The Woman Who Bound Pain to Her Bones

By Susan E. Wagner

There was once a girl who bound pain to her bones.

Each painful thought she had, each hurtful act she

saw, each painful story told to her, was bound inside

her with wet leather thongs. When they dried they

tightened, so that the pains became the outer shell

of her bones.

 

She captured every sad moment, every unkind word

and bound it to her. She bound the hurts caused by

other children until play became a thing to avoid.

She bound the jealousy in her sister and the hard

kicks of her brother. She bound the disappointments

of her mother and the anger in her father. Year after

year the shell grew thicker.

 

As a young woman she bound the rejections of

young men and the criticisms of neighbors and

relatives. In time, the hardened shell came to cover

every inch of her bones one thousand times over.

 

By then the woman was much slower. Her joints ached

from carrying so heavy a load. She hurt everywhere –

and this pain she could not bind. This pain she could

only endure.

 

But the woman refused to believe she could not bind

this pain as she had bound all the others. She ignored

the pains in her joints, pretending they were not there.

She behaved as if no pain could stop her. But the day

came when she could no longer ignore the pain in her

joints. Angry at her pain, the woman cursed her body.

 

So, her pain became worse. It roared over her like

ocean waves in a hurricane. She resisted. It flew against

her in the form of a giant wind. She resisted. Finally,

the wind sucked her up into the air, swirling her around

and around until she reached the very top of the sky.

Then it dropped her.

She fell for days until she hit the earth with the sound

of thunder. She lay unmoving and without breath, when

suddenly a powerful gasp overtook her. She awoke.

 

“Am I dead?” she asked. The Earth did not answer her.

She lifted her arm, touched her face.

“I am here,” she said. She flexed her toes and wiggled

her fingers. She pushed against the ground and sat up.

She patted her chest, her shoulders and thighs.

“I am here,” she said. “I am whole.”

 

She looked about her and saw she had dropped next to

the place where the wind had lifted her. She turned and

looked in every direction to see if anyone had noticed

the miracle of her fall and rise. But no one had.

All alone, she began to walk and was almost home before

she noticed she walked without pain. In her joy, she

ran to tell her friends and family the good news.

“My pain has left me,” she told them. “A fall

broke my bindings and released my pains. My

joints no longer hurt!”

 

Because she was happy, her family and friends

held her close and kissed her. But one or two gave

her cold hugs and stiff kisses because they were jealous.

The woman who bound pain to her bones felt the

hidden jealousy. Without thinking, she started

once again to bind the pain to her bones.

 

Just then the wind returned, blowing hard. This

time when it struck her, the woman knew to open

her heart, letting the wind blow through and take

the pain with it.

 

“Thank you,” she whispered.

 

For the rest of her life, the woman opened her

heart to the wind in all its many forms and

guises and never again bound pain to her bones.


Susan Wagner is the author of Unmuted: Voices on the Edge, a collection of hybrid poetry on mental illness and families. A former therapist, Susan facilitated creative and poetry writing group therapies. She has published poetry, short stories and feature articles and taught both creative and business writing. Susan is an editor with The Pearl S. Buck Writing Center and currently finishing her second novel. Her next book of poetry, another in the Unmuted series, will soon be available on Amazon.

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