My friend Macrina mentioned being tired tonight. It’s no wonder; she’s in school full-time, which challenges the best of us in middle-age, even this lively woman more than ten years my junior. Then she said, as people often do, that she felt she had no right to complain to me.
“Not true,” I assured her. “As fate would have it, I have it much better than you. I don’t know the difference. I can’t relate to ‘not tired’.”
Her quizzical look prompted me to explain. “I’ve been disabled since I was younger than two. It’s a way of life for me. I’ve never been anything but tired, so for me, it’s only tired, more tired, and most tired. I’ve no other standard of comparison. But for someone such as yourself, normally healthy, sudden disability or illness feels vastly different.”
I think that makes sense, though it sounds sort of self-pitying. But I mean it. I don’t lament the loss of energy or ability because I never enjoyed either without impediment. I could be bitter. I once found it tempting to resent the able-bodied, though not because they have energy. Rather, I craved the approval that society bestows on those who meander through life with an easy, unfettered carriage.
I’ve mostly abandoned even that lament. Now I just live my life, limping haphazardly through my days. If I stopped, I might never resume — so I just keep going, like a grinning Energizer bunny running on solar power with its spring dangling askew.
On the rare occasion when I submit to the scrutiny of an emergency room triage, I decline to tender a pain scale rating. Zero to ten means nothing to me. “The worst pain?” Hmmmm. My mother’s long, slow decline as the cancer progressed. I’ve never gotten there. But I’ve flown through a windshield from the outside, folded knees first. I’ve heard the resounding shatter of my tibia into thirty-two fragments. I’ve seen my ring-finger sticking cockeyed from my hand.
Least pain? Let’s see. That frightening warmth which flows through your body after an injection of Morphine. You still feel the injury, somewhere beneath the cotton. You no longer care. No, thanks. I’d rather writhe. I’d rather groan. I’d rather be tired, even bone-tired, even dog-tired, even too-tired-to-cry.
I define my pain scale as Nirvana to Bosnia. I dwell somewhere in between at all times. I’ll take that.
I told Macrina that being overwhelmingly tired all of a sudden for an extended period of time meant something could be wrong. I urged her to seek the advice of her doctor. Being tired every day of your sixty-three years of life becomes normal. I’m the one who should not complain. The rest of you have my permission to do so.
It’s the eighth day of the fifty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.