Pain for Pleasure

When we feel awful, the comforting things in life seem all the softer, all the cooler, all the more… well, comforting. I’m not sure if it’s that way all the time – I suspect it’s not – but so it is for me at the moment. Something I ate has come back to haunt me, leaving me a miserable fetus upon the bed. It’s not the worst I’ve ever felt, but it’s most certainly the opposite of enjoyable. Yet through the cramping and the nausea, I’m able to find utter pleasure in the tactile sensations of things around me.

It’s as if my body is compromising an apology. You must feel as though you’re in the throws of death as I purge this vile substance, it says. Sorry; but to make up for it, I’ll enhance the wonderful things around you.

The cat’s fur feels softer and fluffier. If he’d let me, I’d just run my fingers through his coat over and over and over. After a while of that, though, I get a warning nip at the digits and a rather ticked off glare. His weight pressed against me also feels quite lovely. He doesn’t quite sit on me, but he lays next to me then leans against my body. It’s a very pleasant and comforting feeling – even more so than usual.

It’s also raining out and we’ve got all the windows cracked for a breeze. The air is cool and sweet as it gently wisps in. (I’ve never thought to describe air as ‘sweet’ before, but this evening I finally understand what other writers mean with this attribute.) The soft licks I feel on my arms and neck are like medicine to the weary corpse they caress. Even the soft skin of my shirtless partner, his arm rubbing my back, feels like the most pleasurable sensation in the world.

Sometimes, I suppose, it takes pain to make one savor the pleasure of life.

And isn’t this often a theme for the characters we write? Great adversity strengthens character and resolve, forces a protagonist to grow and develop. When companions die, our heroes often begin to cherish those around them even more (unless they become embittered, of course). Suddenly, in the face of loss, what we do have increases in value. The flip side to this, of course, tends to lead us to our villains or antiheroes; from loss stems hatred, revenge, numbness, apathy, seclusion and/or distance.

I recently commented that the best villains, in my opinion, are those you can empathize with. Those who had perfectly normal childhoods, or at least no (or very limited) mental illness, but simply failed to cope with the struggles of life. Instead of letting go of the pain and anguish they experienced, they harbored it and let it fester. Eventually, they became the villain they are because their anguish completely distorted the facts around them. Tragic, but they’ve taken their torment too far and begun inflicting their pain on others. You empathize, but still want to see them fall.

I also prefer heroes who don’t always handle conflict well. “More often than not” is much more human than “flawless”, and much less boring.

Thank you, dear belly ache, for helping provide such realizations.


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