“I think I unburdened myself. I don’t know. The heart’s a funny thing; the mind’s a funny thing.”
-Marc Maron in WTF with Marc Maron, Episode 517 (July 24, 2014)
A few weeks ago, I cut my finger while attempting to separate some baby beets from their greens. I wish I could report that I wasn’t doing something stupid when it happened, but what I was doing was holding the beet greens with one hand over the sink and using my chef’s knife, which I’d just sharpened, to cut the beets so they’d fall directly into the colander. I’d gotten the beets from the farmer’s market, and they were full of dirt, so I was trying to minimize the mess.
I knew the cut was bad right away because I felt it, but it didn’t hurt immediately. I dropped everything into the sink and grabbed a paper towel to cover my finger. This sounds like good first aid, but I really just didn’t want to see whatever I’d done to myself, mostly because I didn’t want to have to go to Urgent Care and get stitches. I wanted to make this unhappen. I wanted to finish cooking dinner.
The pain hit on a slight delay, strong enough to make me sit straight down on the kitchen floor. There are a few things that keep me in therapy. The biggest one is that when I get sick or even if I, say, hit my leg hard enough on something, I get vertigo and pass out. Emotional shocks can do this to me, too. My doctor says this is because my heart stops. “Just for a beat or two,” he says. “It’s not so uncommon.”
This will explain the amount of time I spent sitting there on the floor trying to will myself into not fainting. The last time I got sick and passed out, over the winter, I wound up with a black eye and had to spend the next week convincing people that no one was beating me. And I hate waking up on the floor and having to piece together how I got there.
Finally my ears stopped ringing, and I felt like I could stand up. I went to the bathroom and managed to rinse, dry, and put a band-aid on my wound without really looking at it. I bled through four more band-aids before the bleeding stopped and I could finish making dinner. It was a warm beet green salad with roasted baby beets and a balsamic vinegar reduction dressing. It was delicious, much more satisfying than a trip to Urgent Care.
I should have gone to Urgent Care.
I figured this out a few days later when I worked up the nerve to take a good look at what I’d done. I’d been dutifully cleaning the wound and applying fresh bandages, so it wasn’t frightful, but I did have a cut that went about a quarter inch straight in from the side of my finger, right through the nail, even. I am fortunate that in the subsequent weeks, the wound has healed cleanly, though a tiny bit of my finger–not so much that you’d notice if you aren’t me–is gone. The nail has almost grown out and shouldn’t look weird. This is my left hand, which had a dramatic scar through most of my life that has finally faded to the point where people don’t ask me about it all the time, which never bothered me, though my scar story seemed to disappoint people. Usually a scar’s from some ordinary thing, like making dinner.
It wasn’t always like this with me and the passing out. It’s something that came with accumulating years on this earth, like grey hair and an inability to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl. A body tells its story eventually, one way or another. Mine’s been telling me a story about needing to slow down a little and stop trying so hard. It’s telling me to take the extra minute to get out the cutting board. My therapist would say that maybe it’s telling me it’s okay to make the mess.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s a gift in this life that there’s always something left to learn.