Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

When the Wings are Too Spicy

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One night several weeks ago, my sons and I went out for a guys’ night out.

From time to time it is fun to go somewhere the girls don’t. It is fun to eat wings and fries and anything else bathed in the deep fryer.

It fun to eat dinner without anybody screaming. Unless of course it is a bunch of grown men complaining about a called foul during the NBA playoffs. It is okay to scream when a ref completely blows it.

We went out for fun, but part of our night was filled with something else. Something more painful.

photo by

photo by Yuri Long

Bring the Heat

I like spicy food. Whenever we eat wings, I view it as a chance to see how spicy I can go. On this night I ordered the Mango Habanero sauce.

Guys challenge each other to ridiculous acts of stupidity. I don’t know why we do this, but we love it. Sometimes the dares result in new world records. Sometimes they result in concussions or broken limbs.

It’s just what we guys do.

Once the wings arrived to our table, this manly daring began between my boys. My 11 year old challenged my 13 year old to eat one of my spicy wings. The 13 year old took a bite without hesitating. We watched and waited, but he only smiled.

He then ate the entire piece.

Impressed with him, I picked one up for myself. He was right. It wasn’t too bad. For the first 20 seconds. But then after a deceptive pause, the fire began. Both of us had walked into a seductive trap.

I looked over at my son and his face was turning red. Tears were building up in his eyes. He was trying to drown himself with Coke and water. Anything to make the furnace in his mouth stop.

He stayed that way for 30 minutes. He didn’t do anything else. He didn’t eat anything else. He struggled to watch the basketball game. At times he struggled to breathe.

He was suffering and his world was limited to one thing, how badly his mouth felt.

Bring the Story

It reminded me of living a better story. Not the spicy food, although from my perspective spicy food makes life better, but how bad he felt.

Better stories hurt. Probably even more than spicy wings.

The moment where you realize decisions you made are bringing their unwanted consequences is tough. Perhaps there is a honeymoon period when life is good and the choice is affirmed. But soon, the fire will come.

The fire always comes.

When it does come, the pain you feel while sitting in the middle of it can be so intense, you can’t imagine anything else going on. You hate the decision. You hate the people who tried to talk you into doing it. You are miserable. And you want out.

Sitting in the spiciness of your better story, it is impossible to see past the pain of it. Forget talking about the why of what you are doing, all you can think about is how bad it feels.

Bring the Laughter

With time, my son’s mouth stopped hurting. It didn’t happen at once. I watched him slowly come back to life. Gradually his face went from red to pink, and then back to its normal color. I noticed he was drinking with less frequency. Eventually he started watching and enjoying the game again.

And although only moments before it seemed impossible, he started eating again.

I’m not sure he noticed he was okay, but he was. I’m not sure if he would say any of it was worth it, but I bet if I reminded him of the story, he would laugh. He would remember and find it funny.

Again, that’s what guys do. Laugh at our own stupidity.

Don’t Give Up

If your story is hard, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you are struggling. I’m sorry that you feel surrounded by darkness. I’m sorry that you can’t see past the moment of now.

If your life overwhelms you, I’m sorry it hurts that bad.

But please, don’t give up.

I do believe that some day all of this hardness, all of the darkness, all of the pain will be gone. It will stop. It will go away. If not in this life, then the one to come.

One day the intense heat we feel in our mouths that occupy all of our senses and attention will gradually, if not suddenly,  be gone.

You will look back and laugh and smile.

Have you experienced suffering in your story?

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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  • katina vaselopulos

    Jeremy, you hit it on the mark: from the fun and spicy to hot, to suffering and crying, to waiting it out until it goes away, and to coming out wiser and better by the whole experience.

    My grandson, age 11, cut a jalapeno pepper from the garden and wanted to eat it. I tried to warn him, but he ate it anyway, telling me he “can stand the heat.” He went probably through the same pain your son did. Later, he was daring his 8-year old cousin. As she was ready to bite, I walked in. It was hard desuading her because she too wanted to prove herself equal to her older cousin.

    I guess, girls don’t want to miss the fun and often take challenges as boys do.

    My daughter was challenged by a “smart” man twenty one years back. After the fun came the pain and the suffering, but she did not give up and gave everything she had to make it better. Almost 20 years into marriage, the curtain was drawn and she was able to see the kind of man he was. Knowing she did all she could in dealing with great hardships becasue of him and yet, not compromising her dignity and spirit, she gained strength and wisdom to walk out of that marriage with her head high up and blessed with the opportunity to stand on her own two feet and laugh again in life.

    I am forwarding your post to my beautiful girl. She will appreciate it because she lived it and so did we.

    Bless you and your family for sharing your wisdom!

    Katina Vaselopulos

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