But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren’t alone]
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promised joy.
— Robert Burns, “To a Mouse”
DH and I were supposed to go antiquing upstate this morning. We were going to take our neighbor’s Yorkie, who we’re babysitting for the weekend. Her carry case was ready to go. I was going to make PB&J sandwiches for the people and pack some kibble for the pup. It was going to be a fine and glorious Saturday.
Except it wasn’t.
I woke up with a migraine at 1:00 a.m., took meds and went back to bed. Ordinarily, my rescue meds knock a migraine out within two hours. This morning, the migraine laughed. It was a deep, maniacal evil villain laugh devoid of mirth. At 7:00 I stumbled out of bed and told DH that I had a migraine that wasn’t responding to meds. He graciously said that we’d go next weekend. I patted the dog, who thought that I had woken up to play ball with her, and went back to bed till 3:00 in the afternoon.
Much of that time, I was unable to sleep, so I meditated. This wasn’t pretty, formal, “sit in a lotus pose after lighting candles on an altar” meditation. This was “survive the pain and get through the next moment in one piece” meditation performed in fetal position with my forehead slathered in peppermint and lavender oil and buried into the pillow.
For a while, I opted to meditate on the migraine, breathing into the pain as I pinpointed it. Usually, this is a wonderful technique that demonstrates that pain is rarely, if ever, stationary. Not only does its location change, but its very nature changes; one moment it’s throbbing, the next it’s stabbing, the next it’s dull. Everything about pain validates the Buddhist concept of the law of impermanence.
When this technique proved to do nothing but draw attention to the fact that the migraine wasn’t getting any better, I changed the focus of my attention, first to the breath itself and later to the hum of the industrial-sized air conditioner outside the bedroom window. Eventually, the latter lulled me back to sleep.
Amidst all that meditation, I prayed…a lot. I begged Jesus, Archangel Raphael and all the healing angels to lift the pain. While there was no “Be healed!” moment, at least I didn’t feel so alone.
When I got up mid afternoon, the pain was, for the most part, gone.
Years ago I saw a cartoon in The New Yorker that I can’t seem to find on the Internet. The gist of it was that someone (man, woman, child…I don’t remember) was kneeling by their bed praying something along the lines of, “Dear Lord, please don’t teach me any lessons today.”
I don’t believe that God designs our days to “teach us a lesson,” but I do believe that, if we are mindful, we will learn something most days, including on the “worst” of days.
Today’s lessons, in order of appearance, were:
- “Mensch tracht, un Gott lacht,” a Yiddish proverb that, loosely translated means, “Man plans and God laughs.” I don’t think that God laughs, but our mundane plans are easily derailed. The question is, “How do we handle these derailments?”
- Pain impacts everyone associated with the person suffering it: spouses, children, friends and pets. Today’s migraine ruined not only my plans, but DH’s and the dog’s. This has happened countless times in the decades that we have been together. I am grateful that he understands that, on the rare occasion when a migraine doesn’t respond to meds, I cannot function. My only option is to try to sleep it off.
- Meditation can make pain more bearable. I’ve said this before on Eclectic Spirituality and I will, undoubtedly say it again. Meditation isn’t just something that we sit down and do for a specified time frame every day. It’s a tool that we can reach for when the going gets rough.
- When the pain is gone, or at least bearable, salvage what you can from the day. No, I didn’t get to go antiquing. But when I felt better I did get to watch Orange is the New Black, play with my pets and the neighbor’s dog and read a fashion magazine. And I wrote this post, which was no small feat. Was it the Saturday that I planned? No, but it was the one that I got. And if my spiritual practice has taught me anything, it’s that I need accept “what is.”