Epicurus apparently suffered from kidney stones and eventually he died of one at age 78. The account I recall is that he got in a hot bath to reduce the pain and drank wine and drank wine until finally he passed out and slid under the water and that was the end of him.
That is one aspect of Epicurus’ existence I don’t want to emulate. Really.
Yesterday I went to the post office and picked up my mail, then started driving home and suddenly was hit with a wave of nausea and dizziness – it was like I was going into shock for no reason and I pulled over by the side of the road thinking that I was having my first heart attack. After a few minutes of everything spinning and feeling terrible and covered with flop-sweat, I drove the rest of the way home, by which time I started feeling fine again. So I put up some coffee and got ready for a client conference-call that was scheduled for noon.
By the time I was drinking my coffee and reviewing my notes, I started to feel like I had a terrible gas cramp. No problem, I can deal with that. But it got worse. I got on the call and mentioned that if I sounded a bit strained it was because something was mildly wrong and I was a bit out of breath. It was around then that I realized I was dizzy because I was only breathing shallowly; my fingernails were grey and I was bucketing with sweat. From there, it got worse. I managed about 15 minutes of my conference call and excused myself quickly, lay down on the bathroom floor, and txted a local friend for help. By the time I got to the ER in Clearfield, I was in so much pain I was unable to think – I don’t know if I was literally blacking out or not, but my mind was too busy to run the program I call “Marcus’ consciousness” so looking back at it time feels compressed with lots of holes in it.
Anyhow, I won’t give you the full blow-by-blow but that was how I spent my yesterday.
Unlike some of you, my experience with pain has mostly been brief and intermittent. This was a whole new kind of thing – a slowly building grinding relentless hurt that lurked right on the edge of the morphine that the opiate goddess came and gave me every so often. At some point, I had a very clear series of thoughts about how effectively and rapidly we learn from pain. I had learned that “I’ll do anything to keep that from coming back.” If Epicurus suffered from that, intermittently, for a lifetime, I totally understand why he might have finally decided ‘enough.’
Drinking fluids as fast as I can, I’m loopy and uncharacteristically optimistic – and I realize that the main source of my optimism is the awareness that I have another day’s worth of painkillers and I’m just hoping everything passes before they run out.