A few weeks ago, my daughter tripped on the sidewalk and skinned both knees and the palms of her hands. These were the real deal — bloody, angry-looking, quarter-sized sidewalk burns. Just looking at her injuries made me wince, gritting my teeth as I recalled the hot-burning-jabbing-needles sense-memory of the childhood skinned knee.
My kid is not really the stoic-stiff-upper-lip type. Rather, she has a tendency to narrate every twinge of her pain with a dramatic flare (ok, so that’s just like me…).
Anyway, I knew this was going to be a real challenge for both of us right from the start. She screamed as soon as she fell and continued screaming as I bundled her into the house in my most efficient faux-comforting way (I was focused on keeping her blood from dripping onto my clothing).
For the next twenty minutes or so, she alternated between her scream/siren/wail and the tearful chant, ” I don’t WANT boo-boo. I don’t WANT boo-boo.” As a mom on high alert, I pulled out every tool in my tool-box to fix this situation, stop her pain, and stop the noise. Oh, God, stop the screaming!
- I offered boo-boo cures: band-aid, ice-pack, cool washcloth, antibiotic cream, pain reliever.
- I tried distraction: TV, games, music, books, snacks, dollies
- I cuddled and hugged and kissed and rocked and soothed.
- I laughed and made jokes. I offered the “just shake it off” speech. I scolded the sidewalk for tripping her. I suggested other shoes to wear. I apologized.
- I encouraged her to calm her body, calm her voice and take deep breaths. I quietly shushed in her ear. I told her it was ok about 500 times (ignoring the fact that it was clearly not ok).
None of those stemmed the tide. During this mom-barrage of fix-its, I felt annoyed, calm, worried, guilty, sad, confused, embarrassed, crazy, loving, ridiculous, and ‘over it’. I feared the constant repetition of “I don’t WANT boo-boo” would plunge me into madness. I bargained with God and any spirits that might be listening.
Finally, feeling exhausted and out of ideas, I started chanting along with her, “I don’t WANT boo-boo. I don’t WANT boo-boo.”
That did it. She continued to cry, but the wailing quieted so she could hear me.
And this is what I said…
“I don’t WANT you to have a boo-boo either, honey. I know you really hurt because boo-boos hurt a lot. Sometimes we just need to wait until the boo-boo stops hurting. We’ll sit here together until the pain goes away and you feel better. Then you’ll know your body is starting to heal and your boo-boo is getting better. Sometime we sit until the boo-boo stops hurting and that’s all we can do. I love you very much, but I can’t make it go away. I wish I could, but I can’t make it go away. I love you. We’ll just wait here together.”
We sat in silence for another ten minutes. She huddled on my lap teary and sniffling. I took deep breaths and rubbed her back.
She said, “Ok, Mom, I feel better now.” We went downstairs to play. I slugged down a shot of tequila and two Valium. (Just kidding about the booze and drugs.)
Since then I find myself chanting “I don’t WANT boo-boo” on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes I say it to make myself chuckle, but often I really mean it. Stuff comes up all the time — life-stuff, work-stuff, body-stuff, relationship-stuff, creative-stuff — that I don’t WANT. I don’t want to do it, deal with it, solve it, smile thru it. I don’t want to be exhausted, sad, pained, fearful, jealous, hurt, angry, anxious, freaked out, examined, uncomfortable, taken advantage of. I WANT it to go away. (See Running with Monsters post, right?) In my more lucid moments (after chanting “I don’t WANT boo-boo” about forty-five times), I remember to sit still and breath and wait. I wait to see if I can feel a little better. I wait to see if there’s a little less pain there than the moment before. I sit very still with the understanding that falling down hurts, and life can skin both knees and the palms of your hands, and there isn’t always a quick fix (or any fix) for that.
I’ve discovered that sitting with love can take the edge off of my figurative boo-boos. That love can take the form of a pet or a person, alive or dead. For me, the person could be a friend, co-worker, partner, family member, stranger, 3-year-old or even myself when I’m feeling inclined to treat myself with kindness. Sitting with someone and feeling compassion, kindness, understanding and love allows me to gradually reframe the situation and rephrase my chant from “I don’t WANT boo-boo” to “I feel a little BETTER. I feel a little BETTER.” I remind myself that healing takes as much time as it takes.
If you have been one of those loving people, thank you.
What do you tell yourself when life hurts? What makes you feel better?