A Martyr to Pain
I find it intriguing how the older English books use today’s Word Press prompt, martyr, in a rather unique way. Unique to folks in this part of North America, that is.
“My wife wasn’t able to come today. She’s a martyr to headaches,” the character in one book explained. Someone else may be a martyr to back pain or varicose veins. We here in Canada tend to phrase this type of affliction as, “She suffered from chronic headaches or back pain.”
Can’t you just imagine them lying in bed, moaning in pain? So why doesn’t this bring a rush of sympathy to my heart? Because the word martyr, while it has a legitimate sense of suffering unjustly, also carries the sense of someone putting on a show of suffering. Letting the whole world know about their grief or pain to gain sympathy. My folks called this “putting on the dog” and had no patience for that.
Got Your Martyr Pin?
When I was young, volunteering to suffer, and usually letting everyone around you know about it to gain sympathy, was called “putting on your martyr pin.”
A martyr pin can actually turn into a much-admired fashion accessory. “Judy has to slave away all day long because her husband and children expect so much of her and none of them will lift a finger to help. What a hard worker she is — and so brave about it! I’d have laid down the law to my family long ago.”
A martyr pin may be the only thing holding some people together. I remember reading the account of the poor abused wife of an alcoholic. When her husband had a serious accident and subsequent encounter with God, he was convicted of his erring ways and gave up boozing. He quit beating his poor wife. Was she thankful? No. She’d lost her moorings, her role in life. So she kept taunting him, trying to make him hit her again, telling him he wasn’t a man anymore. Sad.
A Martyr to Blogging?
But back to chronic suffering. I could say my housework is a martyr to my blogging and/or writing. The house suffers constant neglect while I’m off on a cyber-voyage around the globe, or editing my latest WIP. Just this morning I woke up enthused, ready to give something a good cleaning, but got lost on a ramble around the Internet instead.
Oh, well. I met two nice Irish gentlemen on my travels. The one, Niall O’Donnell has a blog about the joys and confusions of our beloved English. Among is posts is one about one of my pet subjects, the SEMICOLON. Read his post here at English Language Thoughts.
The other, Robert Doyle, is an enthusiast of music and photography. You’ll find him at Soundtrack of a Photograph. We discussed his photo of Halifax and my great-great-grandfather’s arrival there back around 1850.
A Martyr to the Press Gang
I could say my great-great-grandfather was a martyr to the English navy, like many young men in his era. He suffered much at their hands, losing every connection with his family. The roots of our family tree stop at him.
John was a nine-year-old lad on the streets of a large English city — he thinks it was London — when a navy press gang got hold of him and dragged him on board a ship, forcing him to serve as cabin boy. One can only imagine what all he must have endured. Seems he must have been a husky lad for his age; surely they wouldn’t have taken a puny little thing? Was his name actually John Smith, did the sailors dub him that to make it harder for relatives to find him, or did he not even know his last name?
At any rate, they kept him aboard, never allowed on shore, for over four years. At age fourteen, while his ship was docked in Halifax harbour, he managed to escape. The sailors saw him and turned the ship’s gun on him, trying to shoot him down as he fled, but he escaped by hiding in the woods. From Halifax he made his way to Ontario, married Ruth Dobson in Oxford County, and settled down on a farm near Listowel.
How We Suffer!
Someone has said that we in North America today have so much more going for us than people ever have had, yet we’re the most discontented bunch ever. We are freer than any other people ever have been, but get so bogged down by all our options. We expect life to deliver more goodies than any other people in history ever have.
Personally, I think folks today suffer much from not knowing history. Perhaps if we studied history more we’d see just where we fit into the big picture. And we’d realize just how good we have it. When I get to feeling like I suffer from a lack of life’s little pleasures, or haven’t been treated very well by my peers, I try to remember what John Smith had to endure.