Learning Surrender

I’ve been sick this week. I struggled to type that because what I’ve had is a migraine, and for whatever reason, in my mind that is not the same as “sick.” I didn’t realize had a separate category for migraines until just now. This is kind of a tangent, but maybe not. Bear with me. I’m loaded up on caffeine (helps with the headache) and a little addled.

adult-alone-black-and-white-551588I felt this beast coming. I can usually tell a migraine is coming. As early as Sunday I was getting signals. Persistent headache, geographically different than other “regular” headaches, which honestly I don’t get many of anymore. As we move into Monday I noticed that my teeth were starting to hurt. I don’t know how to describe this any more specifically, because it’s really weird, but it’s also a sure sign for me. When all of the teeth on the top of my mouth hurt, we’re talking migraine either on the way or here. I ignored these signals. When I mentioned the possibility to my stepmother, who also suffers from migraines, she said: “You know it’s better to just take the prescription if you know it’s coming.” I mumbled some kind of agreement at her, knowing full well that she was right, and didn’t do it anyway. I didn’t want to have a migraine. I didn’t want to take migraine meds (that can sometimes leave me feeling a little loopy and deflated). I didn’t want to allow the whole thing. I had plans for the next several days. I was going to fight this migraine in a super passive-aggressive “wait and see” kind of way, even though all of the signs were there. I was going to keep my commitments.

And so it came, and it came like a freight train. Tuesday morning I could barely get out of bed and was clinging to counter edges and furniture to navigate the lower floor of the house. The prescription was unearthed. I retreated to my bedroom, and read in the semi-dark until I feel asleep again, hoping for relief. It was not to be found and it became clear that this migraine was going to a be a medication maximum situation. I added the second dose, found my darkest sunglasses, donned a baseball cap to block more light and cancelled everything for the day, something I pretty much never do. I had no choice. the pain was so bad I was sitting on the couch just crying – quietly so as not to aggravate my headache further.

I looked at my calendar with some remorse about the day. I looked at Wednesday’s schedule and thought about the appointments and end of the year choir party I knew I was likely to miss. I felt the discomfort of needing to miss things I really wanted to do. And then, for the first time maybe since I was pregnant, I fully surrendered.

I stopped trying to see if I could maybe be well enough to get something done. I stopped hoping I would be well enough to make an appointment or an engagement. I stopped worrying about tidying up after myself. I stopped wondering if maybe by the afternoon I could work. I surrendered. It felt like I didn’t have a choice, and really I didn’t, but there was still a moment of consciously acknowledging that and giving up the internal debate, acknowledging the need to do my body this kindness, seeing the peace available to me if I just stopped wondering if I could do more and rest.

bed-bedroom-blanket-1097116And so I did. I figured out what I could to make myself as physically comfortable as possible, and adjusted according to how that changed throughout the day. I listened intently to my body when it said “no food” because of the associated nausea and then what specifically it wanted when the wave of nausea subsided: “bell peppers? OK, will do.” I proceeded gently, quietly. I read and napped and occasionally hopped on line to communicate for a few minutes and then hopped off to save my eyes from the screen light. When TV became an option, I watched whatever I wanted with no guilt or remorse for wasted time. When I’d had enough of the stupidity, I turned it off again and rested and read and made myself tea.

In short I did exactly what I try to help my kids do when they are sick. I took excellent care of myself. I let go of expectations and judgments about being sick and about what I “should” be doing and I gave my body what it needed.

Here I am two days later, not completely recovered (this is usually a multi-day phenomenon), but significantly better off and free of the sense of dread that can come with facing what we’ve missed. I missed nothing. Clients have been rescheduled. Plans have been changed. Everyone understands and it will all be okay.

That struggle not to surrender? I think I do that a lot. I find myself going halfsies on lots of things – and there can be a benefit to that. Halfsies can be helpful (when you have twins sometimes it feels downright necessary), but so can wholesies. Going all in, not because we want to reinforce feeling sick or whatever it is, but because that feeling we’re fighting or avoiding by staking out the middle ground really just needs to be felt. There is a peace in surrendering to it. There is a peace in allowing it. There is a kindness in acknowledging what is really true and then making it as comfortable for yourself as you can. Where could you maybe use a little surrender? Where are you straddling the line and suffering for it? What would happen if you just let go?

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