Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “unearned suffering is redemptive.” Pain and suffering can take many forms and be caused by any number of sources. Sometimes others inflict pain on us, sometimes we do it to ourselves. A good example is when I happen upon a movie that plain sucks, the plot, the acting, the story, the special effects, etc., you name it, it blows, but once I start watching it, I continue to the end in the hope that it will magically get better by the end. This happened Saturday. I noticed that Surrogates was now in the my Instant queue on Netflix. The kids are away and I could actually watch something that I wanted to watch. I am sucker for science fiction, so I thought this would be a good choice. I have been a Bruce Willis fan ever since his days on Moonlighting (FYI- my all time favorite episode was the Taming of the Shrew one), so this was another plus.
About fifteen minutes into the movie, I began to see the error of my decision. The premise of the movie was awful and really farfetched, the dialog was lame and the editing was atrocious. But I am a closet optimist (don’t tell anyone) and I stuck with it. And when it started to get worse, I just couldn’t bring myself to turn it off. There are 72 other movies in my instant queue that I could watch, but for some OCD-driven reason, I suffered through it. I even stayed up until 2:30 AM to finish it.
I think in all of my 36 years, I have only turned off five or six movies because they were bad. Let me rephrase that, when I am taking about watching a movie, I mean that I choose to sit down and watch a movie from the beginning. There are several movies or shows that may be on TV that I catch parts of but never finish, but only five or six that I have sat down with the intention of watching beginning to end that I have stopped watching. I am the same way with books. There are only two books that I have put down mid-way through and never finished. I just can’t do it, I get a sick feeling in my head, like I am quitting or something.
Unlike the mental pain of watching a bad movie, there is also physical pain. While weed-eating the other morning, I actually hit my leg with the weed-eater (don’t ask how, because I am still trying to figure out how I could do something so stupid) and left a two inch gash in my shin. I scared some young woman walking her dog when the string hit my leg and I yelled “Dirty Whore!” I looked up from my bleeding shin to see her wide-eyed stare and gasping mouth as she hurried her dog away. Then later that night, I was playing with my daughter. One of her new favorite games is to pull the hair on my head and act like she is making a pile of the pulled hairs on the floor. While this is painful in a dull, throbbing way, it was not nearly as painful as when she was grabbing my nose and accidently shoved her thumb into my left nostril and pinched. She didn’t let go as she pulled her hand away from my face. Her razor-sharp baby finger nails lacerated the inside of my nose and left my already allergy-beaten nose in a bloody mess. She smiled and went on with her business as I hurried to the bathroom to stop the flow.
And then there is that deep, soul-wrenching suffering. That anguish that is so persistent that no matter what you do or where you are, it is always present like a tooth-ache in your mind. Something so insidious that you often lose your concentration, become irritable and snap at those you love. This suffering can only be caused by one thing, something so innocent yet so vile, when you get a stupid goddamned song stuck in your head and you can’t get rid of it.
You see, it all started with this:
My wife and I have a habit of being silly, sometimes downright dorky at times. A few months ago when we harvested our first crop of lettuce from the garden, we started eating a lot more salads. And a salad is not complete without good croutons. After working our way through several brands, we found Mrs. Cubbison’s Seasoned Restaurant Style Croutons. Here’s where the silly (and covertly evil) part comes in. My loving wife, while preparing salads for the family for dinner, came up with a catchy little ditty. It goes something like this, “And here’s to you, Mrs. Cubbison, people love your croutons more than you can know. (wo wo wo) God bless you please, Mrs. Cubbison, restaurant style on salads they will stay (hey hey hey)…” (sung to the tune of “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel). There are other lines and various versions of the chorus, but you get the point.
Now any time that box comes out of the cupboard, I am singing that friggin’ song. My wife sings it, the kids sing it, I am singing it right friggin’ now. I catch myself humming it at my desk, in the car, in the shower. You just want to grab a big spoon and belt it out like you are on stage. It becomes the punctuation to every sentence, to every thought. “Oh, it’s Shark Week, and here’s to you Mrs. Cubbison…” “Well that was a short meeting, People love your croutons more than you can know…” It’s like an itch that you can’t scratch, like getting a wedgie while standing in front of a lot of people, you know you can’t dig it out, you just have to keep grinning and bearing it. Like getting a pebble in the toe of your shoe or that bug that gets in the car and flies around your head while you are driving. When I see homeless people on the street, talking to themselves and swatting at invisible objects, I know that in their minds they are singing some stupid song that happened to get stuck there many years ago that they couldn’t get rid of.
So now you know of my pain. And it ain’t the least bit redemptive.