A while ago I was referred to something they call a “pain management specialist” for steroid injections, meant to relieve a chronic pain in my neck (and I don’t mean the husband – waka waka waka).
I walked in and announced myself to the receptionist, who promptly handed me The Clipboard – you know, the one with the twelvish million forms requiring you to write out your name and address twelvish million times even though it hasn’t changed since the last time you wrote it for the twelvish millionth time 30 seconds ago. (Hear that, doctor office people? IT DOESN’T CHANGE. Copy. Paste. Look into it.) I found a seat and started in, ignoring the shitty home improvement reality show playing silently on the lobby TV.
Question #14: Rate the level of your pain, on a scale of 1 to 10.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Now, I was in a lot of pain at that point – months of chiropractic treatment hadn’t even made a dent, and I’d finally come in because the pain had started keeping me up at night. I was exhausted and frustrated and out of other options, and my fear of needles was now outweighed by my fear of never getting any better.
Still, I thought about it for a minute. What IS my level of pain, anyway? Well, it DOES hurt an awful lot. Compared to this time last year, I’d say it’s a 10. But if I circle “10” they’ll think I’m a whiner. I don’t want to seem overly dramatic. I’ll choose “9” instead.
So there I sat, decision made, ready to commit to the “9” on the page. But just before my pen hit the paper, the door swung open and another patient entered the room. I looked up – and in one flash of time my whole perspective changed.
The woman was probably in her late 60s, although she looked much older, and when I say she “entered” the room, I really mean she shuffled in, with the greatest of difficulty. She could move only with the use of a walker, completely hunched over like something out of Notre Dame. Her daughter was there to hold the door for her, help her to a chair, gather the forms to sign her in, etc. Just the simple act of sitting down took this woman a minute or two, involving a tremendous amount of effort.
I watched as she winced from the pain, then looked back down at my form and circled “4.”
Just like pain, happiness is a relative concept.
We all have good days, bad days – some events in our lives are wonderful, others suck. Some things we wish we could change, others we just wish we could control. Some of the bad things are easier to overcome than others. Sometimes they make us better. Sometimes they make us worse.
Sometimes they bring us to our knees and leave us there, devastated, trying to catch our breath, for weeks or months or even years.
I don’t care who you are, I don’t care how rich or beautiful or smart or poetic or lucky you might be, we ALL suffer some kind of loss, grief, or heartbreak at some point in our lives. We ALL feel pain. We ALL live with regret and unresolved feelings, on some level. It’s a universal truth.
Moving on can be an especially hard thing for some of us… it certainly is for me. Dealing with the consequences of my own decisions is a constant struggle. Outwardly I put on a (very) good show, but deep down, I cling to regret and insecurity in spite of myself. You don’t see it but it’s always there, somewhere under the surface. And I don’t think I’m that unique.
I look at my friends’ Facebook pictures and they all look so happy, hanging out with their kids, flying kites, partying with friends, enjoying the weather. Smiles all around. Drinks held high in a permanent salud to life. There are no photos of broken hearts or sickness or not being able to let go. I read the blogs of the people I like and even when they’re complaining about the worst parts of their lives, they’re cracking jokes. “Life sucks. I’m sad. This is horrible. I wish I could die. But see? I’m laughing at it! It’s okay! I’m okay! No sadness here, folks. Nothing to see here.”
I do it all the time. Nothing to see here.
Even as I write this, I feel wrong to say it. It feels wrong to admit that sometimes things aren’t perfect. I feel wrong to complain because where do I get OFF? Look around you, Beej. Look at the people who are homeless or watching their marriages end or struggling with addiction or abuse or fighting cancer or dealing with the loss of a parent or sibling or friend. Where do you get OFF?
And I’m RIGHT to feel wrong about it. I’m right because I AM wrong.
I look around me again, but this time, instead of seeing how others have it so bad, I see how I have it so good.
I have people in my life who are adorably kooky, who love me dearly and unconditionally, who would throw themselves to the wolves if it meant keeping me safe and happy. I have friends who are incredibly amazing, talented, hilarious, full of substance and truth and love – and who regularly save me from myself, even when they don’t know that they’re doing it, even when they don’t know that I need it. Maybe especially then.
I have a husband who makes me laugh and forgives me for my mistakes and tells me I’m pretty even when I look like hell. Just because he knows I need to hear it.
And at the end of every day, I put to bedmy most favorite person on earth. He is healthy, happy, and incredibly well-adjusted. He’s sweet and smart and funny and tells the best fart jokes of anyone I know. He gives random hugs and Eskimo kisses and raises one eyebrow when he knows he’s doing something he shouldn’t. He loves lollipops, jumping on trampolines, making new friends, and rocking the Casbah, and if you ask him what his favorite color is he’ll name whatever color he spots around him first.
It’s all about perspective.Stumble it!