Managing Pain – Epiphanies of Childhood & Now

The past few weeks I’ve been miserable from a terrible ‘attack’ of hive-like itchy-skin, which my doctor thinks is linked to the ophthalmic shingles of some months back. It is getting better – and in the meantime, I’ve returned to my own advice given in the latter part of this blog on pain management.

Also, yesterday I had an epiphany following my reading of a provocative article about Flinders Petrie, grandfather of modern archaeological excavations in association with his work in the Nile valley. After reading the article, several strands of thought really quite suddenly coalesced:

  • Flinders Petrie and his work on the development of urban culture in the Nile valley (origins of the Egyptian state),
  • T.E. Lawrence, who at one time worked briefly with Petrie in Egypt, then worked with Arabs in WWI
  • Sir Richard Burton on populations that he visited in Africa – attitudes shared also by other colonial explorers, and a few other strands.

So, in a day or two I will do a little blog on this recent epiphany, and in the meantime leave you to think about the rest of this blog…

Major Protagonists in Yesterday’s Epiphany:


Flinders Petrie – ‘the father of ‘scientific’ archaeology’. Petrie Museum, Univ. College London

T.E. Lawrence, of WWI fame in the Middle East

Sir Richard Burton, 19th century explorer.


Last year’s Blog:

While in the hospital late 2009 and into 2010, recovering from ophthalmic shingles, one train of thought that I pursued, to get my mind away from the constant pain, was to think back on childhood events – what kinds of things I remembered and why I remembered them.


After a while it occurred to me there was a group of events that could be termed `minor epiphanies’ – shocking events of learning – that took place in the process of growing up.  Thinking about them helped to redirect my thoughts from the pain, to these events. Here are a few of them, which are in the order of age:


Toilet training


My memory extends back to just when I began to talk coherently – somewhere in the 2nd-3rd year I think – and it was the time my mother thought toilet training should seriously begin.  One day, I made a ‘mistake’ on the carpet.  Turning around and looking at the puddle, I suddenly realized that the liquid came from ME and that I could control it …  a minor epiphany, but probably major for my mother.


Chewing with your mouth closed


Sitting in the high chair during dinner, my aunt explained to me that food must be chewed with one’s mouth closed.  I tried it, then turned to her and said “It’s hard to do!”  And silently I thought:  “How strange!”  Closed mouth was apparently more important than not eating with your fingers…  This closed-mouth-business seemed to be useless to me.  As I was still in my high chair, I would have been in my 3rd year.


Blankets aren’t warm – it’s your body that gives the heat


In my 4th or 5th year, during winter, I asked my mother for another blanket – a warm one!  Mom explained to me that blankets aren’t warm – it’s our body that is warm, and the ‘cold’ blankets trap our body heat and keep it in the bed.  The same with clothes.  This was amazing to me and I had to totally rearrange my way of thinking about such fundamental aspects of heat and cold s they relate to the body..


Broken bracken ferns heal themselves


In my 4th or 5th year, at the family country place, I was playing in some of the overgrown area where bracken ferns grew in profusion.  I broke the stems of several ferns but left them attached and then straightened each one, carefully wrapping the ‘repaired’ stem with long dandelion leaves and leaving them for a couple of weeks.  When I unwrapped them, they were all ‘healed’! Straight and with no damage done.  I was happily amazed.


This ‘experiment’ was conducted the summer that I put my forefinger in the spoke of the spinning wheel of my tricycle, cutting the first digit of my finger off except for a flap of skin that kept the finger from falling off completely.  (I wanted to see if I could stop the wheel from spinning by doing this.)


My mother wrapped my finger/hand in a kitchen towel and took me to the country doctor, who claimed he could not sew it on, that it would not grow back together; but my mother insisted he do so.  And it worked!  As the broken brackens, my finger grew back together – albeit a little crooked…  Hoorah for moms!

Bracken ferns Source: library-illinois-edu

The road goes back to the beginning

When I was in the 3rd grade my father was driving me back to our house from school.  One of the roads was very long and straight, before we turned off of it.  I asked my father where did the long road go, and what would happen if we kept following it?

He explained that we would come all the way back to where we were, because the world is round, and so forth.  That was amazing to me.  The thought of going all around the world…  And perhaps that notion fed into later years of working all around the world…

Maybe I had more epiphanies after the 3rd grade, but I don’t remember them…


Falling into Pain – Another tactic to help reduce pain:


Another tactic that helped to decrease pain was to imagine I was ‘leaning’ into it – acknowledging the pain and at the same time thinking of the prettiest views around Lake Tanganyika – which is truly a beautiful lake – and wrapping the views and how they made me feel around the pain; smothering it, so to speak.

The Congo Hills from Burundi

Beach in front, towards Rusizi Wetlands

Rain clouds on their wayRain clouds on their way

Sometimes I still do this, though I can now walk down to the lake in the evenings and enjoy both the views as well as the sounds and sights of many formations of birds, heading towards the Rusizi Wetlands.  We’re on a major bird migration route and many bird flocks take a while to rest in these lush surroundings of the Rusizi Wetlands on their way either North or South.

Rusizi river and wetlands, just down the lake

[First posted Sept. 2010, revised 14 Dec. 2011]

About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-Central, Health, Living here, Richard Burton, T.E. Lawrence and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Managing Pain – Epiphanies of Childhood & Now

  1. You are an inspiring, brilliant, creative, free-ranging thinker and I’m thrilled to be reading around your blog.


  2. Thank you Diana. I shall remember this when I have to deal with real pain. Wonderful stories and photographs.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s