It’s been kind of a shitty few weeks here at Trudge Inc. By that, I mean not my version of Heaven on Earth. Which I realize is a tall order. But this version didn’t even come close. Not to what I’d prefer to orchestrate. As my version. Which, although perhaps a little complicated to arrange, wouldn’t cost very much. Except maybe in hurt feelings.
Anyway, this was something very else.
Some low-grade depression, some ass-kicking physical pain, and a sprinkling of mid-ranged irritants. All culminating with an ill-timed blow-up with my mom. The day before her birthday. Yeah I know. I’m the worst son ever. But I don’t want to brag about my ranking. Fact is we fired at each other at point blank range with armor-piercing rounds. And that seems to have brought up all these unpleasant feelings. For both of us. Go figure.
Ah well. What’s done is done. Very cathartic actually. I’m sure after we spit out the mouthfuls of depleted Uranium dust and rebuild Fallujah, we’ll be just fine.
And maybe when I…(cough-cough)
…get somebody to remove…(urgh)
…this cinder block from my spine.
So as I was nursing my self-inflicted wounds, trying my best not to figure it all out, I remembered the toothache.
A few weeks earlier I got a toothache. On a Friday of course. That way I’d have to wait until Monday to make my dentist’s car payment. But in the meantime I’d get to celebrate a tooth-ache week-end.
And not by soaking and swishing it in scotch. Or rubbing my gums with Civil War-era Laudanum ointment while crossing the border into Mexico with six hundred dollars of “fun money” and the phone number of a good taxi driver.
No, this would be alternate doses of aspirin and Ibuprofen. War documentaries. Ice Cream. Petting the cats. Trying not to hate life too much.
At one point it’s hurting like fuck. I’m thinking about going into the garage, grabbing some pliers and really going Civil War. Just start humming the Battle Hymn of The Republic while twisting out teeth until the pain stops. It’s really the only manly way to handle this. Just makes good horse sense.
Okay, but before I employ plan A, I need see if there are any options. Need to wrap my head around this. See if there might be a better solution. One that doesn’t require vice-grips and Anbesol. Or something even worse.
I have this thing about mastering my misery. Having dined on such heaping helpings of it, as an alcoholic, and as a human being, I’ve come to believe that suffering has to have some nutritional value. There has to be some good from pain. Otherwise everything I’ve endured, would just be fucked up shit that’s happened to me.
Because life sucks.
And death is probably worse.
Which as a concept, I don’t have a problem with. It’s just that if I agree with it too much, I’m told, I become a drag to be around. A real bummer boy. A Downer Danny. And I don’t want to be a Downer Danny. Do you?
Besides, I tend to make bad decisions when I hate life. That’s why I try to think the opposite of my favorite way and remain somewhat upbeat. Just so I don’t bring Lori and the cats down too much. Why should they pay because my tooth hurts? Even though it only seems fair.
Okay, gratitude is a go-to. I know being grateful has a positive effect on the personality complex. Clinical studies have proven that grateful people are less of a pain in the ass to be around. Gratitude also seems to be some sort of component for successful recovery from various maladies of mind and soul.
I know. Insane. That one’s attitude towards something would make any difference. But apparently so.
But this is a toothache. Can I be grateful for a toothache? That’s really getting tin-foil. That would be some seriously un-hinged Rasputin shit. The howling of a madman. Really clawing at the moon there.
That was all I needed to think.
“Thank you, oh merciful Creator, for this pain–this pain that’s radiating up through my jaw and jack-hammering into the top quarter of my skull–making my right eye water. I don’t know why I should, but I’d like to thank you. For this most generous gift. I don’t know what I did to deserve it–I mean I have my suspicions–but thanks. Anyway. Amen.”
Yep. I did it. I gave thanks for my pain. I really did.
Not snorting lines of Darvon off the belly of a Tijuana stripper will make a man do crazy shit alright.
Or, so it would seem.
What did I have to lose? I was fucked anyway. At least until Monday morning. I’d consider it an experiment. Maybe it will help me delineate where the power of gratitude runs into a brick wall. And the friendly staff at La Farmacia Sureño need to take over.
Well, the pain didn’t magically go away. But it did start to go in and out. I’d get these small breaks when it would subside. And I was genuinely grateful for those. Anything to keep me out of the garage. Or the liquor aisle. Or heading south on I- 5.
I kept taking the aspirins and Ibus and rode out the waves of pain as best as I could. Tried to have fun in spite of. Tried to not let it ruin my weekend. Or bring down those around me.
Well, it didn’t, and slowly the time between waves grew. By Sunday night the pain was gone. Stayed gone Monday morning. And since. No more toothache.
Interesting. I’ve never had a toothache go away. Not without having the dentist’s foot push off on my face. Or had a hole drilled through my wallet. Never. I’m sure there’s such a thing as temporary toothache. I’ve just never had one.
Not one that lasted all weekend. Then went away.
But I’ve also never made a point of being grateful for having one.
Coincidence? Maybe. But a noteworthy one. So I should forget about it right away. Which I did.
Except now I remembered it and wondered if I could concoct another pain-relieving coincidence for this shit with my mom. What if I gave thanks for this pain? That would be pretty pathetic. And desperate.
“Thank you, O merciful Creator, for bestowing me with this bounty of painful childhood guilt complexes triggered so effectively by your angelic worker, the mother of my life, the woman that delivered me to this terrifying orb of earth…that I have been cast down upon… for some horrible transgression I’m sure. Because You, my Eternal Father, know best, that when it comes to being a good son, I’m the worst. ”
I have to admit, thanking for the toothache was easier. That’s why I think it came first. To help me ramp up speed for the leap of sanity required to be thankful for all this bullshit now. But I did it. I gave thanks–for all the bad feelings I was having.
Now this may be another coincidence, but I woke up the next day feeling better. Lighter. Nothing external in the situation had changed. Just the way I felt about stuff. Better perspective. Better attitude. Still some shrapnel in the guts, but less. Decidedly. I felt more waves of peace then I did of dread. Eventually, things got better between me and my mom, but more importantly, between me and everything else.
Okay, let’s write it off to the power of suggestion. I’ll take it. Look, I’m an alcoholic trying to stay sober. I can’t afford to be too picky how that happens. I have to be ready to go to any lengths not to take that first drink. If that means kissing the dusty feet of some Voodoo priestess while she blows powdered alligator liver on my head, or mind-gaming my cognitive thinking, if I can “suggest” myself out of drinking, it’s a miracle. One I should try to keep repeating. If that means believing certain crazy things, and then acting on them, I’ll do it.
(To be fair, I was always good at that)
Anyway, that’s how I “came to believe.” I fucking had to. I no longer had the luxury of being cynical.
Trying to connect with some invisible otherness was something I had to do. I got to a point in the train wreck when that was all that was left. I had destroyed all other options. It was that or die. You know, Plan A.
So when you grasp that last straw, and it starts to grow into a stalk of wheat, like in the ergot-fueled finale of an Elysian mystery rite, you’re grateful. And your life is never the same. Which is a big relief. And it’s the beginning of a new relationship. Between you and everything else.
Slowly you start to see. You start to understand. No matter how bad something looks or feels, there’s something good behind it. Something holy. Some gift. It might take an aeon or two before you see it. But you know it’s there. And that’s all that matters.
Whether it’s having a fucking toothache.
A fight with your mom.
Or being an alcoholic.
It’s good to give thanks.
Before you even know why.