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June 16, 2014

Lisa Madras: Choose pain from your hurts over the pain of regret

NEW CASTLE — In your lifetime, what have you done that hurt someone else?

I just came back from my twice-yearly dental appointment. My dental hygienist and I have great conversations that we try to squeeze into these short appointments. They consist mainly of her talking and me trying not to bite her fingers off in my compulsion to talk back.

(I know a lot of people who would probably pay large sums of money to watch me getting my teeth cleaned, because it's the longest period of time I ever go without talking non-stop. Yes, you actually have to physically restrain me to keep me from talking. It's sad to admit, but hey, the truth will set you free, right?)

I also have to admit that I'm a huge baby when it comes to my teeth. I swear that you could cut me open and I could still hold a decent conversation while holding my entrails in, but touch my teeth and all bets are off. So on this particular day, "L" (I'm abbreviating her name because I didn't ask permission to write about her in my blog. Sorry, L!) and I are talking while I tense up and try to slide sideways out of the chair (as usual.)

"When you become a nurse," she says, "you'll find that hurting someone else, even when you have to, is probably going to be the hardest part of your job."

"Mmmmph," I replied.  

Translated, "mmmmph" meant this: I've thought about that. I'm already worried about inserting catheters and drawing blood and starting IVs. I hate hurting people. I avoid it whenever humanly possible, and believe it or not, I would willingly hurt myself before I'd hurt another living being.

But I HAVE hurt people, in many different ways. I've hurt my children by making them face the consequences of their actions. I've hurt strangers by holding them accountable to their jobs or responsibilities. I've hurt some people by turning them in to the authorities when they've trampled on my or someone else's basic human rights. I've hurt others by walking away and not allowing them to hurt me anymore.

I never liked what I had to do when I had to do it, even though it was the right thing to do. I'm guessing that L feels like that when she's scraping the tartar off my teeth and I'm acting like she's jamming knitting needles into my eyes. But I also know that L knows that I've sat down in that dentist's chair of my own volition because the alternative would be far more painful. (I'd be willing to be that's why she shows up to her job every day and puts up with big babies like me.)

Hurting people, it would seem, is an inevitable part of life. You can tiptoe around the rest of the world all you like, but eventually you're going to tramp on someone else's toes. So it's not the hurting itself that's important — it's the intent behind it. L knows that she's saving me from a mouthful of cavities, just like I know I'm saving my kids from a possible future as career criminals.

Of course, there are people in this world who hurt with malicious intent, and you're not going to be able to avoid them, either. They say you don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you.  

If that's the case, I'll chose L's kind of hurt any day.

 

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