Flames erupted through my lower body, shooting from my calf to halfway up my back.
I'd been training pretty hard lately to get back into shape - every day at least 15 minutes of exercise, closer to an hour most days. I'd mix up the form, a little walking, jogging, hiking, swimming, or training with weights. Now I was having a masseuse in Hong Kong break up the lactic acid and knots in my muscles, and I cried out when she dug her elbow into my already tender thigh.
Focus. Focus. I read a lot of history, and greatly admire the warriors that wouldn't cry out even when wounded or being interrogated. I was just reading a story a samurai who faced torture for a day straight without crying out once.
I try to go into my head, separate the pain from myself. Like I'm sitting on top of a cliff and watching pain battle my body down in a valley below. I do roughly the same thing towards the end of a workout when things start to hurt - I don't try to tune it out. I observe it. I try to enjoy it - time is slowing down and becoming harder? That's good, it means I get to experience more time. And the hurt is proof I'm alive.
I do the same if I'm ever feeling sad - I try to reflect and appreciate the sadness. It's an emotion, it's something natural to be felt, and can be enjoyed like a bitter type of food or an acidic glass of wine. It burns a little, but acknowledging transforms it in a way. Instead of something to be fought, it can be accepted, acknowledged, and appreciated for what it is.
So I observe the pain, as something almost apart from the conscious me. Yes, my body is reacting. This is a warning mechanism to keep me safe. But it's mis-firing right now, because I'm treating my body well. I observe the pain and become still, and it's almost enjoyable. I tell the masseuse to go a bit harder, and she does. My muscles loosen, unclench.
I slept like a baby last night, and I'm sore but feeling strong today. Sensations don't rule me, nor do they have to be fought against. Observe. It passes. Breathe. Strength.
March 10, 2010. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Late morning.
I pulled on my swim trunks, trainers, and a tank top and walked out of my little guesthouse room, sliding through the cramped restaurant strewn with tables, and out into the hot, dusty air of Phnom Penh. It's a hot day. It'll be good to swim after lifting weights.
I said, "No no, thank you" to the tuk-tuk drivers offering to take me somewhere in the city, pushed through the little crowd, and out onto the street. The streets in Cambodia more resemble alleyways than streets, and I navigate around people and vehicles.
I went down to the end of the street, turned left, and skirted along close to the local restaurants, half-tent half-storefront type places to get food. I stepped into the crosswalk, the Hotel Cambodiana rising in front of me. I check right and then left, and I watch left as I cross, watching for oncoming traffic.
A loud scream rings out. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
One of the things that's missing from my writing is emotion, and I know it. I'm always trying to correct that by looking for ways to add emotion to my writing, but I rarely find them. The truth is that ninety nine percent of the time the only emotions I feel are some variation on joy, gratitude, and excitement. I don't have bad days, even when "bad" things happen to me.
I remember when I broke up with my last girlfriend. I was standing in the airport, about to leave for Tokyo, and she called. We talked for about ten minutes, agreed there was no way forward, and I boarded my plane. I loved her, had thought that she might be the one, and had no bad feelings towards her at all. But I wasn't really sad, because I felt as though we'd given it an honest shot and that we were doing what was best for both of us.
Two days ago Lucia and I broke up. Broke up is an overstatement, actually, since we weren't really ever dating. But there were a few weeks where we envisioned some sort of future together, and I was intoxicated by it.
As someone who rarely allows reality to get in his way, the distance and divergent and chaotic schedules didn't phase me. I'd found someone I really liked, and despite having little basis to believe that it would last, I poured myself into it emotionally. I do that, sometimes. I count on myself to be able to rebound from anything, so I put myself into situations where I may get hurt, physically, emotionally, or financially.