Friday, May 18, 2012

The High Cost of Normalcy

While many strive to live extraordinary lives, my current goal is to have one that is "normal" where I am not constantly haunted by the specter of migraines.  I have spent the majority of time over the last few years living in the dark and quiet of my home with my rescue medications close by, just trying to make it from moment to moment without unbearable pain.

However, yesterday I opted to "act as if" I were indeed normal.  My family had invited me to go out to dinner to celebrate my birthday.  Having missed more occasions and outings with friends and family than I can even begin to count over the last few  years, I decided that I was going to go and enjoy myself - to be as normal as possible.  Although I went armed with my sunglasses, earplugs, and rescue medication, we spent the gorgeous Spring evening sitting on the patio of one of my favorite restaurants.  I reveled in the opportunity to sit admist the laugher and conversation - to be a part of something which I had so frequently missed.  

While I did have a migraine, things went pretty well during the first half of the dinner (once my brother got the manager to turn off the music that seemed to blare above our heads).  During the second half of the dinner, my head began to throb a little more, the nausea began to grow, and the light show began to burst in my eyes.  Yet still, I went on doing the best I could to not let anyone know how much I was suffering and still enjoy the illusion of normalcy.

Later that night, however, as I paced the house pulling my hair in some vain attempt to stop the pain, I questioned whether or not my brief sojourn into normalcy had been worth it.  I watched the clock as it moved from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. to 9 a.m. and fought back tears at the onslaught of pain.  All the while, an inner battle raged.  I swore to myself that I had learned my lesson and that I would never venture out of my cave of dark and silence tempting the fates of migraine again.  I bargained with the migraine beast, promising that I would never try to pretend to be normal if he would just allow me some measure of relief.  However, not even a modicum of relief came until late until the next day.  

Now as I nurse the exhaustion of the battle, as well as a level "6" migraine (blessed relief compared to yesterday), I question the high cost of normalcy.  Was it worth going out and being with my family if the result was the hellish night I had just spent?  I have been mulling over this question most of the day.  It has been as if two spirits have perched upon my shoulders arguing back and forth, one which says "you can never be normal, and if you try, I will make you suffer unbearably." To this one, I respond cowering in fear, promising that if my migraines can just stay between a 4 and a 6 that I will never, ever do anything to anger the migraine beast again.  

However, the other spirit, if you will, does not scream at me and threaten me with dire consequences, but instead is just a quiet conviction that life is worth enjoying even if it means enduring some nights like last night.  After all, pain is not an optional part of my life right now; it is an inevitability.  Pain will exist whether I hide in the dark cave of my home or whether I venture out into the world of the "normals."  I can spend all my efforts protecting myself, or I can throw caution to the wind at times and celebrate doing some "normal" things which for me are extraordinary. 

It is a matter of balance for I cannot habitually live as I did last night as I walked through such unbearable pain.  Yet, on the other hand, I cannot habitually live in fear of pain to the degree that my life knows no joy.  It is not easy to be asked to choose between having a brief moment of normalcy and keeping the edge off of pain.  However, I think that when I look back on my life, it will be those moments of laughter and friendship and family that I will remember most.  I doubt that I will be haunted at my deathbed by regrets that I endured pain in order to embrace joy.  

There is a beautiful quote that says "Life is not about the breaths we take, but about the moments that take our breath away." For me, life is not about the moments of excruciating pain, but about the moments of breathtaking joy - the joy that comes from seeing the smiles and hearing the laughter of people I love and of looking at these beloved faces and having my heart swell with thankfulness for the blessings I have.  I am not at a place in my life where I take any of these opportunities for granted as I know that they each bear a cost.  However, I think that paying the cost of a night like last night may well be worth that one moment on the patio when I felt the breeze on my face, heard the birds singing, laughed along with my family and just enjoyed being me.  

Yes, I will weigh the pros and cons carefully before throwing caution to the wind; however, I hope and pray that I may be brave enough to endure some more nights like last night so that I may enjoy some more times like yesterday evening.  I recently read "Perhaps strength doesn't reside in never being broken, but in the courage to grow strong in the broken places."  Yes, last night I was broken, but I gained strength from the joy I received in my brief encounter with normalcy.  

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
 The Lord will keep you from all harm 
    he will watch over your life;
 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

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