Ragged and the Beauty

Day 3 of a Migraine and I am worn ragged. My thoughts turn to all those in chronic pain, and I can’t imagine how they make it through each day.

When I creep down the stairs in my sunglasses, I discover that the ants are feasting on the watermelon that my husband left out, and I am livid. It doesn’t matter that he’s graciously picked up all the slack since my headache came on.

I’m really not fit for human company, and that makes me wonder how those with ongoing pain manage… relationship.

I am fair-weather human. I’m at my best when I feel well.  Kindness and gentility are my nature. But take away a night’s sleep or a day’s productivity, and I sour.

The simplest tasks overwhelm me. The little inconvenience. The noise of campers across the pond.

Yet in this soured state, I open to beauty. Perhaps not inside me, but all around me–in the hummingbirds and dragonflies busy in the garden, in the sweet call of the thrush from the dark woods, in the glistening of the moon on these wonderfully clear nights.

What discourages me most is the inability to rise to the glory that is all around me. There is no Carpe Diem in my step. And I feel like I’m missing out.

This is particularly true in a Vermont summer–because it is so short-lived! Miss a series of sunny days, and you may not see another stretch like this for weeks; or at all.

I’m old enough to have learned that seizing a day or basking in glory is not always about action. I know that when I surrender to the couch, I discover the beauty in the ordinary–which otherwise I miss.  And I know that my resistance causes more pain. But it’s hard to resist feeling miserable when the world is so contrastingly wonder-FULL outside.

I’m willing to try.

Kelly Salasin, July 2011

For more on Pain as a Teacher, click here.

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.


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:


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,


June 2011