“But is the unicorn a falsehood? It’s the sweetest of animals and a noble symbol. It stands for Christ and for chastity; it can be captured only by setting a virgin in the forest, so that the animal, catching her most chaste odor, will go and lay its head in her lap, offering itself as prey to the hunters’ snares.”
“So it is said, Adso. But many tend to believe that it’s a fable, an invention of the pagans.”
“What a disappointment,” I said. “I would have liked to encounter one, crossing a wood. Otherwise what’s the pleasure of crossing a wood?”
― Umberto Eco,
Belief in unicorns is not a central tenet of eclectic spirituality. In fact, eclectic spirituality has no tenets, only the premise that we owe it to ourselves to examine what we believe and to embrace a spiritual belief system that works for us.
But unicorns are at the very heart of my spiritual belief system.
“Oh my…,” I can hear you thinking to yourself. “Judie has finally gone off the deep end. I was okay with her picking and choosing spiritual elements from Christianity, Buddhism, even Wicca. But unicorns? What’s next? Nessie? Big Foot?”
Let me set your mind at ease. While I do believe in Nessie, Big Foot and a whole host of cryptozoological creatures, they are not part of my spiritual belief system.
I can see you shaking your head. Clearly, that didn’t ease your mind one little bit. Now you’re wondering whether I truly believe that unicorns are trotting around in mystical forests, tossing their silky manes under Crayola-colored rainbows.
Of course not.
And of course I do.
Allow me to explain…
When I went to my biofeedback session a couple of weeks ago, I was extremely despondent. I wasn’t totally devoid of hope, but I was dangerously close.
As my regular readers may remember, I go for biofeedback every week in an attempt lessen — and maybe even eliminate — the chronic migraines that I have dealt with for decades. I am I’m blessed to be working with two brilliant, talented, kind, compassionate women: Clinical Director Susan Antelis and Cindy Smalletz, who is training with Susan. On this occasion, Cindy facilitated my session.
We started the session with a check-in, and I told Cindy that I was going through a really rough time. I explained that I experienced severe side effects from the migraine prophylactic medication that my neurologist had put me on a few weeks before. While I did enjoy a few migraine-free days, I had an intense, constant headache at the base of my skull on the remaining days. There were other side effects as well, so my doctor took me off the med.
Cindy paused, nodded thoughtfully and said something along the lines of, “So, that wasn’t your unicorn.”
This simple, seemingly fanciful statement resonated with me and started a deeply healing conversation. No, that medication was not my “unicorn,” the thing that was going to provide real, lasting migraine relief.
But the statement, “…that wasn’t your unicorn” was full of promise. It implied that there was a unicorn for me. All I had to do was continue to pursue it.
This, of course, would require belief, the one thing that I was running low on at that moment.
And who could blame me? Over the years I have searched high and low for my unicorn. The list of medications that I’ve tried is so exhaustive that more than one neurologist has told me that there is nothing left to try. Which is their way of telling me to give up, that there are no unicorns for me.
I’ve also tried chiropractic, massage and acupuncture to no avail.
A dear friend who also lives with chronic migraine, introduced me to biofeedback, which has provided a day or two a week of relief so far. Over time, the migraine-free days may well increase, but in the interim, I need to be able to hold down a job, to write, to maintain relationships, to care for my pets…
So I continue to seek the elusive unicorn.
In the 12-step rooms, they often say, “Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle.” Which means, “Don’t quit working the Program before sobriety kicks in.”
In other words, “Don’t give up on yourself before you have a chance to succeed.”
Or, more simply, “Don’t give up hope.”
I often think about people who give up five minutes before the miracle; job seekers, couples in rocky marriages, people in chronic pain…
We’ve all been there. Maybe the circumstances were different, but we can all identify with that sense of hopelessness. “I will never get a job,” “My marriage will always be in shambles,” “I will always be in pain…”
“It will never get better.”
But here’s the thing. If we give it time — and don’t give up hope — it usually does.
Shortly after that biofeedback session I received news that my insurance was going to cover Botox for the migraines. I had the injections three days ago. It’s far too soon to tell whether this will be my unicorn. I hope that it is. But if it’s not, I’ll keep on searching. Because, really, what is the alternative?