I woke up shortly after 5 this morning with the familiar (and nasty) spasms across the back of my head. I didn’t need to be up until at least 6, so I decided I’d try one of the relaxation exercises from the pain book I bought yesterday. It’s a combination of an affirmation with deep, diaphragmatic breathing, so it wasn’t anything new to me, really. I think of that as a breath prayer, after reading Richard Foster‘s book on prayer. I decided to inhale peace and exhale relax, feeling and visualizing the tension and pain leave the back of my skull and flow out with my breath. I don’t know how many breaths I took, but I fell back to sleep. I woke again at about 6:15, with a talk show on the radio station that had been running since the alarm clock turned on my radio at 6:00. I felt very relaxed, very peaceful, and I was pleased to stand up and have no pain in the back of my skull. It did return, though, before too long.
I showered and dressed, warmed the steel-cut oats that had been soaking overnight, took a cryo-pack from the freezer, and took my morning meds. I’ve added cinnamon tablets for pain and inflammation, and capsules of glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM for joint health and lubrication, to my morning pills that include skelaxin, cymbalta, a B-complex, and a calcium/vitamin D gelcap. In the evening I take my regular multivitamin, flexeril, singulair (for allergies and allergy-induced asthma), and when I need it and it’s not too late, a trazodone for sleep. I have a seven-day, double-sided pill sorter, so I only have to think about what to take and when once a week, when I fill it. Once my breakfast was ready, I sat down with my bowl of oats topped with brown sugar and sliced almonds, gave a small helping to my little conure, and applied the ice pack to my skull and neck. When it was time to leave for church, that area was feeling better. Once worship began, I had something to think about besides the pain, so that helped. During the readings and the sermon, I practiced sort of an attentive, meditative listening. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply and rhythmically, and closed out everything but the scripture flowing into me, and as the word flowed into me, I felt the tension and pain flowing out of me. I was relaxed, grounded, centered, open, and verging on ecstatic.
After church, I stopped by a Super K to pick up a couple grocery items I needed, some storage containers for assorted rices and legumes, and a couple other odds and ends. I found some great stuff on clearance, and it all rang up for less than I’d expected, so that was really nice. I felt like taking a nap, but I was also a little hungry, so I ate a fresh plum (yum!) and poured a glass of ice water. After that snack, I was more energized, so I looked up some recipes for lentils with rice and found the one I plan to make for supper. I don’t have a bell pepper, though, so I’m going to add some chopped cucmber and maybe zucchini, and maybe some garlic or caramelized onions. I’m going to make some homemade flatbread to go with it, and I’ve got a lemon-lime-orange nut bread in the oven right now. My parents might come over to eat with me, but aren’t sure yet, because they have a lot of yard work to do. I have a lot of housework to do, but I’m going to follow advice from another chapter of that pain book and pace myself.
In the chronic pain workshop yesterday morning, one of the pitfalls we talked about is that when we have a good day (less bad day?), we tend to try to catch up on everything that has been set aside for the pain, so we end up exhausting ourselves and being out of commission for three or four days afterward. So I feel pretty good today, but I’m going to stick with preparing a nice meal, getting my laundry going, and maybe some touch-up work on my floors. I am giving myself permission to rest my body, to honor my body by listening to it when it hurts and giving it the care it needs and deserves. It is interesting to think about it in these turns, because we’re brought up – with all the other parts of the Puritan mindset that have poisoned America for so long – to think that it’s wrong to care for ourselves, that it’s selfish, that we must always care for others first. The problem is, if you do that, if you always care for others first, you end up lonely, angry, frustrated, because your own needs never get met. Even St. Benedict in his Rule for monastic life recognized the need for recreation, for a little healthy selfishness – and it’s no mistake that recreation looks like re-creation, because when we give ourselves a little healthy selfishness, we are re-creating ourselves.
Maplestar noticed that the Joseph story in this week’s lections is missing one key part – the part where Reuben returns to the pit after the brothers have sold Joseph into slavery, and finds his brother missing. And he observed to me that there seemed to be a parallel between that empty pit and the empty cave with the stone rolled aside that Mary Magdalene found one Sunday morning, centuries later. As we played with that parallel a little bit, we realized that Joseph saved the Israelites from famine by inviting them to Egypt. Similarly, Jesus saves us all from spiritual famine, and invites us to the great Feast in heaven, which we play-act each Sunday at the Eucharist. Joseph fed his father and brothers and their families with bread, and Jesus became the bread of life for us. That parallel has been rolling around in my heart and mind all week, and I think it is an astute one.
This morning, as I heard the words of today’s gospel lesson again, I felt affection and sympathy for Peter again. As I heard the words Jesus spoke to him – you of little faith, why did you doubt? – I could just see and hear them. And I knew in my heart that Jesus spoke these words to Peter with a smile, maybe a laugh, as one would to a beloved child, perhaps with a tousle of the hair or a pat on the shoulder, so that Peter laughed with him, too. Jesus loved Peter, loved him like a brother, and I know that Jesus had a sense of humor, too. I can just see the faces of the rest of the bunch still in the boat, terrified, and stunned to see Jesus and Peter laughing, right after Peter almost fell into the sea and drowned in the storm. And you know, that makes the joke even funnier.
So. It’s just about noon now, and I should fix myself some lunch. I’m not sure what I’ll have just yet, but that’s okay. It’s been a good morning, and it will be a good day.