This post of mine also appeared June 11, 2014 on Donald Miller’s Storyline blog.
The thing about migraines is that they don’t make an appointment. They just show up. Unannounced. Like those bad feelings you have for another person and you think you’ve gotten over whatever it is they did to you, and then BAM! They’re back. Caught you by surprise. When they announce their presence, migraines always say the same thing — “I’ve got you — you’re mine for a while.”
My migraines never occur when it’s convenient. They never arrive while I’m already reclining in a hammock, medicine at arm’s length, with nothing riding on what I have to get done that day. It’s as if they are spying on me, waiting for a chance to pounce.
So you can imagine my reaction when a migraine came knocking right in the middle of the most important and intense week of my year. What a bad piece of timing! I organize an annual event called the Writer’s Symposium By The Sea, where we bring in writers from all over and we talk about the craft of writing. We’ve had Don and the Storyline Conference there twice. We’ve also had Anne Lamott, Ray Bradbury, Amy Tan, Jeannette Walls, Chris Hedges, Garrison Keillor, Billy Collins, Kathleen Norris, Barbara Brown Taylor, Dave Eggers, Philip Yancey, Eugene Peterson, Mary Karr, and, well, you get the picture.
My interviews with these writers are all televised and on Youtube. It’s like Inside the Actor’s Studio, but I’m not as creepy as that guy. I wonder if he gets migraines?
And in the middle of last year’s Symposium – Woop There It Is – in the afternoon, a few hours before one of the interviews. The auditorium was sold out for the event. The show had to go on.
Some people can power through their migraines. Not me. It’s a force that’s stronger than my will power. It’s Hurricane Katrina compared to my wimpy exhaling. I have to get in a dark room, close my eyes and sleep. Not for days, necessarily, but for at least an hour, especially if I catch it in the early stage.
As I felt this storm gathering, I tried to think of who I could call for help. I didn’t have time to go home, sleep, and then come back. It would be full blown by then. I needed somewhere, something, someone – fast – or it was going to be Very Bad.
Then I remembered. My wife and I have friends who live just blocks from my office. They also get migraines. I knew they’d understand, and hoped they’d be home. Sue answered after several rings. I explained my predicament. She asked if I was strong enough to drive to her house – otherwise she’d come and get me. I told her I could.
“I’ll leave the front door open,” she said. “Just come in the house and go into Justin’s room.”
Justin, their son, was away at college.
I got to their house, went into Justin’s room, where all the shades were drawn, and a bottle of cold water was on the night stand. I was out like I had been clubbed.
When I woke up an hour or so later, I took a reading of my brain pan. Seemed okay. The storm had mostly passed – just a few eddies whirling in my skull. I opened the door to leave and saw Sue sitting in her living room, with a book. I thanked her and headed for my car.
But something caught my eye on the way out the door. Her husband and a bunch of workers were sitting on the back patio. It looked like they were just killing time. When they saw me, they started to get up.
“What’s happening out there?” I asked, still preoccupied with my own issue.
“We’re having the patio re-built,” she said.
“Wow,” I said. “I never heard any hammering or sawing or anything! I must have really been…”
And then it hit me. Sue and her husband Kim had told them to take a break until their friend was done with his little nap. The workers were still on the clock. Kim and Sue were still paying them. But they needed to be quiet for a while.
When I got in my car I heard the hammers and saws back to work.
Migraines don’t make appointments. Neither does kindness. Neither does grace. Neither does friendship. Grace shows up, unannounced. Right in the middle of the pain. And it says, in a more authoritative voice than anything else, “I’ve got you – you’re mine for a while.”