Tag Archives: craniosacral massage

Do Whatever You Want

29 Dec


It was the best kind of double-take. One that I certainly didn’t orchestrate, because I was playing invisible on tonight’s urban hike. It was finally cold enough to wear hat and scarf and gloves, so I was nestled into a woolen cocoon, winding my way around and through the rotary at Grand Army Plaza with a private glee at having used almost all the criss-crosswalks on my round-trip.

Brooklyn was mine, it was all lit up above and dark below, and the statues hovering above Prospect Park were luminescent cutouts against a dusk that only I raised my eyes toward. Everyone else was looking phoneward. Except the runners, moving smugly in spandex robotron packs, but I couldn’t begrudge them their mutual glee at finally being able to use our winter gear. Finally!

Hidden under my hat too were earphones, which completed my little private universe with a delectable new Michael Mayer mix from Köln. I’d rather expeditiously obtained my fancy new NYC ID card from the library, which will now enable me free access to sooooo many city institutions, and I was carrying a parcel of actual photographic prints picked up from the drug store. Photos! On paper. Picked up after work, in the manner of regular people with jobs.

The total effect of all this fast-walking list-ticking was jubilance. I felt my spine doing that thing they’re always talking about in yoga, “lifting upward away from the pelvis,” and I guess my open heart was more conspicuous than I realized, because by the time I reached the main commercial street near my apartment, I noticed a repetition of actions I haven’t marked in quite some time. Handsome souls were actually lifting their faces from their phones, and looking in my direction. I automatically assumed they were watching for the bus, or trying to ascertain where their beautiful girlfriend was, so I just kept bounding along. But then I saw one handsome actually crane his neck to maintain his view after I passed a large tree.

Well, I’ll be darned. All that stuff that my craniosacral massage therapist and everyone intelligent in the world says is true. When you feel good, you look good. I’ll probably go back to shrugging my shoulders up around my wish to be invisible tomorrow. BUT tonight I was as bright as those statues, because just like them, I assumed no one was looking up at me.

Stay With Me

1 Nov

nature's gold

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower:
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay. 


When the radio news voice says that “bad weather” is expected this weekend, and that “today is beautiful, but tomorrow it’s going to rain,” I grumble. There isn’t bad weather, there’s only weather, I insist. All weather is good, every day is beautiful, just dress for the present conditions. A good trench coat, cute rain boots, and a bright-colored umbrella make me giddy. I love to feel prepared, ready to face anything and come out unruffled.

As it turns out, that strength and resilience is what causes my life-crunching headaches. Multiple doctors, a MRI, and a neurologist appointment later, I learned that what I suffer from are “let-down headaches.” Trust me, I could run with that name forever—let down? Let me tell you about let downs. But scientifically, it’s an extension of migraine that is triggered by prolonged periods of stress followed by sudden relaxation. The stress hormones dissipate and leave my brain reeling, screaming in pain. Where is the cortisol! Load me up, A-type personality girl! Find me a thrill!


And get this: migraine sufferers, or “migrainers” as we are cheerily referred to in the lame “How to Live with Migraine” magazine my neurologist gave me, have a distinct personality. They’re over-achievers who love routine and stability, they have a tremendous empathy that makes them an emotional sponge that absorbs all the suffering, angst, or happiness around them—oh, and they tend to be the ones who relocate to help a dying loved one.

Bunky Huron: Migrainer.

When I moved to Texas to help my mother in her final year, my poor head reacted poorly. Every time I arrived at her apartment and sunk into the sofa in front of the Hallmark channel, I could feel the pain creep to my temples. My mother and I discussed potential causes quite often, as I have been a headache sufferer my entire life, and I used to write science reports on them as early as middle school. I even did a science fair project on headaches.

So I was the scientist, and my mother was the nurse. She remained calm and steady as my earliest pre-teen migraines made the left side of my body go numb and deadened my tongue so I couldn’t speak. My memories of her constant care are so clear. She’d get a cool, wet wash cloth for my head and gently hover near me while I writhed on the sofa. I’d try to tell her through tongue-numb speech that I knew it was a symptom of the vascular lightning storm in my brain, and I knew it would subside, but I was secretly scared i was going dumb and would lose my power to speak entirely.

