gone, gone, and gone

img_4482POSTCARD #222: Bangkok/New Delhi flight: An awareness of things as they are. The main event was the injection in the head and the constant (PHN) headache gone instantly. Wake up next day and it was still gone, gone as I write this, and it remains gone. So reassuring to know the transformation to ordinary things is possible, the car is back from the garage and out on the road again.

The release from head pain is still held back due to the pain of broken rib but so much easier to cope with now the headache has gone. Walking the miles in airports was thought to be a problem though, so Jiab convinced me to request a wheelchair. Wheelchair from check-in to the lounge then wheelchair to the plane, straight in and the first seat in C class section of the plane. Stewardess puts my bag away in overhead luggage space. Wonderful, I’d never been a wheelchair passenger on an aircraft before, my first time. Plenty of space in this expensive seat, a meal with endless courses, and I slept the rest of the way; so comfortable since these recent days of sudden pain, tossing and turning at night and discovering the only way to try to sleep is sitting up on an inclined wall of pillows.

The odd thing about being in a wheelchair is you approach silently, moving along very smooth floor surface feeling the vibration of small jolts of joints between tiles below, crowds part immediately. If anybody is still standing in the way friends will pull him away or the wheelchair guy says excuse me please? and they move straightaway. A few sideways glances and I resist the temptation to say Hi, how’re you doing? And sometimes feel I should try to look really sick, to provide a reason for being like this, problem is having a broken rib is not a noticable thing. But I keep looking ahead exercising the right to be in a wheelchair and humbled by the generosity of everyone giving way. Astonished by the experience of sitting on wheels in a public place, the great perspective of long airport walkways ahead and seeing the surroundings move towards and go through me. Also the thing about travelling long distances while seeing the world from a lower eye level – a familiarity, déjà vu, the memory of being a child again.

The wheelchair experience means an understanding of what helplessness is, understanding vulnerability, aging… it’s all coming unglued, bits dropping off, but the revelation comes along too there’s no point in feeling bad about yourself because you are simply incapable and that’s all there is to it. At the same time, being (temporarily) disabled gives some insight into the existential plight; the realization that most of us are held prisoner in a trance-like state, incultured into the ‘self’ fiction through the mirror of society’s fear of the unknown, living with a sense of purposelessness and not able to see it.

Not able to cope with pain, tragedy, loss; unable to see the awareness that accompanies our ordinary joys and sorrows – there’s more than one kind of awareness, this provides some relief from pain, ease and understanding; I can step back from the trauma and see it as coming from somewhere else. I can be engaged in clinging and at the same time be in a position to see that this is what’s happening. Letting go, it’s not ‘mine’ anymore.

Then we’re in New Delhi, into the Indian wheelchair and out onto the miles of ochre coloured carpet. At the end of a long time of sitting, I’m looking up at the immigration official; passport thump and wheeled in, permitted to enter the country.

“How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.” [Rainer Maria Rilke]

Photo: Jiab’s collection from Ladakh

66 thoughts on “gone, gone, and gone

  1. I can feel the freshness of the experience. The excitement and the awareness of the excitement. The quote is beautiful and yes, i do feel that too. If we allow ourselves to really feel the inner pain (the headache set aside ofcourse :)), it can open up and bloom. But we’re trained to be afraid of what’s inside, so we learn to remain far away from all these youth pains and traumas. All the while, these parts are waiting for us to feed them with our love and attention.. tragic beauty in a way..

    • Everything has come alive again, and moving to another country is like stepping into this new world. The rib pain is there, is what it is, there’s a way of coping with severe pain that involves preventing the shock of the trauma when it skyrockets. It’s only when it’s reasonably steady that we can learn how to be unafraid and drop the resistance to it as you say, try to welcome it as a part of what is…

  2. As others have said, I am glad the headache pain has eased, again. I was sorry to read of your fall and fractured rib. It has been my experience that the pain spectrum–sensation, in particular–is more varied than I once thought.

    I enjoyed your observation regarding disability and in particular, the wheelchair. For the past 40 years, disability has been a part of my life, at times including a wheelchair. Currently, I’m using a three wheeled-walker; it reminds me more of a motorcycle than a walking aid. It makes life so much easier. Most people are gracious but there are also those who look away, not wanting to acknowledge the possibility of aging or disability I found your phrase–“the mirror of society’s fear of the unknown”–most apt.

    Hope you continue to improve, Tiramit.

