Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Death, Pain and the Sliver


Sunday, at Grandbaby boy's birthday party, I was walking barefooted on Henrietta’s deck and got two large slivers in my foot, one fairly shallow and one deep. Biker Buddy dug them out with his jackknife. (I write this as I walk around the block.) He was very gentle, but it still hurt, and I cried out, much to his distress, several times. China Grandma and China Aunt laughed and laughed, not meanly, but sympathetically. My foot hurt all night and the next day, too. Biker Buddy refrained from saying I told you so. He had warned me against going barefooted on that deck, but I persisted.

I continued to go barefoot afterwards, too, but walked more gingerly. I like going barefoot.

Last night, lying in bed beside Biker Buddy, I asked, "Do you know what I was thinking about when you were digging the splinters from feet Sunday at Henrietta's?"

He said, "No," of course, not pointing out, as he might have, how he could not possibly have known what I was thinking.

So I told him. "I was thinking about my death," I said. "I was thinking about pain." I told him that my parents were stoics, and that I grew up in a culture where bravery in the face of pain was highly valued. I had my teeth drilled without Novocain, even when the dentist struck a vein. My parents were stoics until their deaths, with a few notable exceptions.

But I am no longer a stoic and I am no longer brave. Something happened that turned me into a wimp. Now, I am afraid of pain, very afraid, and because of that, I am afraid of dying. I am also a bit afraid of death, but that is another matter.

I wondered aloud to Biker Buddy as we lay in bed together, if the thing that switched me from stoic to wimp was my fibromyalgia pain. I am in pain constantly, a pain I have to live with, day in and day out. I try not to complain about too much. Other people get tired of hearing about it.

And they say horribly mean thoughtless things, like it's OK to have pain if you have it every day, because you get used to it.

NO, you don't get used to it--I don't anyway. It hurts. It still hurts. It hurts day in and day out. It hurts just as much today as it did yesterday (although it ebbs and flows, rises and falls, it is always with me.) When the pain is at a certain level, it is just as painful as it was 20 years ago. Maybe more so.

I get tired of the pain, it wears me out, is stresses me; it makes me grouchy and irritable. I don't sleep well, and that makes my tolerance to pain and irritation worse.

Sometimes I feel almost OK. When I am doing art, writing a story, working on a poem, having sex, exploring and discovering, I can forget the pain for a while. But when I stop, when I lay down at night, there it is, still with me.

"I don't think dying's going to be much fun," I say to Biker Buddy. Understatement of the day.

"No," he agrees, "I don't expect so."

"Or getting old, either," I add.

"No," he agrees sadly.

"But we have right now, and we have each other," I say. I wrap me arms around him, and he his around me.

"I love you, Biker Buddy," I say. He says he loves me and gives me a squeeze and we drift off.

I’ve made it around the block. As I walk up the driveway, a series of explosions dog my steps. Bomb bags. Yesterday, Piano Boy came downstairs from cleaning his room, all excited. "Look, Mom, look what I found!"

He waved them by me so fast, I couldn't see what they were and dashed outside.

A few minutes later, he returned. "They aren't as much fun," has said, sadly, "as they used to be."

"One of the trade-offs of growing up," I replied. One of the many small deaths on the way to extinction. Now every time I go outside, the little bombs blow up under my feet. Bang, bang. BANG. Guess I'm still alive.

* * * *

This is an excerpt from the first (or maybe the second) journal I kept on my new Ericsson computer, yesterday and today. You can view the unexpurgated and unedited version of this journal entry here and another portion of it here.

Photo by Mary Stebbins Taitt, in Piran Slovenia at an old graveyard. Click to view larger.
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2 comments:

bluerose9062 said...

I live with pain, too. I don't think you've become wimpy. I think you're more aware. Being more aware doesn't make you less tolerant. You might be suprised at how tolerant you'd be of pain if you didn't have so much of it at once, just because you've been forced to endure it for so long. In other words, that splinter wouldn't have bothered you if you weren't already enduring so much pain. But, the longer you suffer, the more aware you become of pain's affects, and the more you appreciate the times without it. It's making you stronger, not wimpier. It's just hard to tell when your nerves are so frayed by it. I hope you find a way to stop your pain, so you can see how strong you've become.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Thank you so much Blue Rose for your kind words and your vote of confidence. I don't feel very brave and I hope you are right!

I am sorry you have to experience pain and suffering.

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