Pain Meditation, a message for my mid-life friends

I feel the headache come on suddenly, at my right temple, soon after the dinner guests leave.

I scan the lovely evening for triggers:

vodka, pizza, massage.

Then realize that my vision had been off for hours, which means the migraine was already on its way.

I no longer fret and tense up in fear when they arrive… unless it’s my birthday or something… which has happened twice in the past decade.

Hormones.

Migraines have been hanging around me for thirty years… so if nothing else, they’re familiar.

They were the worse in my teens and early twenties; and then again in my thirties when I was pregnant; and now, in my forties as the mid-life changes are upon me.

But I don’t fight them anymore… which seems to soften them.

I have some new tricks too. My favorite is a lightweight knit cap that I put over my head as soon as I feel the vascular pressure shifting. This helps stabilize the temperature which lessens the constriction.

Green tea is another soother, and I’m sitting down with a fresh cup right now.

I use Arnica cream on my neck as it often tenses up in response to the pain, and then prolongs or intensifies the headache.

I feel like Migraines and I really know each other now, though I try not to take them personally.

I don’t do so well with menstrual symptoms however. It’s only been in the last decade or so that I’ve really suffered serious cramps or mood swings.

Lately it’s been viscous.

I know this means that the fertility party–inside–is almost over… I’m almost 50… so I try to buck up… even when each bleed comes sooner and sooner; and often leaves a migraine in its wake, just as I start to feel better.

My most recent cycle was particularly fascinating. For days I felt like weeping (which is unlike me), and then on the last day I woke in a rage (also unlike me.) “Isn’t this interesting,” I thought, when I wasn’t terrified.

Fortunately for me, there is little in my life upon which to assign blame for this drama…  so I get to see it for what it is:

an Invitation.

I challenge myself to stay with my cramps or my sadness or my fury… without trying to add a story to it.

It’s not because the kitchen is a mess or because my husband forgot the bread or because my boss asked me to do one more thing.

It just is.

And if I don’t run from it, or medicate it, or otherwise distract myself from it, I’ll find something in the pain worth finding.

Fortunately, this month’s round of rage is so strong, it doesn’t lend itself to distraction.  I’m forced to come face to face with it, despite my fear; and here’s what I find:

Leftovers.

Garbage disposal contents.

Unprocessed fury.

25+ years old and rotting.

It is excruciating to revisit this time in my life, but I do… only to let it go.

Of course, it’s not that simple. I have kids. I have a husband. I have a job.

But no worries, because this anger is insistent.

I’ve read that at middle age, a woman must resolve her “issues” or enter the second half of life bitter. It’s this pain that gives me the opportunity to shed yet another layer of hardness that I relied upon for protection.

But no 50 year old woman needs that kind of added armor. We are too powerful a force of nature!

What we need (and the world needs of us) is all the tenderness we can muster.

And to do that,

we must meditate

on our own pain.

With love,

Kelly

June 2011