This morning I awoke with a caffeine headache. Or rather a lack-of-caffeine headache; a painful general frontal-lobe throbbing which isn’t nearly as debilitating as it is annoying.
Yesterday I predicted as much. I had consumed generous amounts of coffee every day in the past week but the pattern was inadvertently broken because my Sunday turned out to be too busy for coffee. I managed only to down my two regular mugfuls – from my favorite Ajax Amsterdam mug – before heading off to church in the morning. After that, none. And, in fact, my breakfast allowance really only counts as one mug of caffeinated coffee: Renata and I, in order to limit our caffeine intake, have been mixing regular coffee with decaf, 50/50, for a couple of years now.
So as I sat watching NFL football late last night it occurred to me that I hadn’t had any coffee all day after the initial breakfast habit. “I’ll probably wake up with a headache,” I prophesied. And indeed, I did.
Upon rolling out of bed I headed to the kitchen to make our breakfast coffee, glad to find enough of the 50/50 blend left in the tupperware container to make a full pot. (In expectation of payday today (25th) we put off doing the normal weekend grocery shopping on Saturday in order to help our bank account feel a little more optimistic about life. No snacks with football last night. Are we the only people who live like this? I doubt it.) In any case, being an American and believing there is absolutely no excuse for enduring pain when it can be avoided, I downed a painkiller with a glass of water as I made the coffee.
Two hours later, being fully hydrated and my blood coursing with ample amounts of caffeine and ibuprofen, my headache was all gone. I headed for the gym, eager to undo a week of neglecting my fitness. Starting today I have a week off work and I’ve been looking forward to kick-starting my weight-loss. For some reason it has plateaued and I need some extra work to get it going in the right direction again. Eat less, exercise more is the only thing I know that works.
It was a great workout. Halfway through it, working with 20 kilo dumbbells in each hand, I understood why: no pain! Normally my left shoulder complains mightily at the exertion of the weights regimen – the result of a goal-keeping injury when I was sixteen. But now that shoulder was quite happy to go along without even a murmur of hesitancy or opposition. In fact, all my normal aches and pains were gone. I whizzed through my routine, finishing the free weights and machines 10 minutes ahead of what it normally takes me.
“I should take an Advil every day before I come,” I surmised. But then I remembered an article I read when I first started the weights training, and the advice that it was okay to occasionally take an aspirin for general muscle ache, but not to overcome the limitations caused by a specific injury or area of recurring soreness. Painkillers shouldn’t be used to mask real problems.
But they are, aren’t they? Life is full of aches and pains of all kinds, physical and emotional, and we all go searching for pain-killers with which to cover them. You name it: alcohol, drugs, sex, chocolate, tobacco, gaming, fantasy, thrill-seeking, religion, overwork, sleep; we have devised and discovered hundreds of ways to deal with the pain and discomfort of lives that are not completely as they should be.
Yet, life can only find its true worth when we acknowledge and grapple with our problems. Instinctively we know this will lead to painful experiences, and we don’t like pain very much. Like my weight routine – without Advil! – we have to come to the point of accepting that “this is going to hurt, but that’s okay; I’ve just got to do it”. We learn to take the pain of our problems and work through them, finding solutions as we can, growing stronger in the process.