Tuesday, August 25, 2015

After a Tiny Bit of Pain

Fact: When I don't have appropriate art for a post, I choose a flower
Last week's adventure with tooth-hurty put me in a reflective mood, which is to say it led me to think about pain, specifically my own pain.

My conclusion? I am not a fan of pain.

I have been extraordinarily blessed to reach the age of semi-maturity without having suffered much pain. Oh, I've had my share of migraines but those have a predictable course and as I huddle in a darkened room and try to be unconscious I know as soon as I vomit and fall asleep I will feel better and this has never taken more than one day. I've also given birth four times, which is not exactly pleasant at the moment but childbirth amnesia (and epidural drugs) clear the air once the process is completed.

Last week, though, the pain in my face was something different. I didn't know what it was, so I didn't know how long it would last. It was not predictable, and between the five-minute flares that left my teeth throbbing and my cheek and lips numb, I was functional if exhausted. Externally I didn't look any different. And it was the first week of classes at Small College, a week when I could not in good conscience completely abandon my staff so I continued to work every day.

The result, I discovered, was that I was mean.

All my pretense of being a serene ship that floats through adversity, all the Queen Victoria calm, all the this-isn't-a-problem pioneer spirit? All gone, in a blue haze of self-pity and snappishness.

Poor Husband took the brunt. At one point in our "discussion" over whether Winston Churchill or Jim Valvano gave the "Never give up, never ever give up" commencement speech (neither of them, as it turns out) I snapped "I thought that you might not be this irritating when I'm feeling this bad."

Yeah, I was charming. But it made me think about people who have chronic pain, pain that doesn't keep them from functioning, but can't be controlled with a couple of ibuprofen. Chronic bad knees, maybe. Or headaches, or (as in Husband's case) a stiff lower back that has resisted every therapy.

Maybe the big box store cashier has feet that are already hurting and she has another two hours in her shift. The guy in the old pick-up who ran the yellow light in front of me? Might have his own teeth issues that are making his entire head throb.

What I'm saying is that a couple of days of retrospectively minor pain have made me realize that not everyone who acts like a jerk is an actual jerk. I'm not, but I certainly acted like one.

Pain can do that.

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