When the kids (Patrick and his friends) were small, we watched The Rugrats incessantly. One of the characters had goofy red hair and a tender heart. Chuckie. His nemesis, Angelica, treated him with disdain. When he came out with some obvious statement, she’d shout, “No DUH, Chuckie!”
Two videos have come into my inbox today that prompted me to utter that phrase right into my breakfast nook to the surprise of the old dog.
The first came to me from the New York Times.
The Times has a periodic column called The Daily 360. Today it took us into the New York subway system with a wheelchair-bound rider. “You have this great system,” he says. “And then I had this accident and come to find out, it doesn’t always work for me.”
No duh, Chuckie. He shows us a list of stations which do or do not have a working elevator according to an icon next to the name. I understand his dilemma. For that precise reason, I get my butt out of bed each day and stretch my legs. I need to stay away from any kind of implement with which I might have to struggle when I navigate to and from my car — cane, wheelchair, walker.
Our world is not accessible. I’m attending the Rotary International convention in June. I’ve been alerted to the size of the meeting areas and the long lines in which I’ll have to stand. I can rent a scooter, but otherwise, I’m on my own in navigation.
A scooter makes hotels and shopping centers less accessible in many respects. Go find a curb cut; try to shake hands; aim to manipulate around clumps of children or chairs. But I’m told, “The facility is ADA compliant.” End of story. “ADA compliant” is code for “meets the bare minimum standards to keep you from suing us”. It does not mean “accessible”.
But I’m not complaining. I am not confined to a wheelchair. I can walk, though it looks funny and resembles a cross between a toddler and a crab. I watched the Daily 360 three times just to remind myself of how much easier I have it than the guy from whose point of view we navigate the subway station.
A few minutes later, Senator Claire McCaskill announces her investigation into the opioid epidemic. She tells me, “It’s happening all over our state. Someone starts taking an opioid drug. . . and then moves on to heroin.” She cautions that we have to find out how this epidemic began. “[It] begins with the distributors and manufacturers. . . who are trying to make money off a product which is over-prescribed and eventually causing death.”
No DUH, Chuckie.
My first OB-GYN, who eventually contributed to the hastening of my mother’s death, gave me Darvon for menstrual cramps when I was fifteen. I continued using it for the burning in my legs caused by spasticity. That began a forty-year prescription narcotics habit which ended when I decided that juggling Percoset and Vicodin had led me to live in a shroud of fog. The pain in my legs never went away, but I disconnected from it — along with having disconnected from everything and everyone else in my life.
After my mother-in-law’s death in October 2013, I went to my doctor for help. I told him that I needed to feel again. I knew that I had a life-time of emotional trauma to face that I had buried and needed to resolve. I also understood that the glory and exuberance of life’s joyful experiences also eluded me because of the drug-induced numbness from within which which I navigated each day.
My first published essay was a piece for a teen magazine published by the Christian Board of Publication in St. Louis in 1970. The title was something like, “The Reason for Pain”. I argued that feeling pain allowed us to appreciate pleasure; that bad times accentuated the desirability of happiness. I lost sight of that over the decades in which I tried to kill the pain in my legs with narcotics. I leveled out my existence until everything became two-dimensional.
So on days like Sunday, when sadness overtakes me, I remind myself not to complain about sorrow because without the occasional blue moments, the bright sunny ones get lost in all the greys.
It’s the twenty-ninth day of the thirty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.