The Pain Point (or, How a Broken Ass Gets You Off Your Ass)

Okay. What really prompted this?


I fractured my sacrum in late January. Yep, I broke my ass. Wee patch of black ice in an otherwise-dry parking lot. In the dark. Luckily, no one was around to watch as I massively biffed it. Unluckily, no one was around to help me up. There I was alone on the pavement, on my back, in the dark, floundering like an overturned turtle in a ball pit. Zero percent graceful. I could barely move, let alone stand – but thanks to social anxiety and a healthy fear of being run over, I got to my feet and struggled over to my van to call in the injury because I was at work. The nurse on the other end said it was probably a bruise, and that not moving will cause it to seize up, so continuing to work is probably ideal. Regular icing and painkillers, see a doc if it’s unbearable, etc.

I don’t know that she realized that my pain tolerance is, well, quite reasonable. Maybe unreasonable. They ask you about your pain at the doctor’s office on a 0-10 scale, 10 being “the most pain you can imagine,” and I rate my pain realistically, mentioning that I’m imagining a 10 to be complete evisceration or some similar horrible situation. 

I say that to let you know what a 6 feels like. Yes, I could move. Barely. Holding my breath. But, due to the nature of my job, I kept working. Y’see, I work with live plants. You’ve seen plants in lobbies and offices that look WAY too perfect to be real, right? That’s us – we’re the little elves behind those plants. 

In other words, my job dies if I don’t do it.

Therein lies the issue. It also takes a very specific type of person to do this job, so we’ve had staffing issues for as long as I’ve been with the company (5 years). Want to take your paid vacation? Okay, but you’ll need to work 55 hours the week before and the week after so you don’t murder anything, because it’s likely that no one else is available to work for you.

I’ve kept this job because I love working alone, but mostly because I can listen to audiobooks and podcasts about 30 hours/week (at 2x, because I’m crazy like that). This job is what has allowed me to gain the knowledge to become an effective business coach. So, up until now, it’s been thoroughly worth it. I consider myself exceptionally lucky to be in a position that pays me to learn all day. There comes a time when a person has to make next steps, though, and right now is that time.

So! How did I get through? I decided I would focus on complimenting people to improve the chemical cocktail in my brain. Paying someone a compliment will release dopamine, so at least I would have that thrown in to numb some of the intense pain I was feeling.

My favorite one that day, and one that I’d still remember months later, was the woman in the elevator. We’re in a hospital and she gets in with her walker, dressed to the NINES: stovepipe-leg jeans with a crease down each leg, red shirt, jean jacket that fit perfectly, gold bangles, gold necklace, gold rings and earrings, and BRIGHT red lipstick. Intensely casual-chic. 

I compliment her outfit and she absolutely beams and says “Not bad for 94, right?” This one interaction got me through the day. I can only hope to kick so much ass when I’m pushing a hundred 🙂

I also decided it was time for a new approach, so I started thinking…

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