It has always fascinated me, the reasons people undergo elective surgery. It is a testament to how much weight we place on our physicality, how misinformed we can be going into surgery, and how desperate some of us are for change. Most often these ‘elective’ surgeries are about removal: excess skin, bits of bone, fat cells and cartilage, all in a bid to look or feel different. Elective surgery is ultimately about the quality of life, if not to simply stay alive.
Five years ago I underwent the knife, in a sense electively, because I wanted to live. I didn’t get to choose the time or the place, or even the surgeon, but at a certain moment I decided consciously to go down the route of transplantation. Organ recipients tend to be a particularly desperate bunch; we redefine the word. Counting on someone else to die in order to live is the gist of life on the List.
Here I am, five years later in a different moment, wanting and willing to pay for a surgery simply because I don’t like chronic pain. Maybe I’m getting older. Maybe I’ve reached the end of my tether. Maybe I have become more humble and understanding of the meaning of word dharma (from the root dhṛ, “to hold, maintain, keep”, translated to our ‘destiny’ or path).
Knowing pain has been a strong thread on my journey. I honestly can’t say that there has been a time in my life when I didn’t know it. It began from before I can remember with horrible digestive cramping as a three year old, and later became about pushing myself to know extreme conditions like running twenty-six miles without breakfast. In my childhood years it was about keeping things together so not to upset the balance at school or at home; in my teens and twenties it was about being hell-bent on finding my limits while seeking something of more value than I put on my body.
Pain has come in all forms, from physical ailment to heartbreak, and as I get older I realize that some things take time to resolve and cannot be forced, and others require immediate care. I have known back pain for over a decade, and while I presume it may continue as a theme as I age, I would like to give myself every opportunity to continue moving in my body and pursuing the work I love. I trust surgeons, family and colleagues to guide me, but I mainly rely on my intuition to lead me to decisions that feel resolved and clear.
I firmly believe that what doesn’t kill us can lead to super-powers. Sometimes in small doses, some times large; these super powers are often subtle and can go unnoticed for years on end. They are never what you would expect. Nonetheless, when they do come to bear fruit they are bright beams of clarity that have the potential to carry the remedy for many other people’s suffering. Knife or no knife, over time we all need to deconstruct, for this allows us to resurrect, to transform, to grow.