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If Life With Chronic Pain Was a Musical

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I hadn’t slept in a week, I was weak, I was awake…

Wait… I didn’t write those words.* Shoot.

If my life was a musical, I would be stuck in the part about three-fifths of the way through when the main character is feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. Usually, a song is sung to mark this moment, and intermission takes place right after. Then you pee, eat your candy, down a plastic cup of wine, and the musical kicks up again with a much more upbeat song so that everyone doesn’t go home depressed.**

The problem is that life is not a musical, in spite of all my efforts. Instead of us trying, being knocked down once, and giving it just one more go before succeeding brilliantly, we get knocked down over and over and over again until we are sick of picking ourselves back up. Real life also lacks a killer score and impromptu dance numbers. I guess we can’t have it all.

You could be like me and cushion this blow by listening to every soundtrack you can get your hands on and spending any extra money you may have on theater tickets. Nevertheless, like all distractions from our problems, the show ends, the lights go up, and you’re pushed back into the real world in less than three hours.

I think I may have figured out the secret, though, to this whole chronic pain debacle. This point in the musical when the lead is at rock bottom is typically when the best song is sung. This is when things really get good, and frankly, it’s the only reason the musical is even worth seeing.

Yes, times in your life that are sunshine and rainbows look great on Instagram, but they don’t lead to personal growth. No one who ever accomplished anything says in an interview, “You know, life was perfect. I was making tons of money, married my beautiful wife, and then I won the Nobel Prize and it was just so easy! I don’t understand why people complain about how hard life is!”

Triumph, success and all of our celebrated moments follow some sort of struggle or heartache. If my compelling musical argument isn’t enough to convince you just think of Batman, any character played by Liam Neeson, or actual real-life history. I’ve been telling myself since the beginning of my orthopedic issues that there must be a greater reason for all of it. After meeting one of my doctors who is single, my age and gorgeous, I was convinced my chronic pain existed so that we would cross paths, but that hasn’t panned out yet.

Still, I continue searching for the meaning of all this nonsense and will feel much better about my daily pain once I can justify it with some sort of personal achievement or happy life event. Until that day, I guess I’m just going to have to distract myself with anything I can get my hands on, whether it’s the soundtrack to a new musical or something normal people listen to, and wait this out. For the sake of the people who graciously spend time with me, and my own sanity, I hope it’s sooner rather than later.


*Lin-Manuel Miranda did. Thank you, Lin.

**Of course this is different in the case of the following shows: “Spring Awakening,” “Next to Normal,” “Fun Home…” those are just sad, gut-wrenching (yet still wonderful) shows.

Follow this journey on 29 Going on 92.

Originally published: August 25, 2016
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