Tuesday, October 20, 2009


When I have a migraine I lie on the sofa throwing up in a stainless steel pot and watching TV.

I click around the channels, wanting everything they show me, which, huddled under the sword of this pain, is both fascinating and nauseating. I want the drop waist, wrap dress Jennifer Anniston is wearing; I want the mineral makeup and the four bonus brushes they are selling; I want the pretty nail polish in this Spring’s New Color: Bliss. I want that car--and the size 4 body of the model draped across its hood.

Oh, I know I don’t have to buy things to be happy. Still, I really want the espresso machine that Martha Stewart is showing me.

I love TV. I hate TV.

My head is being pressed between two searing plates of metal—a George Foreman grill! A Panini press! How is it even possible that my eyeballs are both hot and cold at the same time?

Abraham-Hicks teaches that pain is resistance. Energy is trying to move through our bodies and we, afraid of the rush and push and speed of it, resist. This resistance to the very thing we have called forth, creates blockages and, ultimately pain, in the tissues of the body. Abraham says that when pain comes, even though it seems counterintuitive, the best way to ease it is to lean toward it.

I just want to watch TV.

Every half hour it feeds me a new story to suck on: A Balloon Boy. A war somewhere. Barack Obama. And have you noticed how, suddenly, every talk show is “green”? As if the earth hasn’t always been there—reliable old clock—her tides rolling in and then, out, her fields of grain waving in the wind. Its like, suddenly, we’re all saying, “Will you look at that? There’s a planet under my Nikes!”

If I could just have these headaches without the nausea—without this crash, this flood of heat—without tipping, ever so slightly on my axis. I shift the ice pack behind my head and the hard edges of the cubes that haven’t melted press directly into the dent between my head and neck: the fertile crescent of pain where it all seems to begin.

I pick up my book, Blue Highways, in which, William Least Heat Moon is living out of the back end of a truck. He writes, “Following a circle would give a purpose—to come around again—where taking a straight line would not.”

According to Chinese Medicine, I’m at the beginning of my Wisdom Phase—the end of the seventh seven-year cycle of my life. But I don’t feel wise. I feel desperate and panicky. Trapped, a winged thing caught between two panes of glass.

“You have to decide how you want to meet this,” my friend Catherine, who is also my acupuncturist, says.
We are talking about bio-identical hormones. “I’ve heard they can help with migraines, with hot flashes.”

“A natural cycle is coming to an end," she says. "Your body is trying to reorganize itself. Do you want to interfere with that or support it?”

I know the right answer. I know that, according to Chinese medicine, “everything has a front and a back”—that anything we do to the body stimulates a response from the body. Who can say what will happen if I introduce a rush of hormones into my system? Still, if they can make the headaches go away...

“I’ve read that hormone replacement therapy slows the aging process,” I say. “And I really don’t want to get wrinkly.”

I don’t.

I don’t want my breasts to sag (any more than they already are). I don’t want my chin to get soft(er). I don’t like that, lately, I’ve had to ask people to repeat themselves and that, without my reading glasses, I can’t exactly tell what’s on the menu. And frankly, this extra 30 pounds that’s settled on my waist (I’m told it’s an “estrogen belt”) is really pissing me off.

Catherine is saying, “From the perspective of Chinese Medicine, this is a blood deficiency.”
“I’ve always been anemic…”
“This is different. From the Chinese perspective, your liver is starving. Blood volume is the issue.”
“Blood volume?”
“There’s not enough blood in your body.”
“How can that be?" I ask. "How can a person not have enough blood and still be walking around?”
“We can build more,” she says. “With leafy greens, Chinese herbs, and lots of water.”

I buy the kale and a jar of blackstrap molasses. For the next week, I drink so much water I gain five pounds. I get back out there, determined to take a long walk. I imagine my angels following me with a cosmic liposuction device—which, though it won’t build more blood, might help with the cellulite. But, as usual, I don’t get far before I’m caught in a tidal wave of hot flashes and I turn back home.

As a spiritual counselor, what I’m good at, what I’m trained to do is, I look for patterns. I pull apart the threads of a thing—a situation, a relationship, a conflict—looking for meaning. I see the connections between things, the underlying interconnections, the purpose.

I tell my clients, “Begin in childhood. Make a list of your memories—start anywhere. Memories are connected to each other,” I say. “When you get hold of one, another bubbles up right under it.”

I tell my clients, “We want to get the alchemy of your story mind moving—my job is to teach you to see what is hidden beneath the surfaces of things. My job is to teach you to read patterns.”

As a magazine editor, I do the same thing, scanning and scanning for meaning, for trend, for pattern. And then, what I do is, I make lists: Ten ways to beat summer heat! Five belly-warming winter recipes! And here are my Fast, easy ways to satisfy soul hunger!

1) Feed the real need with art, beauty, music
2) Turn off the TV and unplug from the Internet
3) Do yoga, walk outside, breathe…
Oh, blah, blah, blah …

I’ve spent a lifetime studying myself. I know what I need, what to eat, and how to wear my hair. What I don’t know is: How to navigate this little boat of my life to the other shore, where all spiritual paths say I’m waiting to be found.

It seems simple enough. There are workshops, talk shows, and hundreds of books containing maps. But I have this tic, this Tourette's-like “Yes-no” that cycles through my thoughts, blurting, “This way is a very nice way.”

Did he say something, Toto?

“It’s pleasant down that way, too.”

That’s funny. Wasn’t he pointing the other way?

“Of course, some people do go both ways.”

Engineers calculate for “moment”—the point when the stress on a wall or a beam is suddenly too much and the whole house comes tumbling down. “In order to size a structural beam, an engineer or an architect has to know the weight—or load—of what that beam will have to support. After they select a beam—based on their own intuition—they check the beam to see if it will support the load, calculating for sheer forces (how much load the beam will take before it snaps in half), moment forces (the dynamic function between length from its supporting points and weight of the load), deflection (how much the beam is allowed to bend).

“They design against forces of nature and time, against storms that batter the surfaces, eroding materials, peeling paint, against shifting soil and gravity," my husband, an architect, explains. “We also have to accommodate for settling. Over time all houses sink .”

I need to plump my pillows. I click to BBC News. They have this weather map that takes me flying across Europe. Each country puts up a little flag as I soar over it that reports today’s temperature in degrees of centigrade. Click. I hate car commercials. Click. Oprah is talking about some new book. Click. Stupid, stupid news. Click.
There’s nothing on. I need a glass of water.


scott Sheperd said...

Loved it. Loved all of it. So much truth.

hadassahsabo said...

i am a fellow migraineur. i can totally relate. i have never tried to put it into words - you did that so artfully.