What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Cranky

Pain has never been something I have purposely pursued.

On the contrary, I have constructed most of my behavior around avoiding both physical and emotional pain.

I think it may be safe to say that much of the human condition revolves around pain avoidance. Ask any therapist and I bet they will back me up.

A friend of mine recently quipped, “You know what they say (who the heck is they, anyway), what doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger.” I gave him a half-hearted smile, glanced down at my purple-casted right arm, and nodded.

But I am not altogether sure I agree. I have never trusted quotations from the ubiquitous “they.”

The past two weeks I have given the pain-avoidance theme quite a bit of thought. The only thing I have deduced thus far is no matter how many preventative measures we put in place, some things are simply out of our control.

Like falling backward over a 3-year-old, bouncing flower girl at a wedding reception on a trip to California, for instance.

My behavior (in the interests of pain avoidance) includes tossing back 1200 mg of calcium a day, strength and cardio workouts, eating healthy, non-preservative-laden foods and generally avoiding collisions of any kind with another human.

Classic pain-avoidance preventative behavior.

All of which were rendered frustratingly moot during my recent topple; smashed in a single moment with a resounding, splintering crack and the realization that avoiding the impending pain could quite possibly be the single most important issue in my life over the next few hours.

Crumpled on the dance floor — where seconds before I’d been wowing the audience with my best line-dance moves — my world was reduced to an alarmingly purple, swelling wrist; a cranky, toppled (thankfully, uninjured) little girl in a full-length red dress; and my husband’s face wreathed in furrows of rapidly escalating concern as he hurried over from the sound system where he’d been deemed honorary DJ.

He’d figured out this was NOT one of my surprisingly agile dance moves and something was seriously wrong.

Suddenly, I was the focus of attention instead of the bride and groom. Although peripherally heartsick about this turn of events, pain strutted determinedly into the spotlight.

Pain is very self-centered.

My son, who was the groom, and my husband helped me to a table where I cast furtive apologetic glances toward the guests, willing myself to instantaneously heal so the celebration could resume uninterrupted. I tried to ignore the alien wrist bump sticking out at an odd angle.

I found myself pulled out to a car waiting to zoom me to the emergency room.

Try as I might, pain would NOT be deterred and I sobbed into my son’s tuxedo. He patted me awkwardly, and told me things would be all right and to hang on, mom, and I thought about role reversals — but not for very long because pain selfishly pushed aside every other thought.

I reluctantly acknowledged the fact that I was, indeed — helpless — and I should just let these two darling men take care of me. I tried to become more comfortable with pain. Lamaze breathing helped, although my son eyed me strangely. Panting is not something a son should watch his mother do.

After easing me into the car, my son and husband lapsed into awkward silence because, really, what do you say to a woman wearing a skirt twisted backwards, panting her way towards painlessness while holding her weirdly-colored, misshapen arm and biting off her lipstick?

The emergency room loomed into view and for a few moments, the throbbing stopped. Hope, I thought, may trump pain. I shoved this epiphany aside for future pondering after the medical staff fixed me up.

I finally stopped panting, which didn’t do much for me but seemed to make my husband and son feel better. I sent my son back to his wedding. I settled into a firm depression and gave up whatever plans I’d made for the rest of the visit.

Arriving home, I find my activity level firmly curtailed, and the bounce has left my step. Two months’ worth of hindrance await me. I find absolutely nothing redeeming about this situation.

A friend tried to lighten my mood by mentioning I may not want to participate in “break dancing.”

I did not find this amusing.

I think perhaps the aftermath of a wrestling match with pain is a focused refusal to be lighthearted about the reason for it.

It didn’t kill me, but it sure made me cranky.