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Rethinking "joyful," "painless" (and kefi)

I originally wrote this for our Kefi Foundation contributors. But after sending the message to them, I felt it was worth sharing with everyone. Hope it helps you in some way.


I used to believe (and teach) that joy isn't the absence sorrow, health isn't the the absence sickness and pleasure isn't the absence of pain.


I changed my mind.


On March 30th, because of an ancient, lingering basketball injury that was exacerbated by a September, 2020 car crash, I underwent a "cervical spinal laminoplasty."


A talented surgeon named Timothy Huang cut into the back of my neck so he could increase the circumference of my spinal canal. The procedure (hopefully) released compressed nerves.


Months before, three neurosurgeons, including Dr. Huang, told me that if I avoided the surgery it was only a matter of time until I'd start dropping silverware and needing a walker.


Wanting to avoid that future, but still feeling relatively healthy, I was rolled into surgery.


Immediately afterward, I understood the attraction of oxycodone! For one magical evening, I felt zero pain. Nothing hurt physically, and (surprisingly) nothing hurt mentally.


Then, as the anesthesia wore off and the opiates were reduced (too quickly by me) reality returned. My neck felt like it was in a vice. My skin felt like it had been tourched. The slightest movements hurt.


I didn't feel like eating, drinking, talking, listening, reading, writing or watching anything. Not that showering was allowed, but I had no interest in taking one. (And I love showers.) Shaving seemed impossible. Brushing my teeth was an ordeal.


Ater increasing my meds and having my wife help me get through a few more days, the pain subsided.


The lessening of pain was a breathtaking pleasure! And if reduced pain made me giddy, imagine painless. (Shouldn't painless mean less pain not no pain? It's not painnone. It's painless.)


Regardless, painless or less pain is glorious and no pain will be sublime.


The kefi that results from pain alleviation, especially the relief that comes naturally - from healthy living and allowing time to heal - has to be given more attention - more street cred!


We're conditioned to feel the joy we experience from something positive. We're rarely mindful of the joy we're capable of experiencing during the absence of something negative. Joyful still beats painless - but not by as much as I thought.