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Benjamin West: The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise (1791)
"I've lately been spending my days making fresh Achings …"

I measure progress in aches and pains. A fresh and novel twinge in my back means that I must have done something different yesterday, something to engage a part of my body my earlier activities had not. Through the carpet removal period, a reliable set of complaints followed each day's work. Some of them evaporated beneath a shower, but most hung around at least long enough to see what we were having for supper that night, and a few would spend the night, cuddling right up close as I fell into my early bedtime. A few of my oldest friends wake with me each morning and remind me that I'm still not quite as young as I used to be, thank heavens. I remember times when I could lift and toil all day without carrying away even the tiniest little infirmity. Now, I barely need to think about engaging and my lower back knots up a little in anticipation. I tell myself that I'm alive and alive feels like twinging, it's eventually a welcome and unresolvable Aching, equal parts longing and savoring.

This refurbishing effort has been teaching me to revere my Achings.
I move like a Gollum most mornings, slightly squat and good-naturedly groaning. I usually forget to take Ibuprofen and get distracted by my next assignment. Engagement seems the best treatment. I get back up on the horse that thew me so that he can throw me again. What I once ascribed to agility, I now consider spry, a term that suggests that I'm in good shape for a man my age. I feel ageless, and consider even my own comments about my age to be ageist. I do not count days or years, but aches and pains. I have few complaints. I ran off to a quackopractor once, more than thirty years ago, but found that I could not keep a straight face through the performance. I never returned. Likewise massage. I consent for the cats to kneed my thighs sometimes, but I do not feel compelled to have my muscles stretched and pulled. I usually just relish the dull Aching until it passes. Deeper wounds I might find breathtaking, but hardly serious. I seem to have been made from stretchy material.

All that said, I am obsessively careful. I will not lift heavy things. Yesterday, for instance, I hired Goons to move some heavy furniture. I grimaced as I watched them muscle that china cabinet into place, sensing that if I'd tried that stunt, I might be in traction or up for non-elective back surgery. The Goons seemed rather mindless and good-natured, a crew used to each other's company and accustomed to doing impossible things. I was once a Goon and fondly remember the camaraderie that occupation engenders. A crew willing to do what few will attempt notices the subtle contempt some throw in their direction. They welcome appreciations but do not rely upon receiving them. They know that they're supposed to remain invisible. I, too, understand that I might undermine the value of my contribution to this overwhelming effort by complaining. I complete my assignments at least feigning a light heartedness. If I pretend to enjoy myself, I tend to catch myself enjoying myself. I'm most careful to avoid complaining.

Emotional Achings wound most deeply. A pulled muscle repairs itself over a weekend. A wounded heart might never beat quite right again, certainly not with the abandon it once enjoyed. Longing, too, can get over-used and overwhelm the present. I fill my presents with the kind of presence capable of doing a little damage. When my head's down and I'm engaging, I never notice my back aching. When I stop working, then I feel my Achings. I hesitate a bit before reengaging, knowing for certain that whatever I do, I'll be inciting some sort of twinging. I have so far opted to jump back in again, under the Damn The Torpedos Clause, I guess. I could have become a man of leisure and regretted my existence from a chaise lounge or golf course instead of enjoying myself down on my knees, making my back ache. I opt for the Achings because they seem most alive. I won't complain because I have nothing to complain about. I must make light of my misfortunes, for they seem slight. I've lately been spending my days making fresh Achings, HomeAchings.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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