I was stretched out on the table, slow deep breaths, and Wally was talking to my knee (and to all of me) with his hands, with warmth, steady gentleness and unfathomable kindness, as is his way, and I was talking to my knee with my heart.
My heart and I asked the question that has been the question since the pain started two weeks ago.
“Knee, what’s going on here?”
Which really means:
What are you trying to tell me? What are you trying to give me? Where would you like to draw my attention through this experience of pain? What do you need? Help me understand your message.
Usually I get silence, or one word: RELEASE.
But this time I got an image.
Buckets of paint.
Hundreds and hundreds of them piled up in a long banquet hall of a room. Some piled neatly and some more haphazardly, paint dripping in rivulets down the sides.
They are paint buckets filled with pain. The paint is other people’s pain.
For some reason, a long time ago, before memory, I agreed to store other people’s pain for them inside my body, and my knee has had enough of this, and it is showing me all the pain buckets.
I didn’t know they were here.
In fact, I am one of the few people I know who feels strongly about not taking on the pain of the world. I believe in giving pain to the fountain, to the mountains, to god or whatever your word is for love/source/wholeness/universe.
I have a seemingly endless room filled with these buckets.
Some are familiar to me.
There is pain that belongs to the jealous ex, pain that belongs to my mother, pain that belongs to someone I used to be close with who isn’t speaking to me right now for reasons of her own, pain that belongs to my friend who is dead.
There is pain that belongs to people I have passed on the street and pain that belongs to people I have hugged, and pain that belongs to people whose hurt I have read about online. So many colors, so many shades of pain(t).
The rest of the buckets, I have no idea. So many of them.
Apparently I have just been unknowingly holding everyone’s pain, in buckets, for a very long time. I have allowed myself to become a storage unit for paint that will never be used.
Release, said my knee.
Release, said my knee, again.
And so I asked for helpers to remove the buckets.
Do you see, said my knee. Do you see why we move so gingerly, to not spill the paint.
Ah. Yes. I do see.
And so I asked for lids for all the buckets, and then all the buckets had lids, and the helpers were able to move faster and more efficiently.
The banquet hall began to clear out until it became apparent that what I had thought were walls with paint buckets stacked up to the ceiling were not in fact walls at all. The banquet hall is outdoors.
Then there were only a few dozen buckets of paint left, but these didn’t want to budge. They were glued to the ground, cemented somehow. These were the pain-buckets that did not want to be absolved or healed.
The outdoor space suddenly looked like a graveyard, with pain bucket markers. The sky was low with grey clouds. A soft steady tiftuf of rain, how do you say that, drizzle. Like at my mother’s funeral.
We need a rainbow, I said.
And a rainbow appeared. Several rainbows, each one attaching itself to a paint bucket and letting the paint stream into the rainbow, changing its colors, until the buckets were emptied, and then they weren’t heavy anymore and they detached from the earth and were carried away.
Thank you, rainbows, I said, but they rainbows showed me that they were painbows. Painbow-rainbows for the buckets of pain.
I watched the pain stream away in sweet blended lines of color.
The outdoor space that had reminded me of a graveyard turned into a setting for a garden party: lanterns and soft music. It was evening in the garden and the moon was rising, and you could feel the anticipation of something beautiful about to happen.
Go look for the rest of the pain, said my knee.
The rest of the pain…
So I went back indoors, and where the banquet hall had been was now a very tall storage closet, stacked to the top with more pain buckets. These buckets were black, and the paint was black matte, rich liquid black, and this pain was all mine.
The buckets were labeled with dates. Sometimes a year. Sometimes a day, or even an hour.
There is the bucket of Lior doesn’t love me anymore, and there is the bucket of being falsely accused of stealing at work. The bucket of Her Name Is Kimberly. The bucket of losing my tiny apartment in Florentin. The bucket of the day the orchards were destroyed.
But most of the buckets I don’t recognize. They document things I don’t remember or maybe I just don’t know the dates.
I ask for the pain to be emptied, and this is both easier and harder than it was with the white buckets.
These buckets move faster, but some are very heavy, and some I cling to without meaning to.
It follows the same process as the releasing I have been doing in my home, letting go of clothes, art, projects. There are some things I can just say goodbye to, other things trigger a panicked moment of who will I be without this.
Who will I be without this paint/pain?
Who will I be?
The answer, of course, is that I will be a better bell, because when the belltower isn’t clogged up with paint buckets, the bells have more room to ring. The answer is more resonance, more reverberating, more aliveness, more joy.
