When more is not better

Yesterday was a busy and complicated day. I was working from home, so that I could take care of some personal appointments while trying to get some work done. Wednesdays are my usual day to do this and typically it is not a difficult balance.

However, yesterday numerous things occurred that pulled me in many different directions at once. An ongoing situation with a patient came to a head, resulting in tense telephone conversations with her and her attorney about a hearing that was hopefully going to occur today. The fellow who was repairing my broken window returned to put it back in place – and had a great deal of trouble getting it back in place, causing me to be late for an appointment with a patient I see at my church. A representative from my security company came to give me a quote on upgrading my security system. Inch after inch of beautiful snow piled up, with snow banks already so high that there was virtually no place to put it. My poor snow shoveler had a cold but was dedicated to duty – but also wanted some advance pay because he was hungry.

Not a bad day, but complex and full. A day that had me reaching in my pocket numerous times for my prayer rope to say the Prayer and be reminded that everything is safely in God’s hands.

Last night, just before bed and during the night, the head pain started. By morning, it was overwhelming, like someone trying to remove my left eye with a screwdriver. I managed to cancel my first patient, send a text message to our practice manager and take some medication before going back to bed. I was (and am) back in migraine land.

Before going further, please allow me to clarify that I do not mention my migraines as a complaint nor am I seeking sympathy. In an odd sort of way, I have come to believe that I “deserve” them.

Now I know that remark is going to require some clarification. I am currently reading Jean-Claude Larchet’s book, The Theology of Illness and am learning a great deal. I don’t think I have ever believed that God created illness or that He wants His people to suffer but I did not have a good alternate understanding either.

In the reading of this masterful little book, I am understanding much more clearly how illness is but one consequence of humanity’s sinfulness and movement away from the God who is goodness and life. Further, I am understanding how God works through this suffering to bring us to salvation.

Larchet writes, “…paradoxically, the illness of the body becomes, by divine Providence, a remedy which promotes healing of the soul”. Thus, I think I can safely say that I deserve such correction, remedy or “chastening” (my 2015 word) because my sinful soul is indeed in need of God’s healing.

In any event, after much sleep and blessed remission of the pain, being in migraine land is, for me, like being in a place of great simplicity. Physically, I feel very tired and weak, to the point where I can easily, if awake, sit and stare for long periods of time without being aware of the passage of time. Mentally, I am often unable to focus much at all.

At its most profound moments, I think of it as being at rest in the Lord, because there is not much else I can do. Or I may do something but tire so quickly that I know I must return to the place of rest.

Part of my usual morning prayer routine is praying the Divine Office (Roman Catholic). Because of the flurry of activities involved in preparing for work, I am not always as deeply into this prayer of the Church as I would like. Nonetheless, it is still a blessing and comfort to me.

Today, after my long slumber, I came out and read the first antiphon:

“Their own strength could not save them; it was your strength and the light of your face.”

My mental fog did not allow me to go any further – but I was able to focus on this one line. How many times had I heard or read this line (based on Psalm 44) and simply moved on to the next line without further thought? But today it was my only line, at least for several hours and so it stayed with me.

Feeling so weak and so tired, I had no difficulty believing this message today. Not just believing it with my intellect but believing it with my entire self. My strength cannot save me. My strength cannot save anyone. “It is your strength and the light of your face.”

Some peanut butter on toast. A cup of ginger tea. More sleep. Resting in Him with prayerful awareness of my patient whose court hearing was today.

When I got out of bed a bit later, I returned to my book, still open to the Office of Readings, and read the next line:

“We triumph over all these things through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

It was not terribly long before I heard from my patient’s attorney. After two weeks of involuntary confinement (which I believe was unjust), my patient’s case was being dropped and she was being released. A little later still, the patient called me from her cell phone with the joyful news: “I’m free!”

As much as she had suffered during her confinement, she was now able to see how some good came out of it. With new vision, she saw how some people had really worked to help her and how she had been able to bring a bit of comfort to some she encountered along the way. She is now becoming free in more ways than one.

I had very little strength today and very few words to pray with. I cancelled all of my appointments and slept a lot. It was a simple day. But God gave me this day, knowing far better than I do what is needed for my salvation. As I learn, as I am chastened, I too am becoming free.

“This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

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3 thoughts on “When more is not better

  1. albert

    I just finished a really sensitive and profound comment, Mary–and the it disappeared from my screen * Your post moved me towards prayer; that’s what I meant to say all along.

    Prayers now for you,
    and for your continued good work–
    here and with your patients
    and their other advocates.

    (Deo gratias–i get distracted, watching myself in my little literary mirror, and lose sight o the person i am trying to contact. It’s your writing, your letting God through, that matters. I too often let words get in God’s way, I’m afraid.)

  2. albert

    An asterisk got lost. It belongs in front of “(Deo gratias. . ,) But you could just delete the whole parenthetical comment as being redundant, right? Mirror-gazing again.

  3. mary Post author

    Thanks for your comments, Al, both the ones that appear and the ones that disappear.

    I often wonder what happens to the really profound comments, posts, e-mails, etc. that get swallowed up by computers before they reach their destinations. I somehow hope that the universe benefits from their positive energy, even if the words are never read.

    I appreciate the prayers. God knows I am not able to do any of this alone.

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