A few months 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 - ba-dum-bump).
I walked into the office and announced myself to the receptionist, who promptly handed me The Clipboard — you know, the one with the eleventy million forms that require you to write out your name and address eleventy million times even though it doesn’t change from form to form. (Do you hear that, doctor office people? IT DOESN’T CHANGE. Copy. Paste. Look into it.) I sat down and braced myself for the inevitable hand cramps, 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 – I had to be to even consider submitting myself to injections of any kind. (I’d say something here about how I don’t like needles, but I always wonder when other people say that - WHY is that distinction necessary? Wouldn’t you just automatically assume that I’m NOT a big fan of needles? Do I really need to spell it out?)
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, pen poised, decision made, ready to commit to the “9” on the page. But just then, at just that moment, the door opened 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 only move with the use of a walker, completely hunched over like something out of Notre Dame, and her daughter was there to hold the door for her, help her to a chair, gather the forms to sign her in, etc. Just sitting down took her a minute or two and involved a tremendous amount of effort and winces of pain.
I looked at her, 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 a hard thing to do. I know it is for me. Dealing with the consequences of my own decisions is a constant struggle. Outwardly I put on a 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 salute 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 parents and grandparents who are all adorably kooky and who love me dearly and unconditionally, who would throw themselves to the wolves if it meant keeping me safe and happy, even now that I’m rounding the bend to 40. I have a sister and 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.
At the end of every day, I put to bed the most perfect little boy that was ever born. He is healthy, happy, and incredibly well-adjusted. He’s sweet and smart and funny and giggles when he toots. 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.
I am NOT the old lady with the walker. Nope. I most certainly am not.Stumble it!