To be independent, to gain self-sufficiency and to be in control of one's life: these are highly regarded and sought-after qualities for many of us. They are laudable qualities. They are also traps that potentially keep us from recognizing one of the amazing blessings of life - the presence everyday angels who are there, quietly and without fanfare, to help us when we are in need.
Recently I traveled to Connecticut for the wedding of a dear friend. Not having traveled much without my husband - who understands and lovingly cares for my needs when I am in pain - I wondered how I would manage the trip. But the wedding was too important for me to stay home so I went even though Tim could not go with me. It was a beautiful and joyous weekend, one in which I re-connected with old friends, rejoiced with Stephanie and Jal and their families, and - not unexpectedly - dealt with migraine pain most of the time. It was a weekend in which I met everyday angels at every turn.
This is, like most things in life, a mixed blessing. I'd really rather just be able to be independent, make my own plans, do my own thing. This part of me feels embarassed at having to ask for help and to admit that I cannot simply pick up and go like other folks. This part of me resents my dependence on others.
This part of me also isolates me under the guise of self-sufficiency, a wonderful concept that loses its wonder in a life of pain. I struggled with my ego and its need to be competent and in charge while all around me, my pride notwithstanding, angels appeared.
My first angel was the bride, Stephanie, who, in response to my email full of concern about how I would get from the airport to her home town, connected me with two guests who also live in D.C.: Premila, sister of the groom, and Laura, long-time family friend. Stephanie also ensured that I had a place to stay at the inn for out-of-town guests that also was to be the site of the reception. Having made up my mind rather late, I might not have secured a room at the Wake Robin Inn had Stephanie not made a quick reservation for me and immediately connected me to Inn staff.
Premila and Laura proved to be wonderful travel companions, not at all concerned that I couldn't share in the driving of the rental car (air travel being a never-fail migraine trigger), and understanding of my inability to attend the Friday picnic. Premila called me from the picnic to offer a plate of food, and Laura delivered that plate to my door.
Saturday's wedding on a hill at Stephanie's family farm was lovely. The bridal party arrived in a wagon towed by an antique tractor; guests were transported from the parking area to the hilltop in another tractor-pulled wagon; the setting was beautiful and the music perfect. At the reception in a tent on the Inn grounds, I had the most fun I'd had in years. Yet it was no surprise to wake up Sunday morning with a migraine. The late night, loud music, flashing light bulbs in the dark venue, and food made with ingredients not on my migraine diet made for a perfect migraine storm. And I would not have missed it for anything. You learn to make these comprimises when you have chronic pain, otherwise your life would be just awful.
So Sunday morning I struggled up the hill to the Inn where I thought breakfast would be served at 7am. I really needed my morning tea and a bit of food, part of my pain management regimen. But when I walked in and was told that breakfast did not begin until 8am, my face must have registered serious dismay because Shaffin, the staff person with whom I was speaking, urged me to sit down while he went to the kitchen to see what he could do. Making me comfortable in a corner of the room and thoughtfully turning off the light above my head, he moved away with a promise to return soon.
It's hard to sit up with unsupported head and neck when a migraine is at full force. It's hard to be without the soothing routines of home and readily available comfort measures. It's hard not to feel sorry for oneself, so when Shaffin came quietly back carrying a tray with teapot, fruit and a muffin, I felt tears of gratitude arise. "My angel," I thought.
Later, during the luncheon at Stephanie's parents' house, I was carfeully ensconsed in a comfy recliner by John, father of the bride, and checked on by Eileen, mother of the bride, and Jal, the groom. "More angels," I thought.
It was good to lie back in that reclining chair, comforted by the breeze from the window Eileen had opened for me and listening to the chatter from the back porch. It was sweet to hear those companionable sounds and I felt blessed to be there. I felt blessed by Stephanie, Premila, and Laura, without whom the trip would have been almost impossible. I felt blessed by Shaffin, Jal, Eileen and John, who made the pain easier to bear.
I am not independent or self-sufficient. I do not have the ability to do for myself without relying on people to help me.
I have something better. I have angels.
I would love to hear from you. Please use the Comment link below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carol D. Marsh
- 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.