Friday, March 07, 2014

Of pain and tables

It's amazing how you adjust to life in ways you never realized.

When I had back surgery in 2001, I had been walking in pain on a near-constant basis for about seven months. Even after the disc was fixed and the pain was gone, I sometimes subconsciously resorted to walking delicately and/or with a limp.

For about a year after regaining the voice I lost for a week in 2009, I wouldn't whisper, but would silently mouth quiet words as I had during that week.

A shoulder injury that same year had me holding up my right arm like I was carrying a football. I still revert to that sometimes. 

On Tuesday, I received my furniture and effects after having them in storage for 17 months. I've lived for the past seven months in my apartment with what fit in my car and a few other items purchased since then — and the previous 9 1/2 months was spent at my parents' house, among their furnishings and shared bathrooms, keeping my toiletries and laundry in travel totes. In sports terms, I hadn't nested since the NFL was using replacement officials.

It's enough of a time period where you don't even miss things, but forget you have them, and forget you need them. It plays with your head. 

I'm not talking about luxury items, either, but tables and basic bedding. I've gone seven months without a proper table. It's all set up now, and I'm still reminding myself that I don't have to eat my soup on the floor or on a lawn chair. I still get excited about my actual bed, which consists of a mattress, a box spring and the most skeletal frame. But after months on an inflatable mattress (and eventually the floor) and all the back pain it's brought back, to me that bed is the Four Seasons. This is the first blog I've written at my desk since 2012. My apartment, which I got used to being cavernous, looks like my old apartments now. The normalcy of it is taking some adjustments.

On another level, I'm still getting used to having disposable income. Today, I'll be getting a new haircut, groceries and possibly a new computer desk. Even with the cost of the move, I don't have to go without, and yet I still do out of habit. 

This is a good problem to have. I know I'm lucky, and that I was lucky to have what I had in the two years I was struggling. But I think about those who face much harder challenges every day of their lives, with little to no hope of improvement. How is their daily parade of deprivation changing their barometers? There comes a point when street smarts and a sharp sense of practicality cross the line and become self-defeating habits. When someone is poor for long enough, that metaphorical phantom limp or sore throat lingers until they don't know what it's like not to be in pain. And sadly, many politicians are all too happy to promote that forgetfulness.

This is why I have sympathy for many down-and-out people, even when logic dictates I should feel otherwise. Just as not having a table took me out of the habit of using one, so do adverse circumstances compel people to adopt new ways of living with pain. When you aren't feeling pain, it's easier to judge these people and want to punish them.

Instead, we should consider what's causing the pain in the first place.

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