today while i was at physical therapy, a rather unstable and unkept-looking man walked by the large glass windows. he had been on the street where i parked my car, shouting and gesticulating passionately- so i shut off my radio and opened my window a bit to hear him better because i thought he was yelling at me about how i was trying to parallel park. but when i paid closer attention i realized he was not yelling at me but at the trash dumpster he was standing next to.

in the middle of PT he rumbled past the window, again on a tirade about Very Serious Things, but nothing in particular. and my physical therapist started talking about how people wind up like that. we chatted about how nobody really starts out like that, miles deep in mental illness or drugs or both, and that by the time you get to that point, life has been very hard on you indeed. and then my physical therapist made an interesting comment about how close i was to being that person.

now, folks, that is a game changer of an observation.

because, truly, if i didn’t have a loving family and a reason NOT to put a needle in my arm, i really could be that person.

what? i can hear people saying it right now. i think that maybe some people with raging drug addictions wanted to try something cool and party. but i think that probably most people with the really tough drug addictions- the ones who are willing to go to just about any lengths to stay high (and why not since they are like the living dead already)- started out just trying to numb some kind of pain.

and whether their pain is physical or emotional or both doesn’t really matter, because at the end of the day, i think most people have such a visceral negative reaction to breaking the barrier of putting an actual needle into their actual vein and puncturing that thin veneer of civility that lies between functioning and chaos… most people recoil at the idea of puncturing their own protective layer, and to get someone into a head-space where they are willing to do that (and to conveniently forget to contemplate all of the other evils that will soon follow along with it…) takes a pretty dramatic level of suffering.

and, yes, of course i’ve been there. anyone with chronic pain has.

people with acute pain have been there too, but they have the comfort of knowing they can be FIXED, and like magic their pain will vanish in x amount of time if they only follow the rules and take 2 extra strength tylenol every 4 hours (and maybe something stronger every once in a great while). so while they have pain, they don’t have desperation.

and it’s the desperation that puts you over the edge.

in england, people often needlessly end their sentences with a question. like, “well, i’m sitting here, aren’t i?” or “i always drink juice with breakfast, don’t i?”

but i felt like writing, “it’s the desperation that puts you over the edge, isn’t it?”

like, “can i get an amen on that last sentence?”

because i believe people can endure horrendous amounts of physical pain- and even other types of pain- if it is for a limited duration and/or for a clear purpose.

and chronic pain gives you neither.

it seems endless and it seems pointless. and although neither is true if you have a belief system beyond the here and now, it’s quite difficult to access that belief system from the lip of a trash can you are vomiting into when you are overcome by waves of agony.

so does a quick fix sound awesome? yes it does.

and i live in a world that tells me that i can have instant gratification all the time for whatever i want. i hear that is even working on 30 minute delivery, in case 2 days isn’t soon enough to get lots of stuff that you don’t really need but bought on impulse…

so what incentive to patiently suffer?

that’s a tough thing to contemplate in a world that is all about doing the opposite of contemplation. sit quietly in a world of alarms and beeps and blips and signals. breathe deeply in a world of perfumes and smogs and fogs and chemical soups. sleep soundly in a world of computers and TVs and bad dreams and insomnia.

but sometimes life send you clear messages. sometimes you get clear messages about being on the right path.

sometimes you are in the right place at the right time to help a friend in a way that you uniquely can and you wonder if maybe the moments where you are clear and your pain is diluted are worth it.

and it starts to matter less if your life is pain with breaks of functioning, or functioning with breaks of pain.

because in the end, we are all here to just do the best we can do and we all have our own struggles. some of us fight our battles more publicly than others, and some of us involve the local dumpster in our quarrels. but all of us have mountains to climb in this life.

i guess the question is whether we get seduced by the quick fix or fight the good fight.

i wish you all luck in your struggles.