Friday, August 23, 2013

In the Midst of Life

With great power comes great responsibility.

That was Spiderman's axiom.

Mine might be:  With great joy comes a terrible headache.

It's not a great axiom, but it is mine.  I might add to it the caveat: sometimes.  But really, that only makes it worse.

I first noticed this rule of personal physics (it doesn't apply to you, it applies to me) on the way to pick up my dear friend Amy Franks at the train station in Providence, Rhode Island.

Amy Franks is a very good friend and I enjoy her enormously.  Picking her up at the train station, I am flooded with anticipation for what a lovely weekend I will have in her company.

This flood of happiness does something to my brain.  You might hypothesize, as many have, that it opens up blood vessels or arteries or something; that blood rushes forth where previously it had meandered; and that the end result is a terrible headache.

Whatever the biology, the result is the same: a migraine headache.

A migraine effects not only one side of your head, or your jaw, or your forehead and face.  It can effect also your breathing and your heart rate.  It can make you throw up.

I had just parked at the train station and luckily found a plastic bag in the car when I threw up the first time.

And the second time.

The third time I picked Amy up, I made it all the way home (with Amy) (feeling the aura stages of the migraine coming on) and I threw up on my own lawn.

This happened also when Kate Kaminski, whom I adore, visited from California.  What euphoria it is to have Kate with me!  How we love to talk and sip wine and cook together and talk and sip wine!

Incapacitating pain.

Good friends are very understanding when you have to take to your bed the moment they arrive and sleep off a headache for a few hours.

I consider myself lucky to have a friend in Wisconsin who once induced a migraine with the pleasure of her company.

It's an odd juxtaposition, but it's a poetic reminder.

Morrissey  of The Smiths has an axiom:  In the midst of life we are in death, etc.

I found myself humming that tune yesterday, while recovering from the longest and worst migraine of my life.

I suspect that the joyful time I'd had in the Czech Republic, coupled with my joyful anticipation of closing on the farm this morning, triggered it.

It started in the evening around eight o'clock as severe pain on the right side of my jaw.  Didn't matter what position I rested my head, or whether I was up or prone.  It felt like I had several rotten teeth and a profound infection of the gums in that area--or, as though several good teeth were being pulled out all together very slowly without benefit of anesthesia.

I haven't had a migraine in years, but when I've had them, they've come in clusters over a period of six or more weeks.  They've lasted two or three hours.  I could fall asleep in my agony.  (Don't ask me how--maybe it's more a matter of losing consciousness/passing out; how can one drift off to sleep with a big hot metal anvil sticking out of one's head?  I don't know.)  When I awoke, the pain was gone.  The relief, euphoric.

Then I learned that if I took Excedrin for Migraines in the first "aura" stage of the ordeal, I could successfully head it off before the pain set in.  And that would be the end of it.

But this migraine that I had two nights ago was different.  It disguised itself at the outset as a painful jaw, a common symptom of heart failure.  (When a person with a family history of heart disease lumbers down the steps clutching her jaw and asking for aspirin, the camera wants to pan in on the husband's face to capture his expression of alarm.)

I won't bore you with the details of my pain's migration from jaw to eye, and from my eye back to my gelatinous gray matter--responsible for, among all things, this blog, in particular--etc., (as Morrissey would say).  But it perambulated around my head all night.

And it gave me strange dreams.

And it was there in my head when I awoke, humming a tune by The Smiths.  In the midst of life you are in death, etcetera.  

I trundled downstairs, because Phil and Josh were up, watching news, playing on the computer, drinking coffee, and I don't like to suffer alone.  Turn down the TV.  Turn off the lights.  Can't you see I am miserable?

I had awoken without the head ache at 1:45 that same morning.  Jet lag.  I had eaten coconut yogurt with granola cereal.  I had watched an interesting documentary about Steve Jobs (I don't really worship him, honestly), called, "One Last Thing."

It must have been 3:30 or four when the pain resumed, as if, like a lover, it had slept for a while and then, waking, embraced me again.

But like malware, or a parasite that makes one eat poison, hours later, the viscera became involved in this danse macabre, and the coconut (Greek-style) yogurt and granola that I had consumed pain-free became, shall we say, a liability.

At noon, under foundation in daylight, I could still make out a blue tinge in the Flintstone region of my face (under the nose and around my mouth and chin).  That's not good.

But it went away.  This morning, you could hardly tell that I was blue.

This fantastically attenuated form of migraine, according to my mother, (who gave it to me, genetically speaking), signals my hormonal decline.  It signals my aging.  The onset of the end of my fertility.  It is the swan song, the coup de grace, the grand finale... It is the fireworks at ten o'clock.  It is The Scream.  It is the resistance.  It is the beginning of the end of blood and of pain.  And the end of youth.  And the beginning of old age.

Today, this morning, amid tears of joy, we closed on the farm.  It is officially ours.  I am beside myself with wonder and amazement.  I am gobsmacked and all agog.  I am utterly thrilled and totally delighted, Christmas-morning, jump-up-and-down, best-present-ever, dream-come-true, expect-a-cluster-of-migraine headaches-like-you've-never-known-before HAPPY.

In the midst of joy we are in pain, etcetera.

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