Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Phantom Pains

When we broke up, I compared it to the amputation of a gangrenous leg. "You don't want to do it," I explained to my friend. "You hope there's a chance you can save it, or at least salvage the good parts. But you know it has to go. You realize it's not what it used to be: it's an infection now, eager to spread and take you over, so you give up. You know you'll be better, safer from harm, free of danger once it's gone. You know you'll miss it, but it's for the best."

Oh, how right I was.

I fought hard to save it, to avoid surgically removing him from my life. I sought ulterior paths, schemed, connived and plotted to prevent our separation. I insisted, to myself and to my friends and family, that maybe we didn't need to break up. That we could work it out. That things would change. That I wasn't hurting nearly as much as I seemed to be. That I loved him and wanted to be with him. But they knew better. And they gently advised me to cut him off. What had once been love had turned into infectious misery, and it had already begun to take me over. "Really, Laurie," my mom said. "It's been over for a while, hasn't it?" And it had. I was just still clutching the decent remains, hoping to bring it back to life.

Until finally, it was over.

They say that amputees experience Phantom Pains, an ache in a missing arm, a muscle spasm in a missing leg, pains felt distinctly in a limb that isn't there. They say that, in new amputees, the sensations are frequent and intense, gradually fading into intermittent aches the longer the limb is gone.

I know what they mean. I have phantom pains of my own.

I can still feel love for someone who is no longer a part of my life. I can still feel disappointed by a boyfriend I don't have. I can pinpoint the longing for my missing other half. I can still feel neglected by a partner who isn't there. I can still taste the sweetness of kisses no longer available to me. I can still feel taken for granted by a man who isn't mine.

The medical journals were right: At first, it was constant. A persistent nagging that reminded me I was without him. Eventually, though, it calmed, flaring up only when triggered.

Like when he knows I'm sick and doesn't call to check on me.
Or when he promises to call and forgets.
These are things that he no longer has to do, things he no longer owes me; But I still hold him responsible, want him to be there.

And I wish I could stop it, keep the phantom pains from crippling me. But how do you get rid of something that's already gone?

11 comments:

kate said...

All I can say is Wow! That's a fantastic post. You're a wonderful writer.

I'd like to say that I understand, but I really don't because I've never been in love before. At least, not enough to feel the way you do. But I hope you find some sort of closure. Hang in there.

Ethan said...

Fantastic is an understatement.

I feel stupid commenting because there's nothing to add to what you wrote.

Nick said...

Unfortunately the pain still remains. It's just how you can live with it. Either you take that experience and make yourself better for it or you let it linger and have it constantly eat away at you.

Laurie said...

It won't consume me. It's like when your arm falls asleep - You never really notice the sensation was gone until it starts (painfully) coming back.

Jason said...

Time, involvement with other things (not necessarily other people), vastly improving at least one aspect of yourself -- physical, mental, emotional. Doesn't matter. Then you'll happen to notice it's just a memory.

Anonymous said...

Laurie,
One of my good friends from school lost his arm in Iraq. I went to see him on the way down here and asked him if he ever had feelings like you described. He said he had, but when he gets those feelings he looks at the empty sleeve and can see it is not there, and no prosthetic will ever really take its place...however it will help for sure. But he said two things that I think you should take note of. 1. He said that sooner or later, he will be so used to his fake arm that he will be able to do everything with it he could with the real one and it will be like his real one was never there (that is hope! & of course the wonders of science and fake limbs for troops) 2. He told me he was not sorry he lost his arm. I mean, sure he is a little ticked it happened at all. But he said, he knows he lost it for a good cause. And he doesn't care, he will move on and be a better person when it is all said and done.
This is long...sorry. But, I am sure what he said can really relate to you...You made your choices, like you always have, for the right reasons and one of these days, whatever "fake limb" you adopt will become better than the one you had before...like it was never there.
Have hope!
-DLH-

Casey said...

I think we all have people in our lives who cause this kind of pain.

One great aspect of your break-up: this blog! It's been said over and over, but you're a really great writer.

Laurie said...

Thank you so much for the compliment. :)

Polly Prissy-Pants said...

"I wish I could stop it, keep the phantom pains from crippling me. But how do you get rid of something that's already gone?"

Simple, my friend. NEW PENIS. No seriously, get laid. Worked for me.

Laurie said...

Thanks for the tip.

Ethan said...

Wow, thats insightful.