My mother’s eyes showed concern, but not panic. The constant presence of her love was my tether to the real world while my viewpoint grew hazy with eyesight-blinding migraine “aura.” I’m still so amazed that she didn’t panic. She was as much a worrier as I was, but as a mother, she was effortlessly steady. She knew my strength and resilience, she knew I was generally a really healthy kid, and above all, she knew that if she sat there calmly with me, I might believe that there was hope for normal life again.

I look back now and realize that I did the same for her when she was sick in the hospital. I stayed calm, I acted as though everything was normal, and I tried to set a tone of steady routine in our lives. But my headaches persisted, and I really thought they were brought on by the stress of being a caretaker. I’d blame her openly, saying that the grocery list gave me a headache, and coming to her house gave me a headache.

Now, my poor, scientific heart knows that those were let-down headaches, and I was in pain because I’d relaxed in her care. While she cooked me dinner, and brought me snacks and drinks as I lounged on the sofa, I returned to a softness I hadn’t felt since I was a child. There was no one who cared for me on a daily basis, except my mother. And the disappearance of that steadiness, that supportive force of her love after she died, is wracking my brain with pain.

“You’re someone who functions valiantly under stress, and then you collapse when it subsides,” my neurologist intones. The reason I’d had a headache for two months straight was no doubt the release of grief, the exodus of physical pain from my poor, fragile corporeal person.

Mom, you didn’t give me headaches. You gave me relief, and my body gave me headaches. I miss you so much it actually hurts.

I am slowly getting better, thanks to craniosacral massage and a new awareness on how to mitigate stress in my life. Apparently, “migrainers” have to actually fake a little bit of stress after a long period of stress, so they can avoid the sharp withdrawal of hormones. So this morning I actually told myself I had so much to do today, such a busy Saturday, so much work to do!

Feeling the ache creep to back of my skull to accompaniment of the relaxing sounds of rain pouring down on my deck outside, I did some semi-intense yoga to make sure I was stressed. Hey, hey, gentle fall into relaxation. Not sudden. Gentle.

After yoga, in savasana, I let my jaw go slack, and suddenly pictured my mother’s own slack expression after she died. These are the images we keep in our mind forever. I started sobbing and said out loud, “I saw the last light in your eyes. I was the witness.”

I, always alone, alone, was the witness. No wonder I’m stressed. And as I sobbed, I said, “Your love was golden.” And as my mother’s favorite poet, Robert Frost said, “Nothing gold can stay.”

Do You Want Sprinkles With That?

27 Sep

skylightGiven the opportunity to speak, yesterday, after many years of ill translation, deaf ears, and plenty of dampening, my heart had two things to say. The first was an inquiry that appeared sweetly beneath heaving chest: “Why don’t you give me things?” And through my head, of all things, ran images of the corner deli near my apartment, and a pint of my favorite ice cream, which I absolute forbid myself to buy on any occasion. Somewhere along the line, after a lifetime of wistful sensitivity around seeing people eating ice cream alone (an affliction I share with my brother, and probably 35 percent of the people to whom I try to explain this sensation), I determined that purchasing and eating ice cream alone is absolutely the most abominable of all possible manifestations of self-pity.

But do you know what it is? It’s self-care. Yadda, yadda moderation, etc. But let me explain. Yesterday, I saw the look of supreme pleasure and engagement on the face of a father as he watched his daughter eat her cute, little after-school snack on a table outside a grocer on Classon Avenue. In the split second of my glance while I passed, I sensed how enamored he was of her, and how much he thrilled in her every joy. She was telling him a story, and mostly oblivious to how he was doting on her, the way kids are (except they aren’t, they really are absorbing this sensation, and its absence would be keenly felt), and he had this placid smile on his face while she divided her attention between her snack and her narrative. He was, and is, so in love with her. And hopefully she will be able to carry the safety and comfort of that feeling with her throughout her life.

