The Beauty in the Unremarkable!


In my last medical update I shared that I would be doing a sleep study that night (July 16).  I did, in fact, do that, and–believe it or not–I’m still waiting to get the official results!  Any day now, they tell me…. That really was quite the experience–one that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend!  At least not if you’re wanting a relaxing little getaway, like I was….!!  It turns out that it’s not so easy to sleep with some thirty electrodes attached to various body parts, a nasal cannula that’s measuring the temp of the air going in and out of my nose, and a video camera recording my every toss and turn!  Who woulda guessed??  Check out the photo of me that I had the sleep technician take once he got me all wired up, hooked up, and pepped up for what turned out to be a downright unpleasant and exhausting night!  I will share results from that memorable night when I get them.

One hot mama!

One hot mama!

Moving on, then, the following week, I actually had an MRI of my brain–another pleasant and relaxing experience!!  For close to three-quarters of an hour, I had the perfect excuse to lie flat on my back, eyes closed, with nothing to do and no one around (well, except for the technician but he was in another room most of the time!)–what’s not to enjoy?  With the exception of a few barely noticeable distractions–including those almost deafening banging and thumping noises that occurred  intermittently throughout my time there, and that brief period when the machine in which I was “encapsulated” vibrated and roared around me like a freight train, and the fact that the upper half of my body was “locked down” inside a plastic tube whose opening was hardly any larger than me, so that if I had, in fact, opened my eyes, which I did not do, I would have been looking at a wall of neutral-colored plastic just an inch or maybe two from my face, for those forty-five minutes (I don’t consider myself claustrophobic but yikes, I think I would have lost it had I left my eyes open!)–with the exception of those minor disturbances, it was practically like a day at the spa!  🙂

SO, the purpose of this second most memorable experience, so close on the heels of the first one (i.e., the sleep study), was to look for any brain lesions or other abnormalities that would indicate the presence of multiple sclerosis or possibly some other sort of…something…that could be causing my fatigue.  While that may seem like a frightening possibility, that morning as I was driving up for the MRI, I was honestly feeling like I would almost be disappointed if the results came back normal!  I was finally, I think, feeling a noticeable amount of frustration that there has been no diagnosis associated with this fatigue.  No reason.  No name.  Nothing that would give it some legitimacy…. As much as I would not deliberately choose to experience life with MS, I reasoned, if I were given that diagnosis as a result of this MRI, at least there would finally be an explanation for the fatigue.  A perspective skewed, perhaps, by ten months of not knowing, and in that time, a few moments of not only “This sucks!” but also “Is this all in my head??  Am I just getting older?  Is this just a normal decline in energy to be expected in this middle stage of life?….”  If only there were a name, then I would know it wasn’t just due to getting older, nor was it just all in my head.  There would be something I could point to, something to pin it on, something outside of myself that could be held responsible….

SO, I met with my doctor the following week to get the results.  A much quicker turnaround, thankfully, than with the sleep center, as I can live much more easily for many more weeks not knowing if I have sleep apnea than I could not knowing if I have MS!  He quickly told me that the MRI showed no signs of anything out of the ordinary.  Everything was fine.  The report stated, in fact, that my brain is totally normal and completely “unremarkable.”

I was, of course, relieved.  I realized that that was, really, the easier-to-swallow outcome. It would be nice if there were an identifiable reason for the fatigue that I continue to experience…but perhaps it was even nicer that that reason did not turn out to be multiple sclerosis or any other condition that would involve lesions on my brain!

After the initial relief, however, my thoughts went quickly to the word “unremarkable.”  My brain was “unremarkable”??  Really?!?  My brain??  I took some umbrage at that!  To the contrary, I have always believed that my brain is quite remarkable!  Special.  Unique.  Amazing, even!  Anything but “unremarkable”!  🙂

But there it was, in black and white, penned by a medical expert and relayed to me by another.  “The patient’s brain is unremarkable.”  Not a lot of room for dispute.

So if my brain was unremarkable, did that mean that I, too, was somehow unremarkable? That who I am, and how I see the world, and how I live my life were all, in fact, unremarkable??….

Nahhhh!  That couldn’t be.  I had always believed, even more than my brain being remarkable, that there was something remarkable about me!  I had always believed, if only deep down, that how I saw the world was somehow unique, that how I lived my life was in some way special, that who I was, was a little bit amazing, even!  …Okay, well, that may be a stretch.  🙂  But never have I wanted to believe that I–me, my life, my impact on the world around me–was unremarkable!  There’s no good in being unremarkable!


Then I happened to read a devotional written by Henri Nouwen, one of my favorite authors and someone whom I’ve quoted before on this blog.  Within that devotional, I read and was struck by the following words:

“The largest part of Jesus’ life [i.e., his childhood and youth] was hidden…. If we want to follow Jesus by words and deeds in the service of his Kingdom, we must first of all strive to follow Jesus in his simple, unspectacular, and very ordinary hidden life.”

His simple, unspectacular, and very ordinary–in other words, his unremarkable–hidden life.

The largest part of Jesus’ life was, according to Nouwen, unremarkable!

Not special, or unique, or amazing.

Ordinary.  Unspectacular.  Simple.  Hidden.


And, Nouwen suggested, that’s what we–what I–who desire to follow him need to strive for as well!

More desirable than striving from the get-go to stand out, to be the best, to rise to the top of the pile, is living an ordinary, unspectacular, unremarkable life…and living it well.

More fulfilling than giving my all in the secret hopes that I might be recognized as deserving of praise, is giving my best in the simple, hidden, unremarkable tasks that fill my day-to-day life, trusting that it’s in the faithful and quiet doing of those tasks that Love is made flesh and the Reality of God is revealed….

More beautiful than longing to be acknowledged by the world around me as somehow remarkable in my living and doing and being is striving to love in simple, unspectacular, very ordinary, and even hidden ways.

It turns out there is Good in the simple.

There is Good in the unspectacular.

There is Good in the ordinary.

It turns out that there is Beauty in the unremarkable!

Thanks be to God!  🙂



2 thoughts on “The Beauty in the Unremarkable!

  1. Jenny Sebastian

    This is a wonderful piece! That medical term “unremarkable”can really through you for a loop, but, I like how you threaded it through to have much more meaning for you personally…. That my friend is remarkable!

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