Tag Archives: Pain management

Pay Attention to the Good Stuff

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As good as it gets

If there is one phrase I would like to tattoo onto the back of my hand as a constant reminder it is this: Pay attention to the good stuff.

Yesterday, as I sat in the doctor’s office, waiting to see the hand surgeon, I felt myself sinking a little into a funk. I was beginning to realize that just because the stitches were out, my thumb still hurt, and I still wouldn’t be able to move it for two months and even though we had planned to go on a surfing trip this week, instead I was in the doctor’s office with a shriveled and bruised right hand that could have belonged to Frankenstein’s monster, and I was feeling a little sorry for myself.

On the wall of the doctor’s office is a sketch to help patients describe their pain on a scale of 0 to 10. 0 is no pain and 10 is unbearable, excruciating pain. Each number corresponds with a drawing of a face in varying amounts of distress. The 0 face is smiling and the 10 face is crying. Looking around at the world, most people’s faces reflect the same sightly-frowning, arched-eyebrowed 6 face.

6 hurts.

But it isn’t until you’ve visited 10 does your perspective change. Once you’ve felt 10, everything else feels more like a 2. Because unless you have suffered a great loss–an unbearable, devastating loss–do you realize how good you actually have it.

Most of us haven’t felt a 10. Most of us are fortunate. When John was sick, his physical pain level fluctuated between 8 and 10 for an entire year. For me, my emotional pain dipped down into the 4 range during hopeful moments and spiked into the double digits during our darkest days. Even though it wasn’t a physical pain–like the sharp ache of a bone being drilled in order to sew a severed tendon back in place–it was unbearable.

When I remember how fortunate I am to still have my husband with me, this current, annoying pain in my thumb almost disappears. This is no 6. Not even close. Those who have visited 10 know what I’m talking about it.

So maybe the three-inch scar on my right thumb will act as a reminder, like a piece of string tied around my index finger, to pay attention. The good stuff isn’t going to last forever. Powder gets tracked up, kids grow up, our hips and shoulders wear out, and not one of us is getting out of this thing alive.

Instead of dwell on the negatives, it is better to pay attention when life is good–when the cherry blossoms pop on the trees along the street, the way my husband smiles when he’s happy, the sparkle of sunlight on fresh snow. Don’t rush, Kim. Pay attention. This right here is the good stuff.