One day, my Tai Chi Master walked into the class and asked everybody in an agitated voice: “Do you know what is pain?” The Master told us that a woman jumped from a sixth-floor balcony at an old age home where he taught classes, because she could no longer endure the lower back pain that she suffered for years despite all her visits to doctors and physiotherapists. He then said: “Don’t give up without trying! Teresa had knee pains and could hardly walk when she started Tai Chi! Wei had a frozen shoulder when he showed up in this class! Look at them now!” I realized he was in a kind of pain because he felt that if only that woman had joined his classes, he could have saved her life. And he was teaching a class including the husband of the victim at that senior home.
Which reminds me how I seem to have lived with aches and pains most of my life. Frequent migraine headaches at the beginning of my career. I relied on pain medicine and a strong will to fight the pain so that it would not disrupt my work during the week. As soon as weekend arrived, the pain took its revenge and I toiled in bed and darkness.
After child-bearing, my knees started to ache. At some point followed my hips; then menstrual pains in the womb. Nothing worrisome, doctors say; normal wear-and-tear that commonly happens to women after giving a few births. They shrug off these common ills by saying: “If and when it gets too bad, you come in and we replace your hip (or your knee).” It has to get worse before it can be fixed (if you can call that a fix). Meanwhile, take some pain killers when you need to (never mind the declining results and side effects of the pills).
However, I did get lucky during a visit to a Chinese doctor named Vickie who enlightened me about aches and pains. She listened to my complaints about the ailments with a knowing smile. She fed me a bitter sweet potion. She inserted acupuncture needles in places as far from my pain spots as possible, such as my feet or earlobes. Then, in her quiet voice, almost like a whisper, she imparted to me a nugget of wisdom: “You know, pain is your friend, not your enemy. It comes because it is taking care of your body. You don’t fight your friend; you open your door to a friend.”
I stopped fighting. I decided to be very economical with medication to save some dry powder for my old age. I started to receive pain in its full force and length without analgesic aid. I became an attentive audience for my friend. I learned to accept and be patient. And even in the most painful moments, I don’t feel helpless or lonely, because my friend has come to help me; I am not alone in fighting my real enemies.