The Problem of Pain
There is a problem with pain. Other than that it hurts, that is.
The problem is that we each experience pain in a personal and unique way. My pain is not your pain. Pain tolerance and pain thresholds are different for every person.
Not only that, our experiences are different. A man cannot fully understand the pain of a woman in childbirth; a woman cannot fully comprehend the pain of being kicked in the balls. We don’t have comparable parts. Not only that, every birthing experience is different too (for example). I’ve heard of women who have had a pleasurable and even (gasp!) orgasmic birthing experience. I’ve heard of plenty for whom the pain was enough to make them pass out, and scream for days. My own experience of giving birth was one of unimaginable agony. People say you forget the pain when you hold the baby. In my case, this is not true. Perhaps I lack the true maternal spirit.
Pain is the body’s way of communicating that there is something wrong. Whether it is physical or psychological pain, it is a call to change, a call to arms or at the very least a call to investigation. Ignoring pain and carrying on regardless is only ever likely to cause more damage. Those who cannot feel pain continue to damage themselves catastrophically. There are people who declare you must move through pain and that it does not matter. I would imagine few of these have experienced severe, chronic pain. The ability to bear pain is often greater when the pain has a fixed limit (as in childbirth) and one of the hardest things to cope with is not knowing if the pain will have an end at all. While I was coping with severe endometriosis, one thing that kept me sane was knowing that at some point the pain would cease when menopause arrived.
Coping with the extensive pain created by my parathryoid tumour was a tiny bit easier when I knew what was causing the pain, and later, when I had a date to look forward to to get rid of the tumour. It meant I was able to accept the strong pain relief that came in the form of patches for slow release of opiates; had the pain been open-ended and longer term, I could not have risked using the patches.
My Joint Hypermobility Syndrome causes me a lot of pain and fatigue and since it’s not something that can be cured, I now struggle to deal with it. The recent MRI scan has found something else (not something I’m willing to talk about yet) and like the JHS, it too is something that causes pain and weakness. It would seem that pain is something I cannot escape.
One thing that I would ask is that we all start to respect each other’s experiences a bit more. Those who have escaped pain during their lives have a tendency to believe that somehow they are stronger, wiser and more blessed than those suffering pain. Those who exhort others to “move through the pain” or that pain doesn’t matter and we should just ignore it, really need a dose of reality. Pain is one of the constants of life and it’s a mark of our growth as human beings that we can learn to deal with the pain of others in a compassionate way even when it’s not something we have directly experienced.
I’ve not talked about mental or emotional pain at all but to me it goes without saying that mental pain is as debilitating as physical pain. One study I cannot now find did discover that in a significant number of cases a simple dose of paracetamol daily for those suffering depressive illness is more effective than anti-depressants. Mental pain is real; while invisible illnesses can cause horrific pain, it’s still not widely understood how horrific the pain of a mental illness can be. We feel it in the body, too. It’s not “out there” somewhere, but it’s deep inside us.
Pain is a problem. It’s not just my problem. It’s a problem that belongs to us all.
Posted in Depression and Anxiety | Tagged chronic pain, depression, experience pain, healing, healing words, life, mental health, pain, pain thresholds, personal, self-development | 9 Comments »
Accidental Emeralds ~ a first foray into publishing poetry
When I first began blogging, I used to post poems fairly often and on a number of occasions I have been asked by readers if I have a poetry book available to buy.
Well, now I do.
In some ways, it’s been a harder decision to do this than to publish the novels and stories because poetry is an even smaller market and I’ve had such limited energy due to illness, committing to producing a book of poems was something I wasn’t keen on. There’s a large file of poetry on my hard drive and collating and deciding which to choose and what order to put them in was daunting.
Then I remembered that in the dim and distant past where I was still half-heartedly trying to achieve some sort of success a more traditional route, I had entered a poetry competition that required a small themed collection. I entered and the collection didn’t win. It was the last time I entered anything; it cost £18 to enter and though all entrants were sent a little collection of the previous year’s winner, it really didn’t feel much like value for money. But the collection of twenty poems was still sitting there, untouched and unused and I decided that it would be a valuable experiment.
Accidental Emeralds is a book of poems with the theme of longing. Longing for love, longing for seasons that have passed us by, longing even for tolerance for the wild creatures we share our world and sometimes even our homes with. The title comes from a poem about spring time in an urban setting, where smashed green bottles lie like “accidental emeralds” amid fallen candy-floss coloured cherry blossom. There are only twenty poems, but for a first volume this was enough.
It’s available as a rather lovely little pamphlet/chapbook and also as a Kindle version. I shall be entering it into the Matchbook scheme so that if you buy the paperback, you will get the Kindle version either free or for a greatly reduced price. I apologise for the fact that the sample on Kindle does not show any poems; it only shows the cover, and a table of contents. Since the book is quite short, there’s no way of making a single poem show, but if you have any concerns, then do go into the poetry archive on this blog and sample my style there.
