It was an accident. A dropped vase. Broken, mostly in large pieces, but glass shards covered one corner of the kitchen floor.
I picked up what I could by hand, careful not to cut myself, then fetched the vacuum. We’re a household that goes barefoot, so I was thorough in cleaning up every inch of floor I thought was affected.
But yesterday morning, I felt pain in the bottom of my foot. I looked closely and could see nothing. I brushed the irritated skin with my hand, and dismissed the source as some sharp crumb or speck of pebble brought in from outside. It would be gone in no time. But within an hour, I knew otherwise.
The area was angry and throbbing. I hobbled to the bathroom and took to the tweezers under a bright light.
I did my best to find what I deemed to be a tiny splinter of glass, yet while I could feel it, I couldn’t see it. Even poking around, digging around, and squeezing were accomplishing nothing except provoking further exasperation.
So I limped through the day, wore my sandals when I left the house – my foot curled awkwardly to take pressure off the offending spot – and I went to bed still annoyed after several more failed attempts to locate and remove the splinter.
This is often the way of pain and its origins.
Living with Pain
Sometimes we can fathom what is wrong and address it. Other times, we accept that we must live with pain and be grateful it isn’t worse. We compensate to lessen it, we may medicate to dull it; we go on. Pain is part of life.
Sometimes, ignoring pain means that it worsens. Ignoring its source may seem practical or even necessary, but over time, chronic pain is born – and metaphorically speaking we do more than contort our gait. We cripple ourselves.
Last night I lay in bed and thought about injuries and pain, disease and pain, emotional pain that may feel diffuse or be traceable to a specific incident, series of incidents, or time in one’s life. I thought about pain as a symptom, and pain that becomes, in a way, its own disease to be battled or accommodated.
I thought about the chipper faces that comprise the habit of our society. We master the mask – the public face that smiles and exudes energy, regardless of what takes place when the shades go down and the doors close to allow us our private realities.
Contradictory Lessons in Managing Pain
I also considered the hurts we sustain as children and the mixed messages we receive. At times we’re told to buck up or not be a baby. Then again, we may be encouraged to talk about what’s wrong so we may be helped with our issues.
When we’re older, we carry these contradictions into adulthood.
In particular, emotional wounds may prove confusing, inexplicable, and we struggle to understand why they happen though there may be no reason or, at the very least, no reason we can discern.
When pain spreads, we try to eradicate it, dull it, pluck it out, or pretend it doesn’t exist. We may allow its source to bury itself deeper in the body or the mind, because that source is invisible or undecipherable. We may doubt its reality. Others may doubt its reality. So we plod along, we live with it; we accept the good days and the bad.
Speaking Up When Something is Bothering You
Last week, I had something on my mind. Something that ached for an airing, a conversation with a friend, an open discussion that required plain talk, and I knew it would be difficult. For me.
It’s not always easy to talk about what’s bothering us.
Frankly, I haven’t had time to deal with it, and I didn’t want to. But when I did, I felt better.
This morning when I woke and stepped out of bed, the inflammation on the bottom of my foot had disappeared. I was able to walk without pain and knew – as is the case with some splinters – that the object had either worked its way out or buried itself deeper into the layers of skin.
Either way, I was grateful.