It's the "English Geek" in me that sits around and thinks about how to describe what exactly "fear" and "pain" are. I'm not going to get all Derrida-y on you and deconstruct the language and get into why we call a chair "a chair" and what the literary and philosophical ramifications are of those signifiers too much...but "fear" and "pain" really are words trying to "get at" sensations that can only be described in metaphorical terms. For example:
For three weeks, my back hurt like a mother fucker.
You see, right there, I am trying to give you a point of reference to understand exactly how my back feels. I could also give you a number on a scale to try to make it clearer, too:
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning I can bend in such a way as to fellate myself and 10 meaning that I feel like a chimney sweep was left to simmer over an open flame for an hour until the blue of the fire married itself with the red-glowing blackness of the fleur-de-lis-shaped handle into a new cosmic color we shall deem as "ass poking aqua" and said handle now resides permanently in my anal region so that when I walk I look like Fred Sanford after a brutal rape reminiscent of the one Tim Robbins most likely took from the Sisters in Shawshank Redemption...I have probably been at a 7 for about three weeks.
But I took a month off from training...and the last week was the week that really got to me.
I understand injury. Like Derrida would argue, I can't have athletics without an implied lack of athletics (in this case, injury)...so really, being athletic also means that at some point I will become injured, whether I like it or not.
But does that mean I have to fear it? Do I have to fear re-injury to the point that for one week, I do not exercise, not for the actual pain, but for the desire that it not return?
So I thought about this again and again today as I returned to training: a ten-mile bike ride followed by a three-mile run while over analyzing every twinge and every move. Was that my back? Are my hips tightening up? Is my back going to spasm again and leave me stranded in the middle of Mission Bay so that an 85-year-old retiree beats me around the lake?
I can't describe the fear in terms that are tangible to you...nor can I really describe the pain and how it has felt not to be able to sleep, stand, teach, and shower let alone swim, bike, or run without feeling a constant dull and throbbing tingling warning me that if I am not careful my back will seize up at any moment.
I can't describe that fear...that perhaps is more paralyzing than the pain itself.
But I would have made Derrida happy today because I can't talk to you about fear without implying something about courage. And today I was also pretty disappointed by my lack of mental and physical acuity after just one month off, which I guess means I was proud of myself, too.