I Didn’t Know How Empty Was My Soul Until it Was Filled

I’ve been fighting a very, very nasty sinus infection for nearly two weeks.

I’ve been plagued with ear, nose and throat issues all my life. As a young kid I had tubes in my ears, I had an operation to fix a deviated septum when I was 18 (which also made a slight cosmetic improvement on the tip to make it less round: so yes, dear reader I have had a “nose job” I suppose). And in my adulthood I get sinus infections and congestion on a regular basis.

But this has been one of the worst instances I’ve had in many years. Probably the worst since a long, dreadful incident in 1999 that dragged on for months.

This time at least, though, the pain I was feeling was so bad that I took myself to the doctor before anyone suggested it. If you know me, you know that NEVER happens.

That’s a measure of how much pain I was in. For nearly 10 days I was in constant, excruciating pain. Standing would make my head throb. Any movement at all really.

And there was the constant pain from pressure pushing outward within my skull and pushing down around my skull.

Today, though, I feel what could be the beginnings of  relief. I won’t jinx it by saying it’s gone, but I haven’t experienced any pain today so far.

Another thing about sinus issues and me: for some reason I find that sinus pain can directly and severely impact my mood. It’s like the physical sensation of pressure squeezing my head translates into an emotional feeling of feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

Whenever I feel a sinus issue start to break, I reach a tipping point where I realize how much pain I was experiencing because, in the absence of it, I can feel the contrast. In some ways, my body suppresses pain in a way such that I’m not aware of how much pain there was until it’s gone.

And because these situations affect my mood, there is a commensurate realization of how depressed and anxious I really was. It’s like my body and spirit have been balled up under crushing pressure and I can’t realize how much pressure it was and how it was crushing me until it’s finally gone and I’m able finally to stand up and stretch. In that way it’s like being in a cramped airline seat for an absurd amount of time. You don’t realize the discomfort level until you can finally stand up and stretch. You’ve just been in survival and endurance mode the whole time.

To characterize this sense of not realizing what you feel until after the pain is going, I’ve often quoted a wonderful scene from the film “Excalibur”. Once Percival has successfully retrieved the Grail, he brings it to the withering and wasting Arthur. After Arthur drinks, he remarks “I didn’t know how empty was my soul until it was filled”. And then, the revitalized King rides forth to battle with his knights across a withering and wasting land that is reborn and rejuvenated by his passing. The whole time, Orff’s “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana is playing. By the way, this scene is one of the reasons I maintain that “Excalibur” is an incredibly pagan film.

I loved that scene when I saw the film as a pre-teen. And it’s one of those scenes I come back to time and again to watch.

Interestingly, last night, I was thinking about how I was feeling and how there’s an affinity to the idea of the Fisher King (which is the myth that underpins the Arthurian Grail story). I was thinking of this quite independent of “Excalibur”. And I was thinking about it in regards to some of the ways I’ve been feeling blocked (like I outlined here). Specifically, I’d been thinking about the affinity between the infertility and impotence of the Fisher King and its contrast with and blocking of creativity, eros (in the Greek sense of erotic energy infusing all of life) and levity and how I have felt at times these past few months.

Today, I feel revived and rejuvenated. I don’t know that I’m healed or better. After all, some of what I’m talking about stretches far beyond this sinus infection (and for reasons I’m still not clear on). But at the least today I’m realizing how badly I had been feeling in some areas because I’m not feeling quite so badly. And that is a good thing.

In the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, here’s the clip in question. And if you’ll excuse me, I have a blooming apple grove to go riding through.