I arose just before 6 a.m. this morning in excruciating pain, the kind that passes the scale of 10 without a speed bump.
A headache had been hounding me for almost 12 hours when I awoke in the middle of a dream where I was conversing with my mom’s best friend, Lila, who passed almost 30 years ago from an aneurism.
I had forgotten about Lila and it had been years, maybe even decades since my mom and I last spoke of her.
Yet in my dream, Lila’s raspy voice was amazingly clear and our conversation very much alive.
Startled, I began to question if this was a personal message from the universe and if I should head directly to the ER.
Adding to what is more than a mild case of lifetime hypochondria is the fact that I live less than 5 miles from Kirkland, WA, where mounting coronavirus cases continue to be reported.
I began to breathe deeply in through my nose and out through my mouth while silently going through a checklist.
Did Lila die of an aneurism because she didn’t go to the hospital when her head hurt?
Could this be triggered from associated back pain?
Had I eaten anything unusual or possibly allergenic?
Did I drink wine last night? Was I dehydrated?
Would it be responsible for me to get tested for the virus or does that create more exposure and instead opt for self-quarantine?
How much of this pain was literally or figuratively in my head?
As my restlessness and anxiety increased, my husband woke up and said, “What’s wrong sweetheart?” To which I replied, “I want my mom.”
My response surprised even me.
My mom is 77 and I am 53. I live on the West Coast, and she lives in the Midwest.
I’ve spent most of my adult life weaving between acts where I demonstrate she isn’t needed or resent her for showing up in the first place.
Until recently that is, when I’ve magically conjured up a grace card for her and have been searching for a meaning to its unexpected appearance.
The obvious answer is that after 25 years of mothering my own two sons, I am preparing for an empty nest next year when my youngest graduates.
Cognizant of the hours I spend imagining what relationship will look like with my children once they leave our home, I frequently sit in guilt about my own relationship with my mother.
I am also at an age where I’m witnessing close friends lose parents, leaving me with a sentiment of gratitude that I still have one, even if it wasn’t always the parent I wanted to keep.
The older I get the more I reflect on how easy it’s been to romanticize a father who died at the young age of 56 and how difficult it must have been for my mother to lose the love of her life and become a single parent at age 48.
My newfound appreciation for my mother has stretched as far as taking her on a vacation to Palm Springs for an entire week without getting mad at her even once.
More surprising than that was crying, as in sobbing crying, after dropping her off at the airport. Maybe it’s menopause?
Next, I did what any rational 53 year-old woman with a headache would do at six in the morning, I called my mom. When she answered I started the conversation with “tell me the story of how Lila died.”
My mother, in her best story telling voice began to recount in great detail the memory of her best friend’s last day on earth, which included a morning phone call to her mom.
I began to wonder why I never called my mother in the mornings, if hardly ever.
Texting was so much easier and perfect for fulfilling obligation without risking intimacy.
Suddenly she stopped mid-sentence and asked in a shocked voice, “Why are you calling me at 6 a.m. and asking about Lila?”
I told her about my headache, hypochondria, and the latest coronavirus stats.
In her matter of fact teacher-voice she replied, “Remember how grandma sliced potatoes and wrapped them on her head to suck out the poison, but you need to slice them really thin and only use a true cotton very thin kitchen towel like she had, be sure to tie the knot tight.”
I had forgotten how she had a cure for everything that didn’t have to do with modern medicine. I missed her too.
Before I started crying, which would only add to the throbbing pain, I hung up the phone and went downstairs to slice a potato.
I waded through piles of neatly folded towels, until I found a thin cotton one near the bottom of the drawer.
I quietly climbed back into bed, my head wrapped like a wounded soldier, put on a meditation podcast, and miraculously fell back asleep.
I awoke a few hours later with a dissipating headache and recollection that I didn’t have any caffeine the day prior.
Not intentionally, I just had a busy morning and never got around to making a coffee.
I felt an avalanche of relief in knowing that I was no longer in crisis and pride in adding the potato trick to my homeopathic toolkit.
“It worked,” I whispered to my husband, who asked if it was okay to make Mrs. Potato-head jokes now.
Shortly afterwards, as I stood stirring my morning coffee, I recalled a faint memory of my grandmother pouring coffee from a percolator style coffee pot into a brown plastic cup with matching saucer, her homemade biscotti alongside for dunking, and serving it to my mother.
Sometimes, and perhaps especially in these times, it’s okay to just want your mom.
Action: The Upside Challenge for the week is to examine where you’re what would give you the most comfort and to honor that.
We are operating in a moment of time where we are giving grace more freely to others.
In that process, we also can extend an invitation to give grace to ourselves.
Spend time journaling and reflecting on areas where you find your inner critic showing up.
Write a letter to yourself replacing criticism with words of compassion and grace.
The world needs you and your brilliance.