When I was pregnant I read Lamaze. I didn’t believe what I was reading so I got my swollen hands on an original French edition. Slightly more clear, the concept I remember 19 years later is Lamaze’s theory that language defines our emotions. He said we should never use words like “pain” to define childbirth. That in itself will take the real pain away, he suggested, and focus us more on the process of delivery of the child, the most wonderful thing that can happen to us as living beings.
So these past few days as I fought off what I’ll call “extreme discomfort” caused by a paper cut to the eye, I recalled this concept and engaged in battle.
There is a place. Where pain and ecstasy meet, where they switch with ease.
I first discovered it when I had poison oak on my arms after a camping trip in northern California. I got in the shower . . . the water was too hot and it burned where my poison oak had bubbled the skin on my forearms. It burned in sweet agony. Because the itching stopped. I couldn’t pull away.
Yes, you heard it coming . . . it hurt so good.
I sought that place Friday and Saturday through the hours of shifting position to try to find that place where it hurt less.
The least uncomfortable position was sitting up leaning over, head tilted to the left, my hand holding my eye lid away from the injury. Thus I listened to the radio, which brought me wisdom via Garrison Keillor.
“Nothing bad happens to a writer,” he said in his weekly broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. “It’s all material.”
Good timing, Garry, old pal.
So here is some authentic text from two days ago, typed with both eyes closed:
“Now, I have accidentally cut my eye with the corener of a yellow Oberlkn College brochure. A brochure I picked up for my son on a tour of the same place. IIt si made of light weight paper, pale yellow. It slipped under my glasses to slice the white of my eye, my left ete.
And now, ten oclock at night, I am writihgin , yes, writinghin in pain.
The cut occurred at about 1 pm, just after noon. It was fine for awhile,then I put ice onit.then it got worse. Finally I texted my husband in, DC. When are you coming home?
I drove, one eye shut, to pick him up at the bus stop. I wasn’t going to make it 12 minutes to the metro. He drove me straight to the clinic. Where the halo-clad Dr. Marc Childress put a drop of novacaine in my eye.
I was bach in the realm of the living.
Short” it lasted about 15 minutes..
I will wait until I am over this to write the rest.”
So here I am, Monday morning, the wound healing well, the discomfort almost gone. I can now see to reflect:
Getting a paper cut in my eye was like getting a paper cut in my eye.
My little cliché come true. My truer than cliché reality show.
There couldn’t be anything quite like it.
The kind employees at Safeway pharmacy had the antibiotic but they told my husband the pain med (tetracaine) specially formulated for the eye of which Dr. Childress had given me one sweet drop to sample, was not available there or at any of the four other pharmacies they called.
That’s when Lamaze’s words changed; the nature of the extreme discomfort shifted.
I understood in a flash why socialized medicine is an important part of any society that values human rights, compassion, justice even.
And in my stupor I imagined those capitalists carefully measuring the return on the investment of stocking rarely-demanded items such as tetracaine.
Would slicing their eyes with paper convince them?
I think it might.
We returned to the doctor with the halo, hoping he might have samples or stock he could sell us. Maybe just the rest of the bottle he’d used on me earlier?
Instead my husband returned to the car with a prescription for OxyContin.
Yeah no. Not doing narcotics for a minor eye injury.
I learned what people who have unrelievable pain go through over the next 48 hours. It is a kind of place where the mind fights with itself for control. The words of my alma mater, mens agitat molem, returned to me, 30 years after I left the place where the school logo is inscribed in marble.
Minds move mountains.
Talking to my sister yesterday put me in my place, as only talking with my sister can do. Unavailability of known medications cause a lot more damage than the mere pain I was enduring. She knew someone who couldn’t get the anti-immunity drugs he needed.
Then NPR did a story on someone very close to home in northern California who likewise faced untimely death because of the choices made by capitalists motivated solely by their own greed.
The prospect of medical care mingling with capitalism feels just like a paper cut to the eye.
Lamaze might have another word for it, but in English, that’s exactly what it feels like.