In Answer to, “How Are You?”

The headaches begin with a tightness. It’s like a shadow, looming just to the side. I can feel a tingling behind my eyes, at my temples, a scratchy sensation at the back of my head. It’s similar to when you sense someone’s looking at you before turning to meet their eyes. This is when I pull out the ice pack, the neck pillow, rub tiger balm onto my forehead and temples and turn the lights down. Waiting. Waiting. Will it get worse or can I ward it off? I breathe in slow rhythmic breaths. I center my energy and try to relax. I lean into the pain. I try to find its center and breathe into it.

Two days ago I had four or five hours without any pain at all. Amazing! It was a beautiful few hours. I couldn’t believe I’d spent most of my life without pain. Without headaches. Without fear of when or if, just living my life. Pain is like that. Suddenly it’s here and if it lingers or worsens we do our best to adapt and adjust while trying to find the source. Was it something I ate, drank or didn’t eat or drink? Am I feeling more stress than usual? I turn to google: “what to do when one gets a headache?” “What’s the difference between a migraine and a headache.” I read up on the various horrors that may or, usually, may not await. Meditation, medication, massage, acupuncture, get my vision checked, go to the doctor, check, check, check, and on the “to do” list.

Meanwhile life goes on. Right now the pain isn’t bad. It’s a 1 on a scale of 1-10. A few days ago it was at a 7 or even 8. We’re not supposed to talk about this publicly. We’re supposed to be stoic. We’re supposed to remain silent. Expressing this sort of thing is a sign of weakness. We can’t let anyone know. It shows we’re vulnerable. So we say nothing. People casually ask “how are you?” We’re just being polite, we don’t really expect the truth. If we answered truthfully that question might not get asked so casually. So we say, “I’m fine. Thanks so much for asking. How are you?” Politeness wins out and we have done our part to maintain the fragile equilibrium of societal niceties.

There is something unseemly about writing about this. Particularly as the pain is slight and manageable right now. And anyway I don’t want people to worry. It’s probably nothing. Headaches are like that, they evidently can come in clusters and it’s often finding a way to break the cycle that does the trick. I’m sure I’ll be fine. Still I will call my doctor and get a vision test today.

That’s how I am today. How are you?