Okay, enough with the disclaimers.

The cast of characters:

My arms: not so much their actual physical arm-ness, more like a representation of my arms. Actually, think of a Greek chorus made up entirely of arms.

Me: You know, me.

Cobalt: The awesome body-work chick who does various wacky healing stuff with me.

The scene:

A small massage room. I am on the massage table. Cobalt is holding my arm (my real attached-to-my-body arm). Meanwhile, my symbolic arms are marching around the room, holding placards. They’re protesting.

The protest.

My arms (chanting and waving signs): No more pain! No more pain! No more pain!

Cobalt: Do your arms want to say anything today?

My arms: No more pain! No more pain! No more pain!

Me: Uh, they seem to not want any more pain.

Cobalt: Well, that seems reasonable.

Me: I guess.

Cobalt: Do they have anything they want to add to that?

My arms: No more pain! No more pain! No more pain!

The pain.

Cobalt: What kind of pain are they not wanting more of? Is it the pain that they feel right now? Is it all pain? What pain is this?

My arms: No more pain! No more pain! No more pain!

Me: Okay. They’re not being specific. They’re ignoring what I ask. In fact, they’re actually just marching around the room with placards chanting “no more pain” over and over again.

Cobalt: They’re protesting?

Me: Yup.

Cobalt: Nice!

What do I want?

Cobalt: What do you want to do?

Me: I kind of want to join them.

Cobalt: Go for it.

Me: No more pain! No more pain! No more pain!

My arms: No more pain! No more pain! No more pain!

Me: But I’m also mad at them.

Cobalt: Okay, that’s legitimate.


Me: It seems annoyingly hypocritical of them to protest pain when they’re the ones causing me pain.

My arms: No more pain! No more pain! No more pain!

Me: It’s because of them that I haven’t been able to work more than a couple hours a day since January, which has been really hard on my business. It’s because of them that I can’t write very much and I have to make Stu write my blog posts which sucks because it takes forever … and also because he’s a conceited, bigoted asshat.

Cobalt: Stu?

Me: He’s actually voice-to-text software. But he’s still an asshat. Also, he’s obsessed with Bolsheviks.

Cobalt: Wow.

I get a negotiator.

Cobalt: Well, let’s get the protesters over here so we can find out what their list of demands is, and you can tell them why you’re mad.

Me: Oh. You’re my negotiator. Thank you.

Cobalt: What are their demands?

My arms: No more pain! No more pain! No more pain!

Me: Listen, I can’t help meet your demands if you don’t tell me specifically what this no more pain thing looks like.

My arms: You need to stop going to acupuncture. And you can’t get massage if it hurts. No shots at the dentist. No more stitches!

Me: Those are all things I do to take care of myself. And the massage and the acupuncture are for you guys, so you’ll get better. I can’t stop doing healing things.

My arms: No more pain! No more pain! No more pain!

I learn something about my arms.

Cobalt: Any other demands they have?

My arms: A bodyguard.

Me: They want a bodyguard.

Cobalt: Okay. What’s this bodyguard like?

Me: He’s really big. He has a shaved head and earrings. He has enormous arms. But he’s actually very gentle. Like, you get the sense that he is a lovely person, but if the wrong person got close, he’d beat the crap out of them.

Cobalt: Nice.

Me: Oh, weird. It’s my massage therapist! It’s like … my arms want protection from pain … from the person who sometimes causes them pain?

And I learn something else.

Cobalt: You’re thinking of your arms as the source of your pain.

But maybe your arms are more like a barometer of pain. They show you when there is too much pain in your life. Maybe they’re measuring it and demonstrating it, rather than causing it.

Me: You’re right.

The negotiation begins.

Cobalt: Havi, what parts of these demands can you meet? Any of them?

Me: I am willing to take a break from acupuncture. I am willing to ask my massage therapist to only do very gentle stuff for a while. Last time we were at the dentist we asked not to have shots and it was fine … we’re done with the stitches …

Cobalt: Is there anything else you want to say?

Me: These demands are unfair.

Cobalt: What would you tell your arms about why you think this is unfair?

Me: I can’t protect you from pain! Life involves pain. How can I make promises about future pain? Plus, what if I stub my toe tomorrow?Of course there will be pain. I resent the idea that I could just decide not to have pain in my life (though I admit I also find it appealing).

My arms are appreciative.

Cobalt: And what do your arms have to say about that?

My arms: No more pain! No more pain! No more pain!

Cobalt: What else?

My arms: You can do more.

Me: What?

My arms: There are already things you do to keep out or to mitigate pain. You have people who read your email for you and moderate your blog comments. You don’t go to networking events (thank you, by the way — we appreciate that). You take steps. So why can’t you take more steps?

Me: Okay, you can have a bodyguard.

My arms: Thank you.

The agreement.

Me: Alright. I cannot promise that there will not be painful things or situations in my life. But I am willing to take steps to care for myself and to be considerate of … the things that I’m apparently really sensitive about.

My arms: Okay, then we will stop protesting.

Me: Will you stop hurting?

My arms: Cobalt is right. We don’t give you pain. We just announce how much pain there is in your system. And when we think you have been given too much, then we protest it because it’s not fair for you to be in so much pain.

Me: You’re on my side?

My arms: Hello! We’re your arms.

The party.

Cobalt: Sounds like we have a settlement.

Me: Yeah.

Cobalt: So … is there going to be a party?

Me: A no-more-pain party?

Cobalt: A party, a ribbon-cutting, a ceremony … what needs to happen to mark this new relationship?

Me: There could be a party.

My arms: Can we have it on the pirate ship? Can we? Can we?

Me: I don’t see why not. Let’s go!

Today’s comment zen.

My arms: Havi would appreciate it if you would avoid anything judge-ey or should-ey like telling her that she’s crazy or that she should really be using The Thing That Worked For You to stop her pain. Also, she has a bodyguard.

But she would be happy to talk about other aspects of this. And to laugh with you about the ridiculousness that is her arms getting to write the comment zen.

Me: That wasn’t bad, actually. Works for me.

The Fluent Self