God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
This simple prayer has seen me through family issues, recovery from major illness, life crisis and transitions, grief, job loss, financial difficulty. It is the mantra I repeat as the pain takes over my head, as I wait for my meds to work, as I practice deep breathing to relax my mind and body. It keeps me focussed where I need to be, in knowing what I can change and what I can't, not wasting my energy where I cannot change something, not sitting in useless despair when there is something I can do. It also keeps me in the moment. I cannot change anything in the past. I can only change the future by taking the next right action to lead me where I want to go, not by wishing, hoping, fantasizing or sitting immobilized in fear.
There's no way for me to write a post about spirituality without talking about what I believe, which is deeply personal and which I rarely discuss. I grew up with a Jewish mother (from a not very religious family) and a father who was the son of Presbyterian missionaries, celebrated holidays from both religions but was raised pretty much as an atheist, and then became a Quaker (along with most of my family) as a teenager. Spirituality and faith may never be a simple matter for me. I don't consider myself a religious person, but I am a spiritual person.
There's no way to write a post about spirituality, I think, without turning some of you off. Some may already be turned off by the use of the word "God." Some were turned off by my description of my unusual religious background. Some will be excited by it and see it as an opportunity to convert me. Please resist that temptation! Some will be turned off in a moment when I tell you that I consider myself to be a faithful agnostic. What does that mean? I have faith in a power greater than myself, in a power for good, the power of love, a power that unites people, incites altruism, brings us to care for more than our own selfish interests, "that of God in every man." I believe there is more out there than we can see, perceive or know in any scientific sense. But I'm... blessed if I know what it is! I don't even think it's important for me to know what it is!
How does this help me with Migraine disease? I don't go down the road of "God gave me Migraines for a reason." Whatever else I believe, I can't get behind the idea of a God who causes suffering, for any reason. I think more that we live in this gloriously complex world where we have sunsets and earthquakes, roses and poison ivy, kittens and sharks, senses of humor and migraines. It's a complex system that somehow all works together, and we are part of it, warts and all. Migraines and all.
I do believe, though, in my God, my higher power, as a comforter. As the force of love, of good. To help me through pain, to help me remember that I am not the pain, that I am more than the disease, that I am here to help others, to make the world better. Sometimes in the midst of a migraine, I have a moment of feeling like this is all there is, no world exists outside the pain. I say the serenity prayer. It reminds me that there is more. That I am more. That another day will dawn when I am without pain and can get on with living. That the beauty of the world is still there waiting. I do think it takes faith to live with Migraine disease. Ridiculous faith and unconquerable hope. I am amazed by the ridiculous faith and unconquerable hope I see in my fellow migraineurs. And I find serenity there too.
Wishing you serenity and freedom from pain
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