“Just what kind of sex are you having?”
Unfortunately, sex is a pretty rare occurrence for me. But last week an ex texted me, and one thing led to another, and yay! Later I was telling a friend about how sore I was, and not in the more expected areas. My arms and legs felt like rubber. My abs were a wreck. Standing up and sitting down hurt every time. She didn’t understand it, and assumed I was having crazy, kinky sex, but how could I possibly explain it? I haven’t been using those muscles much at all lately, so even trying to support my own body weight, for example, was just too much for my tired, unused body. Sure, I like to be a bit kinky sometimes, like I said last month, but that’s not what this was. This was just me pushing myself too hard.
And I knew it would hurt.
That’s the key. Ok, I didn’t know how or where or for how long it would hurt, but I knew it would hurt. And I decided in advance that it was worth it. I was careful not to do anything that would lead to more long-term or high-intensity pain, like leaning on my hand in any way, but I was perfectly willing to accept short term pain, like leaning on my forearm.
I made the same kind of decision recently when I visited with a friend who just had a baby. There’s something so great about holding a newborn. They are so peaceful (when they’re not crying, that is.) They have an inner peace that adults just do not have. They are simple and content and relaxed. So that’s why I kept holding her even when I was starting to hurt. And I continued to hold her even as I hurt more. It wasn’t until the pain got pretty bad, after about 15 minutes of holding this little 7.5 pound darling, that I finally had to give her back to her parents. I hated to give her up, but I knew that I was about to cross over from short-term to long-term pain, and I didn’t want to go that far. Still, one week later, I held her again. And again, I continued to hold her even as the pain got worse. And it was worth every second.
Pain is our body’s way of saying DON’T DO THAT! It’s usually a good idea to respect the pain. And I think that for the most part we’re all good about listening to our bodies when there’s pain. But for those of us with chronic pain, who experience pain every single day of our lives, there’s no such thing as avoiding pain completely. And sure, it sounds like a good idea to minimize pain as much as possible, but that would mean missing out on so much in life. We have the advantage of knowing our bodies better than most, of knowing what will cause and worsen our pain, so occasionally we’re able to make choices (if we’re lucky) of whether or not to do those things.
For everyone else I know, sex and holding babies are fun things and that’s all. For me, they’re big choices about how willing I am to be in pain for several days afterwards. It may not be worth it to me to take a walk in 16 degree weather today, especially with ice on the sidewalks and knees that already sore, but I’m looking forward to having sex again tonight, and I’ll be holding that little baby again the next chance I get. Those are my choices, and I am very happy with them.
I am so with you on this, and I think anyone who lives with a serious chronic illness eventually gets to this point, especially those of us with the incurable illnesses, the from-now-until-you-die illnesses. I tend to think of it as buying something with my pain currency, and I’m the only one who can decide if the price is too high to pay on any given day. Sex is usually worth the price (and helps me keep tabs on how well my pain medication is *really* working, since my sex drive drops to basically nil if I’m not getting enough pain relief) but staying up a little later and a little later talking to friends usually isn’t worth the price.
The trick becomes convincing the not-chronically-ill people involved that I know what I’m doing, what I’m bargaining for at what price. Friends, unsurprisingly, tend not to get why I don’t want to purchase more time in their company with my pain currency, but on the other side of the coin my husband often worries that I accept too much pain for sex. But those are my priorities, and the things I am willing to accept more pain to keep in my life. I try to stick to the things I genuinely value enough to purchase them with pain, and ignore any social pressures trying to convince me that I should just go along with everyone else. That, of course, is the other trick. 😉
Samantha, I love your idea of using currency as a metaphor for this – it’s really perfect. I’m glad you’ve worked out what’s worth it and what isn’t for you. But like you said, the trick is to avoid all of the pressure to do otherwise. I usually think I do great with that…. until something happens and I don’t. I guess we’re all human and make mistakes, and it’s a good way to learn. Still, I’m going to try to be better about only doing the things that are “worth it” to me.