The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Rant #1

So, I am sitting in my lab that is full of young, good-looking boys (my boss makes sure we keep beautiful people here--and that in no way violates any equal opportunity clauses) and listening to a few of them discuss their extreme weekends of bear blasting and hump catting, powered by PowerThirst. As they brag about the cuts and scrapes and bruises and hematomas and broken things, revealing the applicable body parts, they have triggered a rant deep within the core of my being.

I hate people who purposefully inflict pain on themselves and then act as if their injuries make them ubercool or edgy.

Being in pain is not cool. Injuring your body on purpose does not make you a special, tough person.

I know that pain and injury do not make you a fascinating person because I've lived with chronic pain for ten years. This pain is limiting. This pain is always present. This pain prevents me from doing many things I like to do. This pain is the exact opposite of cool.

Many people are surprised when they hear about my injury. Usually, it comes up when someone notices my limp and accuses me of having one drink too many. I try to minimize how much conversation my injury gets even then because, frankly, hurting just isn't that interesting. I've seen the other person's eyes glaze over more times than I can count as I relate the sordid tale of my accident. No one cares about your pain.

Now people who brag about their self-inflicted pain do so to really just have an excuse to talk about themselves. They want to let others know just how much they are hurting, just how they received said pain, in order to relate just how amazing they are that they continue to live their Clark-Kent lives despite deep-tissue hematoma or whatever. They make a point of shoving their pain in other's faces because pain is an option for them. They can choose to not hurt by just stopping whatever it is that they do to makes them hurt.

And that's the thing: they choose. Pain isn't a reality for them; it's a way of alleviating boredom. It's a way to make them feel as if they are better than all the other people out their who aren't sporting broken noses.

Give me a break.

Validate yourself some other way. Or, better yet, continue to do your extreme sport, continue to get hurt, but don't say a word about it. That way when your massive bruising or hot-pink cast or chipped tooth is noticed, you can say, "Oh that, I was [insert activity here]. It's no big deal." Then you may actually be interesting. Griping about something you are choosing to do is not worth the words and time and life you are wasting on it.

People in chronic pain actually do live Clark-Kent lives. They have no choice. They can either curl up and check out from the world or continue to function. They choose not to be in pain, but not to whine about it. They continue their day-to-day activities, pursue things that make them happy, and don't mention a word about the pain. They may seem normal (read: pain-free). They may seem boring. They may seem even impervious to pain. That's because they live with it as a constant presence. They know that talking about it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. They know how to suck. it. up. and actually do things that make them legitimately interesting people through their own merits not because they happen to have a life-affecting injury (I am not necessarily talking about myself. I am in no way claiming to be a legitimately interesting person).

Their alter-egos to the mild-mannered public lives they live may spend most nights without sleep because the pain is so great. They may secretly eat Ibuprofen as if it were candy. They may even spend gratuitous amounts of money on massages or other treatments. They may cry or moan when others aren't around because they've been forced into a pain-cave of despair. Yet however present this reality is to those who are living it, they know full well that no one cares to hear about it. And they keep their mouths shut.

Like dead people, those in chronic pain are everywhere. They work their jobs; they go to concerts; they run marathons; they pursue their life. All without mentioning exactly how hard it may be to be forced live like those boys in my lab who spend their weekends beating themselves up for a cheap thrill and a bit of adoration.

Get over yourself; you aren't the first person in history to be in pain. You certainly won't be the last.

Live life. Don't whine about it.

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