of the sheet alone was too much.
I writhed for hours.
Pain doesn’t really faze me, though. I’m used to it, and I like the workout challenge so much, I’ll keep doing the Insanity workout until my leg falls right off.
I suppose that might sound unreasonable, and maybe it is, but pain is a good longtime friend of mine. When I was around 8 or so, I started getting relatively severe migraines. I suffered through a headache a month for at least 4 years straight. I never took any medication, since that’s not how I roll. Pain always fades eventually; that’s my motto. And it does.
So I would lay on my bed, or on the couch in the family room with the door closed and the blinds drawn with a cool washcloth over my closed eyelids. And I would wait, trying to sleep, hoping the pain would go away. Intellectually, I always knew it would, but you know how the mind can play games with you while you’re in pain. After a few hours of lying there, I’d forget what it was like to not be in pain, and I’d start to imagine what would happen if my head always felt like this. What if the pain doesn’t ever go away?
Kids are dramatic. They have crazy active imaginations, and I probably had a more active imagination than most, so in those hours, when I felt like there was a creature trying to fight its way out of my skull, I would pray to a God I didn’t have a very clear understanding of, and I would beg Him to just let me die. Sometimes, I would bargain, and tell Him that I would do anything He told me to if only the pain would go away and never come back. But really I knew that the only way for me to never experience pain again would be to die, so that’s what I wanted.
In my pain-addled state, I would inform God that there was no sense in leaving me here to suffer pointlessly and that it would be better to either make the pain go away instantly or let me die and never hurt again. It never occurred to me that I could take that decision into my own hands, somehow that always seemed like a cheat. An ace in the sleeve, an illegal move. Death is someone else’s call. If I’m alive, I’m supposed to be, so I told God, make it worth my time to be here.
And the pain would always eventually fade, leaving me somewhat euphoric, and I would forget that I had ever begged this nebulously undefined God for death. I would emerge from my dark room to see the golden glow of sunset throwing long shadows across the living room. The light seemed softer, the air smelled sweeter, and food tasted better after recovering from a migraine. It felt like an accomplishment, walking around feeling no pain.
So it’s always been somewhere in my head the fact that pain is a part of life, probably an essential one, and if you are alive, you have to feel it. I don’t really know what the purpose of it is, since most of the time, I just tell my pain to go f**k itself, and I will do whatever I want.
I must admit that I never feel more like the fragile human being I am than when I hurt, but when it’s gone, and I’ve suffered through it, I never feel more alive. Maybe that’s exactly the purpose of pain; it makes it impossible to be numb to life. It reminds each of us: we are alive, it will go away, and we’ll still be here when it’s gone.
If you take an unhealthy amount of comfort in food, as I do, then here’s a recipe for those days when you’re in need. Take one with a cup of tea until the symptoms fade. Doctor’s orders.
(adapted from USA Weekend columnist Pam Anderson)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon lime or lemon zest
- 8 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup chopped crystalized ginger
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 large egg
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, zest, and salt.
- The original recipe has you grate the butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater, but that’s a hassle, to me. I just cut the butter in with a pastry cutter at first, then use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in ginger.
- In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth.
- Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.)
- Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp. of sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart.
- Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.
Served with tea.