Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Three Lessons Learned from a Month of Migraines

Wisdom can be gleaned from any experience; some grant it less painfully than others.  Over the past month, my overabundance of migraines have been among the less pleasant teachers of my life, but they have certainly taught me three important lessons:
  • "Stephanie, you have limitations."  I lived a very worthless life until I became a Christian and realized that the world did not revolve around me.  I brought unhappiness into the world, and I wasted chances, time, and God-given talents.  Now I cannot bear to live like that.  I worry constantly about not doing enough, about squandering chances to do good, about letting time slip away with nothing to show for it.  So, I compensate by trying to do too much.  The migraines have certainly showed me just how much can realistically be poured into one day or one person.
  • "Stephanie, you can't always be an island."  Being an introvert and being single means that I get stuck in this mode of always feeling like I have to take care of myself.  When I'm brutally honest with myself, I have to admit that sometimes it's pride that holds me back from asking for help.  Other times, I think it's fear -- fear of being judged as weak somehow, or fear that people will refuse.  As a Christian, I sometimes get stuck in this mode of leaning on myself instead of God and instead of other believers.  Migraines remind me that I can't depend on myself alone.  I need God's strength and help, and yes, I need other people, too.
  • "Stephanie, you need compassion."  When I'm at my best, zooming along, perhaps I don't always have as much compassion as I should for those who are weaker or struggling.  I like to think that I do, but the truth is that sometimes I get impatient with others.  Migraines remind me to stop and think about the many struggles that weigh down many, many other people.  They remind me, too, to stop taking for granted things like abilities.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"