    • Good to hear from you again Karen. What I didn’t say in the post was visiting my father in Australia and his second wife who had osteoporosis and he’d take her out to the beach towns in her floation chair and both of them had urine catheters, he wearing short trousers and she with a urine bag tied on to the chair. I walked behind and the reaction from the general public was one of fear and horror. I was amazed how far away these people are from the simple reality of life.
      Interesting how you find the pain-sensation, in particular – is more varied than you once thought. It’s a learned skill…
      Thanks for your good wishes

    • I can imagine how the wheelchair could become an extension of the self. It was an interesting experience for me and seeing how people have the capacity to acknowledge the invalid. I’m pretty sure my entry into wheelchair life is temporary, but a good preparation for some future time possibly. Yes getting the giggles with a broken rib is not really a good thing, I try to not let that happen…

  3. It’s good to hear that the injection worked and that you are finding relief T. I really appreciated your observation of being in a wheelchair with all the associated reflections. It sounds like a fun experience without dwelling on the reasons for it.

    • A wonderful opportunity to experience and contemplate how it is for those confined to the wheelchair. Fortunate for me that I can get up and walk.. And the injection worked even better this time because I knew what to expect. The first time there was confusion and I didn’t really believe it. So I’m good for a couple of months hopefully. By the time the rib heals I’ll be ready for the next one…

      • Thanks Val, for bringing the message home. I need to be more grounded than I am. It feels like I’ve been moving from one place to another most of my adult life. All it amounts to are fleeting impression… looking for a more effective way to bring what’s there to ‘here’.

  4. There’s a line in the Bob Dylan song “Forever Young” that I always come back to: “May you always do for others, and let others do for you.”

    It’s the second part that’s so hard. I had mobility issues because of back pain a few years back, and people were eager to open doors for me and carry my groceries, but it was really hard to say, “Thank you, I do need a little help today.”

    • Yes, there comes a time when you have to ‘let others do to you’. I had some insight into that through the wheelchair experience and discovering the generosity of others… faith is restored in humanity

  5. Pleasantries first, I too am gladdened to hear of your relief from pain. (Well, in one place, anyway!)
    Thank you for the Rilke quote, it reminds me of something else I read recently, though I cannot remember the source, to wit:

    “I dreamed I was a butterfly, and awoke to discover I was a man.
    Now I don’t know if I am a man, or a butterfly dreaming he is a man.”

    Seek peace,


  6. Hello Tiramit , Thank you for the follow on my blog,
    Sorry to hear you have been in pain, and I can fully appreciate the relief of being pain free..
    I have for the last couple of weeks been tuned into the Paralympics and admire what is achieved from those using wheelchairs and other disabilities.. It makes me ever more grateful and to give thanks for the good health I enjoy..
    I hope your rib soon heals and you are soon restored to good health.
    Love and Blessings
    Sue 🙂

    • Hi Sue, I’ve been looking at your writing for some time now and recognize a kindred spirit. It is a wonderful thing how the body takes care of everything – if we can’t accept that, it must be a mind state. A fractured rib just heals by itself, the doctors say, and that seems to be an amazing thing from where I am right now. Still difficulty sleeping at night but it is comforting to know it’s on the mend.
      Thanks for these kind words

      • I am pleased Tiramit that your discomfort is easing, and apologies its taken 3 days to get to reply.. And I am greatly flattered that you have been reading some of my thoughts and Look forward to exploring your own posts in greater depth..
        Wishing you continued healing, and yes I agree, our bodies heals all the sooner with mind over matter.. We can perform our own little miracles every day..
        Many thanks again for the follow

  7. Hope that being back in India will act as a salve on your painful rib. So glad the head pain is gone. Good thing the wheelchair was temporary. After busting my ankle badly this summer I have TREMENDOUS admiration for those who cannot walk. It is such a blessing. Though if you have to, you adapt. Stay safe.

    • If you have to, you adapt. This is it exactly. In ordinary life there’s this transformative process going on all the time. It is an insight to be temporarily disabled and understand how it is for the less fortunate of us – the challenged. In Buddhist terms we are all suffering but there is a way out (3rd Noble Truth), I try to remember that as far as possible. Thanks Ellen and I hope your ankle feels a bit stronger now.

  8. What a great post! Glad you’re headache is gone. The wheelchair experience reminds me of when my daughter was in Disneyland. She hurt her ankle and was given a wheelchair and then treated like a celebrity. Every Disney character made a fuss of her wherever she went and she got to beat the queues for all the rides. Anyway, I hope they manage to mend your ribs. Love the Rainier quote.

    • Thank you Teresa, yes everything is looking up here except for the ribs and they just heal by themselves. The strange thing is they happened around the same time – headache leaves, rib pain arrives.
      I’d never thought about folks in wheelchairs before… I mean really thought. It was a valuable experience. Now I’m amazed by the kindness shown by most people, and getting on the plane first – amused by your daughter’s celebrity treatment in Disneyland…

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