It's not a foreign sensation. Happens all the time.
But what I speak of is a special kind of soreness. This unique pain is focused at the top of my back and runs right down and around my shoulders, finally circling back up to the top of my neck. It only happens once in a while, but when it does it is almost always preceded by a specific activity. And it shows up with a friend: stress--good ol' stressy. And stressy and painy do a broadway number on my spine. They are such pros, they don't even need to rehearse.
They just wait for the curtain to rise and the lights to hit them and hear that announcer and they're off:
"... hello, welcome to tech support. This call may be monitored for quality assurance ..."
And a-one, and a-two, and a ... and the curtain rises, the crowd cheers, and that sharp, searing pain overwhelms me like a steel-heeled tap routine.
And after about twenty minutes hunched over my computer with the phone lodged between my shoulder and my ear, and my hands out in front of me doing whatever the man on the other end tells me, the pain takes on a life of its own and makes me completely crazy.
The initial problem wasn't my fault. My computer froze up while I was laying down some tracks on a new song. The spinning, multi-colored lollipop of doom began its maddening dance and wouldn't let up. I watched it for a while and tried, slowly and patiently to make it stop. It wouldn't. It was mad at me for some strange reason and was showing its displeasure.
Like I said, the initial problem wasn't my fault--it was a glitch.
The following action?--all me baby ... all me.
See, instead of taking the proper precautions and proceeding with what I knew would be the safest route, I chose to lose it.
After I couldn't make the computer shut down, I did my classic, patented move.
I put both hands on the keyboard and started to play the goddamn thing like Scott Joplin on speed ... and a-one, and a-two, and a ...
Then I smushed my hands over the keys in a circular, swirling motion, then ran my fingers over the top and bottom and intermittently punched three and four buttons at a time like I was the conga player in Santana.
Like I said ... classic.
And, of course this, as always, doesn't do anything.
Or, I should say, it used to not do anything.
Because when I eventually figuratively KO'd my machine by holding down the power button until it went black, and subsequently restarted the thing, it had changed. It was not at all the laptop I had praised and flaunted for the past three weeks as if it were my beautiful new baby out for a jaunt downtown.
No, instead, this new creature was an alien. It made noises I had never heard, essentially giving me a virtual raspberry. It wouldn't allow me to turn off the stupid sound effects that let you know you've pressed something. Mysterious black borders appeared which weren't there before. And it started talking to me in a robot voice straight out of the movies.
The kicker was that the function keys (the little short-cut buttons that run in a line at the very top of the keyboard) now did almost the exact opposite of what they were supposed to. And the ones that didn't do the exact opposite of what they were supposed to didn't do anything at all.
My computer was very upset with me.
It didn't like that I had been so impatient and it wanted me to be very aware of that fact.
I mean I know it's been less than a month we've been together, but I thought we had a good thing ...
So anyway, the nice man at Apple, who seemed, for all intents and purposes, to be a native countryman, helped me out. After a few tricks of the trackpad and a gentle restart we were back in business. We had a laugh over the Neanderthal method I had employed to try to fix something only slightly less intricate than a space shuttle. I asked him what I had done.
"Well, when you started hitting all those buttons, you assigned some actions to the function keys that you weren't aware of. You customized it by accident ... "
At this point the pain was circulating around my upper back as if I had a miniature pony standing on one hoof right in the middle of it. I said thanks and goodbye and laid down on my couch. I had gotten my help, quickly and without much in the way of asking him to repeat himself five or six times.
But the best part of it all, besides getting my computer back in working order, was that I had another revelation on why, regardless of how someone comes into this world, and no matter how many people around them try to instill in them the ideas that generations upon generations have assembled, tested, and provided for them, that sometimes, a little glitch is enough to impair their whole operating system for years and years to come.
If I may ...
When we are young and developing as a person, both intellectually and spiritually, our proverbial function keys are programmed. We amass a cache of shortcuts to life's incessant demands based on first-hand experience. With these repeated actions we train ourselves to recognize which actions and reactions provide the most beneficial and rewarding outcomes.
When someone or something makes us mad, we want to fight. Over time we realize what is worth fighting for and what is futile and counterproductive.
When someone or something gives us a difficult problem to solve, we sit down and try to come up with a solution. If we cannot arrive at a sufficient solution on our own, we learn to ask for help. We eventually learn that most humans enjoy helping. It is something we do that not only benefits the person immediately in need, but rewards ourselves by building confidence, compassion, and respect, which in turn benefits all those around us.
To help is to live.
But it's not easy to live. It's not easy to play by the rules. And it's not easy to remember what we intended when we programmed our function keys so long ago.
And as we continue our lives and the numbers come in showing us clearly how impossible it is to win every challenge, we develop ways to reassure ourselves that we did the best we could--for to admit we did not care would be both unfair and incorrect.
We all care. It's just that some of us can more easily claim to be the victim rather than the opponent.
And as we more frequently play the role of the oppressed we start to convince ourselves that we were wrong when we formed those connections--that we were mistaken when we assigned a specific value to a certain action--that we could have gotten further in life if our goals hadn't been set so high as to make us have to climb up beyond the foothills, essentially opening us up for attack even from those who are on our side.
There's less room at the top if you're following someone's lead.
And somewhere along the line, these connections are severed.
Somewhere along the line we let our compulsiveness take over and assign mutated functions to connections inside us that don't make sense and don't improve our lives. Somewhere along the line, as our reliance on our crutches increased, we let achievements result in forgotten victory parties, and failures result in an almost dearth of reassurance from those around us who are too scared to remind us that we did not win.
Somewhere along the line, when we started hitting all those buttons in frustration, we assigned some actions to the function keys that we weren't aware of. We customized ourselves by accident.
And the key to returning our function keys to their most relevant, advantageous, and wholesome operation is not done with impetuousness, disregard, and haste. It is done with patience, perspective, and mindfulness.
It is in this way we can alleviate the pain from our neck and back that feels as if a miniature pony is standing on one hoof right in the middle of it, so as to lay down in our beds and get some well deserved rest.
Good night and thanks for reading.