Fire in the head

…Like someone took a knife, baby,
Edgy and dull,
And cut a six-inch valley
Through the middle of my skull.
At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet
And a freight train running through the middle of my head…

(Bruce Springsteen)


The migraine is there, waiting for me, this morning, like a puppy, or like Clyde–the large gray cat–who I tend from time to time on Lake Champlain in Burlington.

When I’m with Clyde, I do my best to get up in the morning and pee as stealthily as possible, so that I might start my day in silence, but he always appears–meowing his demands for breakfast–no matter what the hour I rise.

On our last visit together, as I packed my toiletries, I watched as Clyde jumped into the tub and proceeded to stare at the faucet.

I assumed that Clyde was thirsty, but he remained there–still and staring–for a long time.

I sat down at the edge of the tub, and watched Clyde, watch himself.

IMG_1352As a child, I looked at myself in the same way–making faces at the faucet to enjoy the funhouse distortion its curved reflection offered my bath times.

I feel like that reflection now.

Each morning I wake with the expectation of relief, but like Clyde, it’s always there, waiting.

Sometimes the distortion is a meditation.

This week, hot steel slams into my forehead, and it occurs to me that as a child, I understood so much, but had no place to unfold that understanding–so it jammed up inside.

All these years later, under the fire of my own sun sign, revelations crystallize in the heat of my head.

I write:
being female
and then:

I am uncharacteristically weepy, and then alarmingly fiery–releasing  anger, like a genie out of a bottle.

“I’m not sure if I should let it burn or cool it down,” I tell my therapist.

I’ve eliminated chocolate, alcohol, caffeine.
I saw the doctor. The chiropractor.
I’ve written. I’ve cried
But it’s still there.

“Overdetermined,” my therapist says.

I laugh. Recognizing myself. Thinking the word like a tattoo, neon-lit on my forehead; but she was referring to the headache, not me.

Overdetermination occurs when multiple causes determine a single-observed effect at once. Any one of which alone might be enough to account for (“determine”) the effect. That is, there are more causes present than are necessary to cause the effect.

In the philosophy of science, this means that more evidence is available than is necessary to justify a conclusion.

More evidence is available than is necessary to justify a conclusion: Think of all the places we could meditate on that…

Planned Parenthood.
Gender discrimination.
Black lives.
Health care.
The environment.

I don’t understand how a woman dresses in tactical gear, armed with an assault rifle, and kills.

I know it happens in the movies. (Angelina Jolie comes to mind.)

But this real-life mother left her 6 month-old daughter to engage in a shootout in a neighborhood where other mothers and children reside.

Fire in the head is dangerous. And necessary. Knowing when to cool and when to burn is essential.

Knowing that this sentence–this fact–shared in the Times, is a WAKE-THE FUCK-UP-CALL, burns in me:

The attack was the nation’s deadliest mass shooting since the assault on an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., nearly three years ago.

img_1360I watch Clyde nap and look past him to Champlain–to the whitecaps across the great expanse of this lake.

Moment to moment, with each passing cloud, this water speaks to me.

My head is like this, responding to the events of the day, the events of my life, my cloudedness, my fear, my clarity. My fire.

Our fire.


One comment

  1. Sigh… I understand. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with all that is going on in the world. It’s hard not to these days. When I feel this way I have to take a break from media and try to only read/watch positive things… good news. I know it’s all still out there, so many people doing good and amazing things. As for the headaches, the migraines, I’m so sorry. That is torture. One of my closest friends suffered for years and it was awful watching her go through that. I hope you found some relief.


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