The entry that should have come between this one and the last is the one about how happy I am. Interestingly enough, I’m working as many hours as I did last semester when things got rough, and I actually have more challenging classes than I did then, but I feel pretty good. Sure, I am tired, and my knees start to hurt when I work seven days in a row, but when the sun shines I throw my arms out and soak it up. Even with my busy schedule, I try to make time to spend one day a week with my friends, and I talk almost every day to someone I love (who doesn’t live in my house). When I drive I sing loudly, and my latest escape plans have me standing on my tip-toes all the time.
But today the weather began to change, and my phantom limb began to twitch.
I find it funny that a person can feel so complete (or at least, relatively content and actively moving towards completeness) and then suddenly and unexpectedly be struck by an overwhelming emptiness. Last night I laid awake feeling the hole in my heart grow so large it began to swallow me up. I suppose it could be something said, something heard, something worn, or something else that reminded me, but I find that out of the 100 things that could remind me, most do not – fortunately. Or sometimes I remember, but the edges are fuzzy like a dream or wrapped in magnitude and distance like an epic poem.
But that is the nature of phantom limbs I suppose; a mere change in the weather can make them tingle, tense, and sting. The drive to Lansing was long today, and the three hour lecture dragged on and on. I have done these gray days before, and the trick I always use is just to ride them out.
A while back I mentioned this to a friend, and she the profound scientist explained one of the treatment for phantom limbs. There are drugs of course to dull the reality, but more permanent treatments exist as well. One she mentioned in particular is called a mirror box, and it was invented by someone with an absurdly long and hard to pronounce name. A device that uses artificial visual images, it “reflects” the missing limb of the patient and allows them to watch the movement of their missing limb, allowing them to unclench it and relieve the tension which is often the cause of discomfort for those with phantom limbs. Repetition of this movement may lead to permanent reduction of the pain or even its elimination.
I looked in the mirror today. Brushed my hair from my eyes, tweezed a brow hair that was out of its place, and ran my hand down the gold chain and across the script letters around my neck. Behind my reflection I could see the bulletin board on the other side of the room, lit by the glowing sun. Though most of the letters and faces weren’t clear from this distance, I could see one photo was turned backwards, as I suppose I must have done the last time I felt it tingling.
I turned around, removing the photograph from its place beneath the green ribbon, and replacing it with our faces facing forward. I clenched my fist, and unclenched it. Clench, unclench. Clench, unclench. Clench, unclench.
“He who does not fill his world with phantoms remains alone.” – Antonio Porchia