When we are young, our pain is loud. A scraped knee demands noisy tears. A bonked head absolutely requires drama. A stubbed toe requires a yell and several minutes of hopping around until someone notices and asks us what’s wrong.
Biting your tongue? Loud and visual, since inevitably whatever it was that you were chewing on when you bit your tongue must make an appearance in order for you to show Mama exactly where you bit your tongue so she can check if it is bleeding.
But splinters are the worst. Splinters, silent when they enter your skin, still silent when the offended-against part is presented for inspection, they become the source of the most godawful caterwauling you’ve ever heard the moment the tweezers come out.
Pain, for a child, is often a noisy, dramatic affair.
Except, I have discovered, when they are truly, seriously hurt. The sorts of hurts that require ER visits and x-rays are always spectacularly silent. There might be a scream, then a moment or two of noisy tears, but that quickly subsides into a hiccupy silence.
It isn’t an ordinary sort of silence, that quietness of pain. It is something else altogether, with the injured part cradled close and a sort of dazed look of confused agony as the realization is made of what pain truly is. It is the sort of silence that raises the hairs on the back of your neck and makes your heart speed up a notch.
It is ominous, that quiet pain.
Most of the time, my pain is a noisy pain. It is real, don’t mistake me, but it is a relatively minor beast. It is, if I manage it carefully, something I can push into the background of my life where it limits me but doesn’t disable me. I get cranky, sure. My body complains loudly by the end of each and every day (if by end of day you mean 2 p.m, since that is about when my body starts letting me know that it has had enough).
I liken it to having a pebble in your shoe that you cannot, no matter what, get rid of. What’s more, there is a dragon who sits on the beach and throws pebbles in my general direction, filling my shoes with more and more pebbles, day after day. For most of the day, I can catch the pebbles and stick them in my pocket. Annoying, yes, but ignorable for the most part. But by about 2 p.m., his aim has improved to the point where my shoes are full of stones and there is no more room for me.
But don’t you dare feel sorry for me. My pain-filled life is, despite the pain, still a really good life. It is a different life than I imagined it would be, but it is a good life because I choose to make it so. I may have a pebble, but most of the time I can carry it around in my pocket.
Except every so often, that pebble becomes a boulder and I cannot, no matter how hard I try, fit it in my pocket and ignore it for a while.
It stops being a noisy pain and becomes quiet.
It isn’t an ordinary kind of quiet.
It is the kind of quiet that has you realizing from the moment you first wake that today is not going to be a joyful day, no matter how much joy you try to infuse into it. It is the kind of quiet that suffocates. That oppresses. That steals your breath away and makes every movement a conscious choice to step off the beach and into the sea of agony.
Today is a noisy pain day. It is noisier than normal and rather difficult to ignore, but it is noisy.
After five straight days of quiet pain, I am grateful for the noise. Grateful for the ability to put my pebble back in my pocket and carry it around, squawking and squealing and complaining at the top of its lungs.
The overwhelming noise of it is so very much better than crushing silence.
Outside, the wind is blowing. The trees, now naked of their brightly coloured leaves, wiggle and sway under its influence. I’ve cracked open my office window to let some fresh air blow through despite the chill. There is snow falling in large, fat flakes pushed nearly horizontal by the wind, a welcome distraction from the noisy pebble in my pocket.
It is a noisy pain day, but there is snow, and I am ever so glad for it.