Saturday, April 23, 2011


I have a cold. Ellie and I have been arguing about whether she gave it to me or not. She claims that all the quite remarkably similar symptoms from which she has been suffering for a good while now are the result of an allergy, triggered by a long hike into the pollen-infested hills up behind our home in Laguna Beach. Ha! I say she had a cold, and passed it on to me. She asks if she should therefore hang herself in penitence. I say, yes, if she feels that guilty about it, she should.

So it goes. The attendant argument is, who is the better--or worse--sufferer? Ellie just announced that men are far less tolerant of minor afflictions of this kind, with the suggestion that women suffer more nobly, while men simply whine. It's my firm belief that I have, on the contrary, been suffering with admirable stoicism. I scarcely like to remind her, but she lay in bed moaning for days on end, requiring liberal doses of spousal attention. I have been fending for myself. Who was it, I ask--without actually asking--got up and made the tea for both of us this morning, despite his dire sickness?

I guess the truth is that we all think we suffer nobly, while our spouse makes a big fuss of relatively minor complaints. Comparisons are invidious. Pain and suffering are immeasurable. Who knows whether the pain in my knee is more or less bearable than Ellie's pain in the back? Better simply to avoid the judgment and respond with compassion--for oneself, for the other--when these circumstances prevail, as they will certainly continue to do as we advance in years. One of the hoped-for benefits of meditation is to learn to age wisely. The number of aches and frailties is likely---no, certain--to increase in the coming years. Now is a good time to learn how to "take care of myself with ease."


mandt said...

Only men suffer 'nobly.' Women give 'birth,' thus win all epistemological and semantic arguments concerning the quality of suffering. The only exception is crucifixion and the mythology that only the divine suffer unto others. :) PS. Thurber always has the last word on this subject.

robin andrea said...

We all have very different thresholds of pain. Some can barely tolerate a tiny splinter while others rage miserably against such anguish. I think Roger and I are matched pretty well in our capacity to suffer.

PeterAtLarge said...

Nice though, MandT. And always good to remember Thurber!

I think the same is true for Ellie and me, Robin. We have been together for forty years, so that says something. But it's nice to have some fun with the drama of it. I think often of you both, and hope that Roger continues to recover well.