“I’m a 3.”
That was Dad’s standard response to his pain level. I can’t count the times a nurse or doctor asked him, “On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being no pain and 10 being excruciating, what’s your pain right now?”
“I’m a 3.”
Before surgery, after surgery, before treatment, after treatment, in the ER. Always a 3.
Maybe he wasn’t good at assessing his pain. Or maybe he thought it was mind over matter, that being optimistic would help, because as he often said, “It is what it is.”
A little more than 24 hours after emergency brain surgery, he casually said, “I sort of have a headache.”
Probably an understatement.
It was his other commonly used phrase when we asked if he needed anything.
And I believed him.
His life was far from perfect at the time. He had a lot to complain about. Yet he was happy. There was enough in his life that made him content. He chose contentment instead of letting situations dictate his feelings. He wasn’t pretending everything would be fine. He knew better.
There’s a difference between putting on an outward mask while in turmoil on the inside and finding peace on the inside and letting it show in the midst of tough circumstances.
It’s a choice we all make. We don’t have to be facing death to choose peace, hope, faith, and joy. We all have things in life that have the potential to steal all of that away from us, to disguise it, or to distort it. We can’t mimic how someone else responds to difficult circumstances, because we can’t see how he or she internally struggles to arrive at the place we so admire. The best we can do is struggle through whatever we’re facing, refusing to minimize or exaggerate it, not with the goal of fixing a particular problem but in order to find a more lasting peace, hope, faith, and joy – something firm and unwavering we can hold onto regardless of our circumstances, feelings, and perspective.