I get stomach aches. I get them with regularity and always have.
“It’s just gas!” my mother says, and of course, she’s right.
My mother tells me I get stomach aches because I have the “Benson stomach,” by which she means that I have the same stomach she has, which is the same stomach her mother had, which my grandmother inherited from her mother—who was a Benson.
It seems a little sad that the only time the Benson family comes to mind is when I have a stomach ache. Seriously, I know almost nothing about the Bensons except that they were Swedish farmers prone to indigestion. It’s not much of a legacy.
Yesterday I had a doozy. It started during my hike. I had eaten nothing recently and eaten nothing different so there was no logical reason to suddenly get a bad stomach ache shortly after I started my hike, which typically takes an hour and forty-five minutes.
“It will get better soon,” I said as I walked. It did not.
I got to the halfway point in my hike and somehow felt the stomach ache should realize that I had hiked for nearly an hour and respond appropriately. It did not.
Whenever I get a stomach ache, I remember stomach aches of the past. I distinctly remember my 16th birthday being ruined by a stomach ache. I went to a restaurant famous for its spareribs. I haven’t eaten spareribs in years, but I can still remember how I was looking forward to those.
My family and I were served our spareribs and I had to leave the restaurant after what seemed like a single bite. I’m pretty sure my family packed up their meal and joined me almost immediately, but I still remember being in the backseat of the car with an awful stomach ache on my 16th birthday, overwhelmed by the unfairness of life.
By now, I should know something about stomach aches. I know, once one starts, I must not eat anything. If I eat anything, I will make it much worse and it will last much longer.
In spite of knowing this all my life, I cannot tell you how many times I have sat down to eat, felt a stomach ache coming on, and decided “just this once” I can eat a little more (usually really fast) and everything will be fine. Everything is never fine when I do this.
So, now I tell my husband, Peter, “I’m getting a stomach ache. If I eat, I will suffer.” Somehow, saying it aloud to another person makes me more accountable. If I then go back into the kitchen and fill my plate, I am proving to Peter (and myself) what an idiot I am.
I can go for months without a stomach ache. I can persuade myself that stomach aches were something that happened a long time ago and have nothing to do with me anymore. I start to think they will never happen again. It’s nice thinking this. It’s also not true.
But maybe dwelling on pain isn’t the best idea either.
Surely, in my life, I can expect a lot worse than a stomach ache to come my way. Intellectually, I know this, and yet I spend almost no time contemplating future pain. Maybe living in denial isn’t the worst thing I can do. It isn’t fun to anticipate pain and I’m not sure it’s useful.
Instead, I try to notice all the days I feel good and I try to be grateful. Yes, there will be more stomach aches because I come from a long line of gassy farmers. But today, I feel fine.
Till next time,
Carrie Classon’s memoir is called, “Blue Yarn.” Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.