You can tell a lot about someone by their reaction to pain. This is, of course, addressing the wide arrays of pain – emotional, physical, and mental, etc. Some people can freak out at the lightest prick of a needle; others can withstand the crunch of a sledgehammer. Then, there’s me and the story I have for you.
I was born a typical wussy towards pain. The slightest bump and I’d be shouting about it. In retrospect, I think I was just searching for attention. Or, for a great chance to do any of Michael Jackson’s dance moves. Yes, my childhood existed in an era before he was weird. Alright, it existed in an era predating his child sexual assault issues.
Fine: it existed in the same era that his jerri curl was lit on fire while taping a Pepsi commercial.
My parents favored corporal punishment. Hell, were I to be a parent, I would favor a corporal punishment, just, maybe, a little more judiciously. And so, I began to build a resistance to pain. Over the years, we’d add a crack to the skull, lacerations to my back and legs, a few biking scrapes, and that gets me out of the teenage years.
Did I ever tell you about how half my finger was sliced off in a freak ice skating accident? Great story, this one. It was a church function, and maybe my second time on ice skates. I thought I was so rad as I went around in circles jamming out to Jamiroquai on my Walkman. The previous summer, I’d met several girls at a Baptist summer camp. Alright, one I’d met at a music competition that was really into me but I was, like, fourteen and oblivious as I had eyes for a hot blonde. The other was from the Baptist camp, and apparently, she liked me, too.
Either way, one of them snuck up behind me and jabbed me in the ribs. It startled me so damn badly I unintentionally pulled a Dick Van Dyke prat fall. Everybody laughed, and we got back up again. A few seconds later one of them tried to grab my hand, and started freaking out. I saw she had blood on her hand, and reached out to see what was wrong, just to see part of my right, ring finger dangling by a bit of sinew.
I did not feel a thing. Not even “phantom limb.” Or, “finger.” Or is it “appendage” in this case? I was actually quite beside myself for a good ten seconds just in pure amusement. Then, my mother heard the commotion, physically ran onto the ice, did her nurse thing of chipping up chunks of ice and balling it up in and around my finger and hand, and scooted me out to her van. As we left, they reversed the flow of skaters on the ice to help break up the blood I had oozed everywhere. Hilarious and disgusting. We arrived at good ‘ol Ira Davenport (only as a matter of necessity), where they reattached my finger. Only, with a slight turn counter-clockwise, but who’s looking?
I’ve had my fill of pain and discomfort. I’ve held a cane, and had steel supporting my feet. That created a pain I still have daily. I don’t medicate it, though. I’ve been offered a daily prescription, but I just don’t see the point. Pain is a reminder that everything’s working, so why would I want to prescribe it away?
Now, I’m not talking about prescriptive necessity. If the Doc wants to give me five days of percocets after having three teeth pulled: let’s do this. When I had my eyes out last March, they gave me a full ten day run.
Let’s start with the exquisite joy of having the outer epithelial layer of your eyeball melted away. Then, in the case of my right eye, jockeying out the cornea. After setting a new one by squeegeeing it into place, running a few more scans, sculpting it with a laser (yes, you can smell the skin burning), and then setting a glass lens over it while it heals. All in all, my eye was propped open for about four minutes, and, while I would never deal with that again, I would absolutely encourage anyone to look into the process. From what Rae tells me, Lasik is even easier (mine was a PRK, or photorefractive keratectomy, with some remodeling on the window treatments).
Of course, I only ended up using the percocet for about three days. See, while Rae was at work, I would be inverted on the couch watching Netflix. Oh it was a grand time – I watched all the Care Bear movies, Voltron – even Up. Several times. The first time, though, was very early in the day – about 9 or 10:30. Part way through – while I was on the percocet, mind you – I really wanted a balloon. So much that I put on my hoodie and shoes, a hat and my safety goggles. These were a really winning pair of facial accessories, solely intended for purpose over fashion. They looked like huge swimmer’s goggles, but with a near-black tint. The idea is to tape them to your face so that you don’t squish your eyeballs while sleeping.
I sleep like a dead salmon, so this is a viable concern.
Anyway, I go thrusting out of the house in my pajama pants and a hoodie, and could swear to this day that I went to CVS for a balloon. It wasn’t until I was regaled with the full story two weeks ago that I knew better. I had gone back to our old apartment for one last walk through. Alright, that’s a lie: I’d gone back to take our toilet paper. Seriously. I am not giving my toilet paper to someone who will not enjoy its cottony softness on their bum the way that I can.
I ran into one of the maintenance guys on the way out, and he began going on this grand yarn. Apparently, that same time I’d gone for balloons, he’d escorted me back to my apartment after I’d gotten into an argument with one of our neighbor’s lawn globes. They’re about the size of bowling balls and all colors under the sun – know what, let me put it to you this way: I had frequently used her trashy front yard as a landmark for directing people to my house. I’d apparently had the cognizance to inform him of my medicated condition, but he’s been cracking himself up senseless since then. I do remember that afternoon, waking up on the couch, and thinking the pills weren’t cutting it.
So, I stopped taking them. Presumably – to the best of my knowledge – before I did anything stupid.
I don’t allow my life to be held back by pain. This sensation is a natural reaction to an adverse element. It’s heralding a new phase in the healing process. I don’t like running simply because my feet and legs will hurt just as much either way. I don’t do this to give me some justification for the pain.
I do this because I can. Because I can handle the pain. Because it makes me stronger. Because, at the end of the day, I define my life – not my pain.