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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Love, Suicide and Popcorn Pans: A Day in Chronic Pain

written around 2000

I woke up this morning feeling pretty good pain-wise. I took my pills, because I must take them everyday, every dose, pain or no pain, in an effort to stay one step ahead of it. I take them because I have inoperable tumors pressing on the nerves of my spine due to a disorder called Neurofibromatosis. It is often feels like an exercise in futility since I am in pain regardless of the pills. But the pain is usually not as bad with them, as long as I lay flat on my back. Still, this morning felt like a good morning. A morning I could get a thing or two done. A morning I didn’t feel like laying flat on my back.

When this happens, I spring into action (springing being subjective), taking advantage of feeling normal, though sometimes guilty, thinking I’m really not sick and should be working. But that’s another neurosis for another time. This morning I set out to get a popcorn pan. Nothing fancy. Just one you can put a little oil in, add the popcorn, and listen to that wonderful sound, like rain hitting the roof, as the corn pops faster and faster and then slows, telling you to turn down the heat, take it off the burner and dump into a really big bowl. Yum. I like mine lightly salted, a whisper of butter. The best. Having no money but a credit card that I really, truly honestly only use when I have to, I decide the hell with it, I’m getting this pan. So off I go, starting at one of those big, “we sell everything” stores where the prices are cheap and the products acceptable.

Only they sold mostly pan sets. You had to buy six to eight different pans, none of which I needed, in order to get the aforementioned popcorn pan, which is really just a 3 to 6 quart job with a non-stick coating and preferably a clear glass top, just because it’s fun to watch the corn pop. No other reason. The only individual saucepans they sold had the weight of aluminum foil. Pans I would maybe take camping (if I camped) but certainly not pop corn in. Or heat water, for that matter. Something I read about aluminum being bad for you, but hey, what isn’t? Anyway, apparently, when I wasn’t looking, a rule was made that you can’t sell pots & pans individually unless they are very, very cheap or very, very expensive. This I discovered after driving around town looking first patiently, then manically, for one lousy pan to pop corn in. One pan. One 3 to 6 quart non-stick, preferably with a glass top popcorn pan. One, apparently elusive, popcorn pan.

How hard is that? It’s hard. It’s having root canal hard. It’s giving birth hard (that’s a guess). It’s ridiculously, stupendously, unheard of hard. And when that kind of hard happens, I get annoyed. Well, annoyed isn’t precisely the word I get. I kind of flip out. I mean, even when I wasn’t in this mind-numbing, teeth rattling, I want to die kind of pain, I’ve flipped out. But now, I flip irrationally out. Which I suppose is the definition of flipping out, but this was very irrational. Thusly, I drove around in tears, my pain shooting up like something you see in one of those cartoon thermometers, when the little red line reaches the bulb at top and bursts through the glass. Plus, I was angry. And hungry. Each of those things makes my pain worse. Together, it’s rather lethal. So I began to add all sorts of things to not being able to find one lousy popcorn pan. “I’m in pain,” I screamed in my car, to no one but really, to G-d. I shrieked and cried until the tears and the snot were running down my face and my shredded pieces of tissue were of no use. “What is the problem?” I demanded to know. “I don’t get it. What did I do to deserve this? I mean, I get nothing in life! I have never had a job I liked or was good at, I have no money, I have this stupid disease, I have no children and I haven’t had a boyfriend since Moses was given the Ten Commandments!! Why do you hate me so much? What did I ever do? And not only that, I keep turning the wrong way so I’m driving longer than I really have to and I’m in pain! I just want one lousy saucepan so I can make popcorn and watch a baseball game. Is that too much to ask? Haven’t you got enough to do? Why are you always picking on me? What did I ever do to you? And why can’t I be in love? Why do I repel men? There are so many really rotten people out there, why don’t you go pick on them for awhile?”

And so it went. This raving lunatic driving around in circles, trying to get home, trying to get a second dose of painkillers down my throat, feeling lonely, scared, in pain and really angry at G-d for not providing me with one relatively inexpensive popcorn pan, a healthy body and a nice man. But who could love this crazy person who also happens to be sick? And while I would never deny anyone else of what appears to be the “good” things in life…good health, success, money, healthy relationships, children…it is sometimes hard not to feel jealous. So on top of everything else, I must always stay present and aware of my emotional reaction to things, or the pain gets worse. Oyi.

I know these are those irrational, ridiculous moments, when, if one had a gun (or a lot of pills like me) they might decide, the heck with it and take their own life. This would be bad, I think. Bad because the moments we are in the lunatic mode, we aren’t thinking rationally. And then they pass, those moments, and if you’ve been despairing enough to use the gun or the pills you’re now thinking, “oops, where am I?” and you realize the popcorn pan, the pain, the non-existent love life and even the bad body wasn’t what it’s all about and you’re really embarrassed. Remarkably, I finally made it home in one piece. A friend called just as I was walking in the door. She listened to me, settled me down with some soothing words, and I ate something. I laid down, curling up with my cat, Oliver. I started a book. I was still in pain, still out a popcorn pan, and still not in love. But, I thought, I have a roof over my head, food, a couch, a comfortable bed, my cat and my friends, not to mention a family who loves and supports me, regardless of what I think are my shortcomings. And that’s more then what most people on this planet have. If I feel up to it, I’ll walk up to the store later and buy a bag of popped popcorn. And who knows? One of these days I may even get it right and bypass lunatic mode altogether, saving myself a boatload of aggravation.

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