I've been considering the power of pain lately. It's hard to imagine anything else (love perhaps) that can so effectively shut down my brain and body. But pain also has the ability to inspire and awaken, to poke and prod, things long buried and to create connections in disparate experiences.
Last month, our family spent a week of spring break in Paris. A long planned for and awaited trip, I went with high expectations that, sadly, were foiled by a foot injury that I should have attended to before our trip. Pain curtailed many of my plans that week, but I was determined to get to the Musée d'Orsay which I had skipped on my last Paris visit. I knew what to expect (I thought) having studied many of the great works housed there; the world's largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist pieces, Musée d'Orsay is truly incredible. But the real joy and surprise was attending the newly opened exhibit Van Gogh / Artaud. The Man Suicided by Society. Nearly fifty Van Gogh paintings and drawings were annotated with excerpts from Antonin Artaud's analysis of Van Gogh's madness (Artaud viewed Van Gogh more of a truth teller than a mad man). The wonderfully curated collection felt like a descent into beautiful anguish. The entire time I was viewing the exhibit, I was in physical agony yet able to absorb Van Gogh's color and line and shape and meaning in a deep way. Somehow my corporeal pain gave shape and intensity to my experience of Van Gogh's spiritual anguish.
I left the d'Orsay thinking about how there are times I need to appreciate pain, that there are times when it's acceptable, even desirable, to let pain surface. Certainly releasing psychic pain can be part of a healing process and clears our souls so that the good can reside more comfortably; it creates a little elbow room that allows creativity and love and productivity to flourish. But beyond that, the power of pain can heighten our ability to see and understand, to appreciate the world around us.
With that in mind, I tore out another page today. November 27 and December 23, 1994. Words of pain and disappointment jump off the page: "hard" "sad" "scared" "angry" "crying" "awful" "doubts". I hated my job and had just learned I wasn't pregnant. But surrounding those words were many more of hope and optimism. That month, my pain heightened my appreciation for the good.
This afternoon, I redacted the pain -- cut it out with scissors. But I preserved the remaining hope and strength in salt. And, for good measure, weighed down the optimism with stones so it wouldn't get dislodged or blown away. On top of my stones and salt I lay down my pain. But rather than hiding or obliterating it this time, I let it surface and take precedence.
More Buried and Surfaced photos here.
An inquiry into what we choose to reveal and hide from the past.