“Daddy!” Your wailing starts from the kitchen and becomes doppler blue-shifted as I hear you make your way toward my office.
I’m not that alarmed because I can from experience tell how concerned I should be based on the tone of your cry. This was a “I’m-not-really-hurt-but-I-want-attention” cry, with harmonic undertones of “my-sisters-are-ignoring-me-so-I’m-coming-to-you”.
You come in hobbling, wincing with pain. “Daddy! My knee hurts!” You make your way to my office chair and climb onto me like its your throne.
“What happened?” I ask, halfway thinking about an email that I was just writing.
“I don’t know. But if I push my knee like this …” I watch as you press intently into your kneecap… “It hurts!”
“What happened? Did you fall?”
“NO!” You insist. “Well, I don’t know,” you clarify.
I flex your knee back and forth and you don’t exhibit any discomfort. “Does this hurt?” I ask.
“No!” You look at me like I’m dimwitted. “It only hurts when I press it.” You press that spot again and grimace.
“Well, what happens if just don’t press it?”
You look at me like I’m crazy. “I can’t! I HAVE TO!” If you were a little older you might have added a “DUH!” (if that’s still a thing.)
“Because!” You throw the most immutable of explanations into my face.
I ponder my next move. “Well, try not to. Are you ready for a snack?”
At that prospect you jump off my lap and run fill tilt back toward the kitchen, pain forgotten.
I can laugh a little at your circumstance, but I know what you’re going through. There’s something odd about pain that can be almost comfortable. Familiar, at least. When I got a sore in my mouth recently, I couldn’t help but run my tongue against it. Even though it hurt like hell. I’d continually test it, flinching every time. Over the next few days I’d do it less, until one day I’d poke at it and find that it didn’t hurt anymore.
And while that’s true of physical pain, I find it’s especially true of psychic pain. Right after the hurt I can’t help but focus on it – almost obsessively. Then it becomes part of the background, a familiar presence but still sharp. A day won’t go by when I won’t poke at it and feel it. But at some point it becomes every other day, then it’s every few days. Until I wake up one day realizing that I hadn’t thought about that trauma in some time. And when I did so – gingerly at first – the pain was no longer raw. There might be a scar, but not the pain.
But this is a case where it doesn’t necessarily get better with age. I still do it, poke myself where it hurts. But what age does bring is experience, and I can appreciate that the pain (like others in the past) will lessen over time and become less urgent. Eventually. I trust in that.
So go ahead and press on that kneecap, love. You might forget about it in short order or you might do so incessantly – but you’ll find regardless that your are capable of dealing with that pain.