In that split second of recognition, I remembered how it felt to sit with my mother and brother when we had something to eat after school or one of the countless extra-curricular activities which she selflessly researched and shuttled us to and from. She would actually, completely, and utterly fawn over us while we ate. And I didn’t remember how that felt until I saw that man doting on his daughter yesterday.

In the last few years of my mother’s life, I had grown to resent her, experiencing her love as that of a greedy and demanding soul who was never sated. But now that she is gone, and now I have put myself through the paces of helplessly feeling deeply for people who are unavailable to me, and more so, now that I am past the age she was when she left my father and took my brother and I somewhere safe, I suddenly see parents everywhere much differently. The way they look at their children is positively, absolutely, gorgeous. When no one is looking, and it’s just another average moment, their eyes are filled with pure love.

So my heart, given the opportunity to speak during my craniosacral massage session (hope for chronic headache cure #2,728), kinda said, “Hey, remember how when you used to ask for things, need things, and there was that nice lady who brought them to you, no questions asked? Can you do a little bit of that for yourself?”

Gotcha, heart. For sure. Let’s grocery shop for the actual human inside me instead of the checklist, and hey, when you want to stay cozy under a blanket and watch a movie, I’m not going to yell at you to do the dishes, practice piano, or work on your resume. How about you lie on the sofa and I’ll take care of you like your mom used to, and I’ll give you some huge amount of sympathy for how awful it must feel to have lost that this summer. No one ever tells you that grief is physical. No one ever tells you.

Anyway, so that request delivered, and my heart wary of how much time I’d give it to speak, it blurted out, “I miss people.” I immediately dismissed it. Yeah, yeah, you miss people. Come on, you’re never alone! You’re never alone. You have a million friends and you life in New York City, where the guy at the deli will banter with you in a fix.

But then my craniosacral massage therapist genius practitioner (seriously, people, I will have to link to her page, because she saves lives) provided some translation. “So your heart wants some intimacy.”

Ohhhhhhh, yeah, that. That that. And my mind flipped through a series of index cards pertaining to this matter:
• You’ve been dating emotionally unavailable men ever since your mom was diagnosed four years ago
• Your soulmate in Salt Lake City reminded you recently that you formed an intimate relationship (however complex it was) with your mother while you were living in Texas for her final year, and now that intimate relationship is gone
• Last week, your craniosacral massage genius pointed out that your heart has been protected throughout this long and painful process, and it will open very gradually if you take care of it and let it know it’s safe (I actually told her that I picture my heart surround by orange safety cones that form a safe perimeter around it)

No wonder my head hurts. All the time.

My heart is more broken than it has ever been, or will ever be. I have lost the person who brought me into this world, and who prized my every movement and thought within it. While I doubted the quality of her affection, and told myself she didn’t understand me at all, it never mattered. It doesn’t matter. She had a picture of me that was so beautiful, and her feelings for me were founded in something I will only ever see in the countenance of other parents.

When I practice heart meditation, I always see a very pure white light, and when I first experienced that years ago, I started weeping, because Soul Mate in SLC once told me that my heart emanates a brilliant white light of goodness, and he reminds me of this fact constantly. Yesterday, with the aid of my craniosacral guide, I finally saw that brilliant white light again, and that’s how this whole conversation with my heart began. She had just said, “Okay, little heart, you have center stage, what do you want to say?” And then when I saw the light, she said, “Oh, not such a little heart. Big heart.”

That’s me. That’s me. I have a huge, huge heart and I constantly crunch it down and give myself headaches when I sense that it’s knocking someone over with the power of its enthusiasm. So, dear heart, I will buy you ice cream, and I will give you intimacy with the people who are capable of sharing that with me now, but maybe the dearest form of intimacy will take a while to find, because ohhhhh my heart needs some healing from the loss of the source of constant affection in my life. But, like CranioGenius said, “If people are afraid of your huge heart, it says something about their own approach to life. The right man will not be afraid of your huge heart.”

☽ Of Wildest Heart

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