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With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90  days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.

02 October 2010

Choosing Patience: Active, Not Passive

Just to set this post in context: this morning I awoke at 5:30am with a migraine.  My wonderful husband brought me a cup of tea and my medication so I could stay in the bed and move in and out of sleep in comfort.  I know from experience that the best thing for me to do is to sleep as long as my body tells me I need to.  This morning, I didn't get up until 9:00am.  After my usual bowl of oatmeal, which sometimes revives me, I still don't feel well and that makes for the disappointment of having to cancel something I was anticipating.

My dear friend, Donna, and I had plans to go to Crafty Bastards, an outdoor market of all things hand-made that is taking place in Adams Morgan today.  Our friend and Miriam's House knitting teacher, Susan, and her partner have recently opened a yarn shop just above DuPont Circle: Looped. They have a booth at Crafty Bastards that Donna and I were going to visit, bringing our knitting so that we could join their Sit and Knit for a while.

A few minutes ago, I called Donna to cancel.  I do not feel well enough for all the walking, and even sitting is problematic when I feel this way because I cannot hold my head erect unsupported.

The subject of this post, following my post of 26 September, is about patient suffering and how, despite its seeming passivity, it is an active and positive choice with benefit to the spiritual life.  So I tell this little story of today's disappointment as a way to illustrate how I choose to manage these things.

For me, choosing the quiet peace of patience is a positive move.  It does not mean giving up or sinking passively into inaction.  It is an act.  Emotionally, as I said in my last post, this lifts me out of feeling sorry for myself, a place in which I find myself regularly enough, and in which I refuse to remain for long.  Naturally, I feel the disapointment - who wouldn't?  These sorts of cancelations and postponements are a regular feature of my life.  All my friends know that plans with me are tentative.  I do become weary of being unable to simply go out for a morning with a friend, or plan to attend a concert knowing I'll probably actually be able to go.  These are facts of my life, have been for the past 5 years, and denying them or their impact on me is just as unhealthy as falling passively onto the pity pot.

The spiritual side of this involves simple honesty about the reality of the moment: I am disappointed/frustrated/angry/sorrowful about the effect this migraine is having on my life today.  Naming those feelings has a powerful way of bringing them to the Light, to God, so that they are illuminated by Truth.  Denying them and pretending they are not in me has a powerful way of hiding them in the shadow, hidden by Lies. 

So, step One: honestly name the emotions I am feeling.

Step Two: Make a choice to either swim into them and sink, or rise through and above them.  Rising above does not necessarily make me feel happier, more optimistic.  More often, it gets me to the place from which I can choose patience and the lovely serenity that accompanies it.  Sometimes, I hurt so much that there is not even lovely serenity, and choosing patience is made difficult because I feel no difference.  There is no magic to choosing patience and often one is choosing simple endurance without a sense of when or where it all will end.

One thought about all this: I am very aware that I write this from a place of good mental health.  I could not have said any of this during the years that I struggled with intense anxiety and the depression that goes along with it.   My heart goes out to those who are not only living with chronic pain but who have the added burden of depression, or anxiety, or any of the other mental ills.  There is no simple answer for such things, and I do not intend this post - or anything in this blog - to imply that just reading and following what I say will change mental health, or is even possible when struggling with things of such magnitude.

Finally, the act of choosing patience lets me pray and meditate, things I cannot do when I have chosen victimhood, which is stultifying, paralyzing.  And to restate - all this does not really make me jump up and down for joy, changing my life and making me a hilariously happy person to be around.  I am not pretending that two simple steps make it all OK.  I am saying that, in the choice between being a victim and patiently suffering, I choose the latter because I perceive some spiritual and emotional benefits in that choice.

Now I'll go rest.  Maybe I'll feel better after a while, call Donna, and visit Crafty Bastards.

I would love to hear from you.  Please use the Comment box below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.

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