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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Take a risk and feel the pain if you want to live life with passion

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By Keiko Ohnuma
Advertiser Staff Writer

I confess to a certain theatrical pride in replaying the scenes of my recent accidents. "Want to see my scar?" is an offer no one can politely refuse.

That ushers in the gory re-enactment: the gash in the thigh 22 stitches long (six in the muscle!), the size and shape of a surfboard skeg. I linger on how the hole burst with yellow fat, like cauliflower. How I had to shove it all in and get towed to shore.

How it got infected.

It's kind of heroic.

The month before, I thought I had the sexiest attention-getter: two maps of raw road rash, trophy of a rainy bike ride down Tantalus. It made me almost guilty, the attention I ate up. Check out my scar.

I know I am supposed to be fragile and afraid of pain. But pain has visited me all the same. It visits us all.

When it's no more serious than road rash, pain leads me to musing about my mortality. How can you be laughing one minute and fighting for higher ground the next? How can you live from moment to moment not knowing what may wait around the bend?

How can your existence be so fragile — a skeleton and soft tissue, so easily broken? Why take any chances?

I guess what makes being a tomboy so appealing is being able to flirt with that line between exhilaration and exhaustion:

dehydrated and dizzy after a long run, too bonked to cycle the last few miles home, stoked so silly you bang your head on the board and see stars — knowing that you run your body as much as it runs you.

It isn't just the pleasure; it's the pain, too.

And it isn't just the body that you master, but your mind.

Girls are trained to avoid physical pain as something inflicted from outside, the fear of being handled and penetrated.

But when you inflict it on yourself, there's an odd pleasure in mastering it. And the more you master it, the more you can do.

That may be why, in Old World families, girls are scolded away from testing the limits of their strength, the rewards of getting dirty or aggressive or bold.

Because who knows what we might do if we could? What keeps us at home under watchful eyes but the gospel of our safety, the pain we think we never knew?

The fact is, passion lives through pain as well as pleasure. It is a joy to feel that you are a body, that you can brush up rough against the world and like it.

Pain reminds me that beauty exists because of death — that it's the fragile, fleeting flower that takes our breath away.

You can live your life wrapped in caution and insurance, but something will kill you all the same. It might as well be something you love with passion, whether that be

bacon fat or the ocean or a life of service.

My greatest fear isn't dying, it's suffering a living death. Scraping up against the edge reminds me that the best moments are quick and sharp, that the thrill of the drop includes the fall. I know what it's like to get hurt, even if I am afraid.

The tattoos remind me that I survived it.

Reach Keiko Ohnuma at kohnuma@honoluluadvertiser.com