I have begun work putting together a longer collection that I hope to have ready before too long but in the meantime, I do hope a few poetry lovers might choose to buy Accidental Emeralds.
This is the paperback link for UK:
Buying the paperback means you are entitled to a digital copy free using the Amazon Matchbook programme but the Kindle version is available here for £1.74
Posted in Poetry | Tagged books, healing words, poems, Poetry, poetry book, Viv's poetry | 3 Comments »
A Plea for Poetry
The first piece of creative writing that I can recall anything about which had a memorable effect on others was a poem I wrote aged around six or seven. It was about the colour blue, then my favourite colour, and it ended with the immortal stanza, “Blue, blue, beautiful blue. Blue, blue, wonderful blue.” Hardly Wordsworth, I know, but it caused a fairly large stir in my infants’ school among the teachers. I was a bit shocked at the effect but I guess that while teachers wanted their students to have a try at poetry, at that age, they weren’t expecting terribly much. The poem is long gone but I recall that I used imagery and metaphors, about which I knew nothing consciously.
There is a hesitation, a fear and a loathing around poetry that has long puzzled me. People say they can’t see the point of poetry or that it bores them, or it’s all insufferable navel gazing and narcissism. I know relatively few people who read poetry who are not themselves also poets, and I pick up a general feeling that to most, poetry is an irrelevance.
This saddens me. I studied poetry to an almost industrial level at university, in two languages. Shakespeare is the most widely known poet in the English speaking world, and his language infuses modern English to such an extent that it’s hard to find idioms and expressions without roots in old Will’s works and we use his words usually without knowing what we owe to him for enriching our native tongue. I studied Anglo-Saxon verse, and Beowulf, and then everything from then on up until the twentieth century. I have my favourites, that speak to me, that have become my go-to poets and poems for all sorts of emotional needs. Sometimes a poet expresses a personal truth so well that it becomes almost a universal truth.
A poem can encompass in a few short lines a vast story, yet that story is dependent on our interpreting it (unless it’s a narrative poem or an epic saga in which case it’s a bit more straight forward). A few short words can be enough to convey directly to the heart what it might otherwise take a long novel. For example, in a Wilfred Owen poem from the First World War, he uses the phrase “blood-shod” and in that, he tells a powerful tale of shortages, political incompetencies that delay vital supplies, of the pain of boots disintegrating in foul mud, of feet so sore they lose feeling, coated in blood and filth, that has taken me four lines to explain in merely in passing. (http://www.warpoetry.co.uk/owen1.html).
The effects of such a poem are immediate, and stunning. You can read it out and see the faces of those listening become lost in thought. You don’t even need to be good at reading aloud for it to have a dramatic effect.
It’s not just for the difficult things, either. Love poetry has been a staple for thousands of years; you can say things in poetry you can say no other way. Lovers from Sappho to Shakespeare and onwards have been extolling the virtues, vices and beauty of their beloveds. Catullus wrote some of the wickedest, wittiest and most humorous of ditties to his beloved; they still hold the power to amuse, shock and entertain. (Do look him up in translation and be prepared for some smut and some laughs and some shocks.)
Words are things endued with power. I’ve read of research where subjects being viewed via an MRI machine have had words flashed in front of them and their brains have lit up in the same places that experiencing that event would provoke. So reading about love makes the brain experience the same feelings as being in love, or experiencing pleasure. We can enjoy vicariously the experiences of others, and thereby become more empathetic. This is one of the uses of poetry(and of story, too, but poetry to me is a form of story telling that bypasses acres of words)
And don’t forget that poetry is also FUN. Who has not giggled over the odd limerick? Who has not sung nursery rhymes to their children? Who has not at some stage felt the words surge through them when a poem set to music sets off a moment of nostalgia?
I write this both as a poet and as a lover of poetry. Give it a chance. No one demands any more that you learn a long poem, stanza by stanza, threatening detention or a rap on the knuckles if you fail. You have the option to choose what to read, what to enjoy. There ought be no snobbery in poetry. Pam Ayres’ light, entertaining (but thoughtful) verses have as much value as T.S. Eliot’s labyrinthine and often impenetrable poetry. I’m at the very brink of releasing a first book of my own poems, just a slim volume of twenty poems. I don’t expect it to sell well, to be honest, but nonetheless I am going ahead and publishing because put simply: poetry is important. It’s important to me and whether we recognise it or not, it is vital to civilisation and human development.
Posted in Poetry, Uncategorized | Tagged healing words, mental health, poems, Poetry, Shakespeare, Viv's poetry | 4 Comments »