The Art of Suffering

A couple weeks ago I was looking behind the washer when I stepped into a pool of water. My foot slipped and I cracked my rib on the edge of the machine. It was very painful, and being me, I cried out. Being my long suffering husband, Clarence hollered down the stairs, what now? Are you alright?

I was too busy whimpering to answer. I figured my rib was broken, or at least pushed out of place. But it would pass, I thought. Unfortunately, it hasn’t yet, and I’m very tired of being in pain. I’m not any good at it. There is a smugness to people like me who have skipped through life missing out  on the hard stuff. Yes, I went through childbirth. It was bloody awful, both words being accurate. But half the human race does it, so it’s hardly a unique situation.

I went through a bad toothache experience once. I was in Montreal and ended up having to see a dentist about a root canal. Right before I went on national television, I was given very serious sedatives. I’m not sure anyone but family or close friends would have realized how absolutely stoned I was. And in a bizarre twist of fate, I had to keep repeating the words ‘Swarovski Crystal.’

Aside from that, and from shingles, which were not fun, I haven’t suffered much in my life. I know people who live with all kinds of pain. I pray for them, think about them. But I never really understood what it was like to have pain every day, all day. And night. Rolling over in bed, I sound like I’m either in labour or having very kinky sex. Don’t worry, dear neighbors, who can hear me through the open window. Neither is true. My rib is far too sore for any kind of shenanigans.

I have a new appreciation for those who live with pain. I know that mine will pass eventually, but for many, it will not. When I meet these people on the street or at the grocery store, complaining is not the first thing they do. Many have the ability to shove it behind them and just get on with things. Whereas I want to stop strangers in the street, take their arm and make serious eye contact. “I’m really hurting right now,” I’d like to say. This need to share, no surprise to my readers, has taken me by surprise. It’s as if I can’t believe the unfairness of it all.

When you think about how most of the world lives, what’s fair, anyway? I’ve had more than my share of blessings. I should be able to serve my time in the pit of despair with a brave smile. Alas. The people I know who suffer on a daily basis have made it look easier than it is. The art of suffering involves a lip of the stiffest kind. Mine is obviously made of play-dough.

Published by Judith Pettersen

Judith Pettersen is an author living in Canada. She blogs about her life in the north and the ups and downs of being a writer.

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