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I am a writer, a mom, and a friend. In this blog, I explore all of that. Please join me in this conversation by leaving a comment on anything you've read. Or follow me on Facebook @ Beth von Behren (author).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Physical Life

Pain gets your attention. Doctors are fond of telling you that if it hurts, something is wrong, and you should not ignore it. Pain is the body's way of telling you something. Of getting your attention.

Well, my body got my attention this week. It told me on Friday that it didn't want me to move much. No walking, no standing. Even sitting was somewhat painful. Going to the bathroom, well, we won't go there. The pain seemed to be emanating from my low, low back, and when I did manage to get up to move from my desk, my waddle resembled the walk of a very pregnant woman, hand on lower back, grimace in place.

Pain pretty much makes you forget everything else in your life. It obliterates all other thoughts. All that remains is how do I get this to stop. Please, just make it stop. Give me something. Give me anything.

Serious pain stops regular, everyday activity in its tracks. At work, I couldn't pick up the magazine I dropped near the secretary's desk as I passed by. "Sorry," I said. "I can't get it - can you pick it up next time you're on this side of your desk?" Yes, I actually said that to her.

I was in so much pain Friday that I was a little afraid to make a Facebook post or even send an email. When you're in pain, there's no telling what you'll say.

It quickly became obvious that leaving work and going home to cry in private was the best option I had, but I was also very hungry at that point, and I knew I wouldn't be able to stand long enough to make lunch for myself. So in the car on the drive home I tried to think of a drive-thru restaurant that would have something I could eat that would keep me on my diet, but you know what? Pain pretty much says screw it when it comes to your diet or your good intentions. Healthy food? Sorry, buddy, but that's just not gonna happen today. Any kind of calories will do. Just eat and sit, ok?

I could write down all the boring details about what I did to myself that got me into this situation, but, really, does it matter? Pain is pain, and who really cares how it started. The point is to MAKE IT GO AWAY. Nothing else is important. Need to pass health care legislation this week? Who cares? Got a nuclear weapon pointed at New York? Ah well.

It's two days later, and I am feeling better. Some ibuprofen and a muscle relaxant, a night of TV with no movement, plus some heat and several jiggers of single-malt whiskey Friday night, and I was feeling up to walking on Saturday, although I didn't venture off the couch very often or very far. By this morning, I could walk well enough to do some grocery shopping, although not without a cart to lean on.

The other thing about pain is that once it subsides, it's kinda hard to remember how bad it was. I think that's why women can go on to have a second baby after the first. Unlike the memories of wonderful or pleasant experiences, the memory of pain fades amazingly well. I remember telling anyone who would listen after my daughter was born that I was NEVER doing that again, and yet today, the memory of how she looked and smelled in the moments after birth are as heady and rich for me today as they were 21 years ago, but the pain I endured to bring her into the world is really just a shadow of a memory. I remember it only because I made such a big deal of it at the time. I remember the memory.

And so it is this morning. I am stiff and my gait is still a little rough, but even as I write this, I have no real memory of the pain that has now subsided, only the way I felt about it at the time (MAKE IT STOP!!). The human brain is an amazing thing.

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