Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Pity Pool

As I'm sure you probably have noticed by now, I am infinitely fascinated by me, partly because of my self-perceived isolation from the rest of the world and partly because my thoughts, experiences, and reactions are the only ones of which I can speak with any degree of confidence.

Somewhere, in the dark forest of every human mind, there is a pool of self-pity where the wild regrets and yearnings for lost things come to renew themselves when they suspect we may be forgetting about them. The nice thing about the pity pool is that it provides the comforting reassurance that nothing that happens to us is our fault or our responsibility....that all our woes are visited upon us by anyone and anything other than ourselves. And there is a certain nobility in the self-assurance that we are terribly brave to face such adversity alone. ("Alone" is a key word in all contemplation of the pity pool.)

My personal pity pool is actually more of a lake, the full extent of which is hidden by thick foliage of reality along the shore. But I while I really do tend to avoid it, I catch an occasional glimpse every now and then and, in the heat of emotion, have been known to take a dip in its murky waters.

My trips to the pool are most frequently occasioned by reminders of what I could once, so casually and without a single thought, do that I can no longer do. (Yesterday I found it necessary to use a straw to empty a half-pint carton of milk since I was unable to tilt my head back far enough to drink it normally.) These little reminders of the difference between who I was until ten years ago—can it have been ten years already?—and who I am now are impossible for me to accept. We are two different people, me then and me now. Totally different, and yet still the same. I can't fully grasp it, and quite probably never will.

And because there are so many reminders, the temptation to take a dip in the pity pool is irritatingly frequent. Some friends meet every Friday evening for drinks. I know I would be welcome to join them, but I do not: it's too close to the pity pool. For years, I had a routine of having two Manhattans before dinner. I truly enjoyed them. But now any alcohol burns my mouth. I can't even use mouthwash that contains alcohol. Occasionally, when out for dinner—no more than, I'd guess, three ounces of solid food—I will have a KahlĂșa and cream....heavy on the cream, light on the KahlĂșa. It still burns, but I do it. (Did I mention the nobility of bravery?)

And one reminder triggers a domino-effect of others. Carbonated beverages of any kind also burn, but in a different, hard-to-explain way, as do things like orange juice, lemonade, or anything citrus based. When I was at Mayo and took all my nourishment through a stomach tube, I used to literally dream of chug-a-lugging a tall glass of orange juice, or a big mug of root beer. But when I was finally able to try, I found the carbonation of the root beer and the acidity of the orange juice limited me to a few small sips at a time. And a flashing neon arrow over the words "This Way to the Pity Pool" comes on in my mind.

Why I'm laying all these things out here now is not, I assure you, a bid for sympathy: far too many people have had it much, much rougher than I, and I realize it and am embarrassingly grateful that I have had it so relatively easy compared to others. No, I do it in the hopes that you might do what I never did before the problem arose...take a moment at least once every hour to realize just how very lucky you are.

And I excuse myself for this Rubenesque self portrait of "Roger at the Pity Pool" on the grounds that none of us is fully aware or appreciative of what we have until we no longer have it, and by then it is too late.

An occasional dip in our own private pity pool is perfectly normal, and probably even healthy. The key lies in not staying too long before getting out, drying off, and getting on with our lives.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (


Kage Alan said...

I find there are many things I can't do anymore, but it tends to be related directly to my age. And I miss them. While this is in no way even close to the scale of the items you related about yourself, I used to enjoy Better Made RED HOT potato chips. They were my preferred brand and nobody else in the family would touch them. I could eat two bags if given the chance and I learned to love the pain of the red hot.

Three chips these days is enough to have me reaching for the TUMS and experience a night of horrific sleep. Every once in a while, though, I still suffer through it.

Here's to suffering, sir, and all that it still brings us of the old days.

Many hugs to you, D.

Vastine Bondurant said...

It is for sure true that we don't appreciate things until we no longer have them. And---the kicker? Even knowing that, we still don't appreciate them like we should when we DO have them.

I enjoyed this post. So much of myself I see in it.

Except that I constantly DO think everything is my fault. LOL.