And yet somehow I associate letting go with loss. As if letting go of the pain will be more painful than storing the pain for unknown reasons, possibly for future reference (look, here is all the pain).
I also notice fear that if I give up this pain, it will do damage somehow. As if the world can’t handle all this pain, better to keep it stored here for safekeeping.
This makes me laugh, because of course the truth is that there are endless resources to transform things that are done, and this pain is a museum of what is done.
I give my permission for the buckets to be released, and they whoosh away into a night sky where they are used for an art project. They become a black-black-black night sky, and then the artists sprinkle stars all over the paint, and the paint is happy to be used, and it is no longer made of pain, and all the artists ooh and aaah over how beautiful this night sky creation has become.
Where else is there pain, I ask my knee.
And then suddenly I am aware of a gigantic chocolate cake located between my ovaries, and I feel like saying “Okay and here’s where it gets weird, you guys”, except, well, the whole thing is kind of weird already, so how is this weirder.
Yep, a gigantic chocolate cake.
And my knee whispers, pain au chocolat, pronouncing it completely wrong, and giggling.
I have never heard my knee laugh before. On the other hand, I have never encountered second-chakra layer cake before either, and it occurs to me that my internal system of wordplay may finally have taken things too far.
I mean, pain-buckets, whatever, fine, but this is too much.
I glower at the cake, but then my knee’s sense of humor is catching, and I laugh too, though it is sort of a laugh-sigh, and I ask the cake what it needs.
The cake wants to be appreciated, and I am the worst person for appreciating cake because I don’t eat cake, but on the other hand I am the best person for appreciating cake because look, someone made sweetness!
It’s a chocolate pain-cake, and this is interesting since I have an imaginary chocolate shop, which has been both a source of and a result of the past few years of painful things.
Even more interesting, this pain-cake is located in my creative center, blocking my creativity, just like the chocolate shop which keeps me busy covering overhead, which makes it hard to access the time and the headspace for writing.
So the cake wants to be appreciated, and the only ways of appreciating cake that I can think of are eating it or sharing it, and I don’t want to do either of those. Cake, how can I support your mission?
The cake says, celebrate me. And so I put candles all over the cake and I say, you are a celebrated cake, and my knee is giggling again.
The cake says, you created something exquisitely beautiful and then it died and you didn’t celebrate its life because the ending was so painful.
The pain-cake: You of all people don’t believe in the bullshit cultural construct of longevity. You don’t believe that relationships are special because they last. You don’t put value on lasting. You put value on the experience, the treasure in the experience.
Me: Yes, but this particular experience was nothing but pain from start to finish, and it left me in debt, and I lost friends, and I lost my dream. What is there to celebrate?
The cake: You had a beautiful vision and brought it to beautiful fruition because you are a badass, and a wildly passionate person who is in love with life. And then that vision was not what you truly desired, and now you know what you truly desire, and you will never chase the wrong vision again, and you will never give up any aspect of you in order to create, and you are free. You are a bell of joy. This painful experience is how you got to all that knowledge and wisdom.
Me: You are right. This is true.
The cake: And the entire experience took only two years. Imagine if it had taken you thirty years to learn these things. Some people don’t even learn them in a lifetime. Celebrate! Celebrate me!
Me: You are worthy of being celebrated.
The cake: Celebrate other things that were short-lived and beautiful and special, and that was the right amount of time for them! Cake for your love affair with J! Cake for realizing in Berlin that you didn’t want to go to grad school there after all! Cake for your friend who is dead.
Worthy of celebration.
I flash on one of my favorite memories of him.
We are in his apartment in Neve Tzedek, listening to the song Comfort Eagle, by the band Cake, of course, of course, that is so funny, and he is obsessing over this album so hard and listening to it all day, I can see his joyful smile, he is beaming and smiling from ear to ear, walking around the kitchen clapping his hands above his head to the claps in the song, and he is so happy, and so alive and we loved each other so much.
Me: Yes, that is worthy of celebration.
And then the cake disappears, and I am a bell in a bell tower, and Wally says everything just softened, this is good, and I think, yes, this is good.
Keep me company.
You are invited to share things sparked for you, or you can ring a bell, or you can laugh with me at the fact that my body apparently experiences everything through puns.
As always, we all have our stuff. We make space for this, and for each other, and we don’t give people advice. We meet ourselves and each other with warmth and sweetness.
Love, as always, to the commenters, the Beloved Lurkers, and everyone who reads.