It feels appropriate at this time of year, in my dark Mordorish little corner of the earth, to talk for a while about things other than the joyous and the beautiful. There is much here in life that is ugly and that stings, that hurts the flesh and the soul and when our Northern winter comes, bringing with it long stretches of cold damp weather, illness and isolation, many of us are forced to sit in company with these grim beasts for weeks or months on end. That’s not to say that winter cannot be a blessing, and to many it is, but today I’m going to talk about the issues for those for whom it definitely isn’t.
How we deal with pain depends on many factors – the nature of what pains us, whether it is curable or not, whether rest helps or is detrimental, whether medication or analgesics are available or useful, whether we have free will to choose our own path through pain or whether it is thrust upon us by well-meaning Others…
Pain is usually a signal that something is wrong somewhere and no form of cure can be complete unless it recognises first the cause of the pain it is trying to eliminate.
I live with RA. For me pain is usually a sign I have done too much and need to slow down, in those cases taking analgesics and pushing through only makes things worse. Occasionally, it can be a sign that I have been too inactive and need to do more, in that case painkillers can help.
The stories we tell ourselves and eachother about pain are important because they shape our expectations of ourselves and others. If we only listen to tales like that of Elija under the broom tree, we will labour under the assumption that all and any pain is an indication that we need to rest, indulge in self care and remain passive until the pain is passed. On the other hand if we only listen to stories of tenacity like that of Demeter, for example, we are likely to carry the idea that all pain is something that can be pushed through and overcome by sheer force of will.
Both these extremes are, in my opinion, dangerous. Personally, I prefer stories where the cause of physical or emotional pain is brought to light and examined, where possibilities are left open, where many paths forward and back are visible and viable.
Mythpunk, with its postmodernist roots, can speak into this space effectively, can question and ridicule the notion one a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy for dealing with pain; the pain that cries ‘stop! enough!’, the pain that is the sweet release of hidden things, the pain that says ‘move, now, come on, get going,’ the pain that harms, the pain that heals, that births or ends, the pain that needs to be put in its place and told ‘pipe down, this is being dealt with, hush now and let us get on with it’… and all the other types of pain, they each deserve their recognition and their voice.
Here’s an extract from two of my own mythpunk pieces that deal with the subject of pain, both mental and physical, the first is from The Painter’s Daughter, which is currently published in Invisible The Mystery Of Hidden Illness and the other is from Ado which you can find in my own mythpunk collection, Mahrime: Mythpunk for monsters.
The Painter’s Daughter
The little demon jabbed the quill spike hard into the soft, pale flesh of her arm.
Out leapt a tiny spurt of paint.
Then slowly, and with the girl in thrall,
He dragged the rainbow colours out
In swirls and spirals, tree cassyn pathways to guide the flow of all that weary weight into traces of beauty and scope.
Here was a dream in flesh.
Here was pointillized pain.
Here was inside out for all to see and staining no one but herself; surely, no words would be needed now . The world would smile and nod its head at her, as they knocked shoulders in the street, and whisper
‘ah, so, that is how it is with her, mm, we understand now why she walks so slow and dares not speak. How could a child do otherwise, with so much colour inside?’
So she stepped out.
With the bird quill tucked behind one ear…
Ado : When all is lost
“But look, ” she said, “we are still here.”
“No we aren’t” I said “There is something left that was not destroyed, but it isn’t us.”
“Look,” she said.
I kept my eyes on the sunrise.
For brief seconds there was beauty. The smoke seemed to bleed through the light like the flourish of a dancing hand – a love letter on pink paper.
For the space of a breath, the thousand fragments cart wheeling on the breeze were pale moths journeying to find the moon.
Up and Up.
Catch them, they crumble. They are only the little grey ghosts of all the things we loved. Echoes that stain our fingers and nothing more.
“Don’t tell me this is love,” I said. “Don’t tell me this is the plan.”
Thanks so much for joining me again for another #MythpunkMonday, do feel free to jump aboard and share your own / others work or thoughts using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments below. Big blessings to all who struggle, at this time of year or any, it is tough but together we can support eachother and make space for our voices to be heard.