How I Died On My 39th Birthday

Suffice it to say, it wasn’t the first time, nor apparently the last.

My mother’s frequent lamentations, when I was a toddler, that her life would have turned out fine if she’d avoided 1939, the year of my conception and birth, possibly led my brain to the certainty that I will die on or perhaps, shortly following my 39th birthday. Our brains might make this connection logical when we are that young and new to language.

Fate decided that on my 39th birthday, I was in a large hotel room that Stewart Emory and Associates had rented at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco with twenty nine other  volunteer “communicators” who assisted with enrolling participants in Stewart’s and Carol Augustus’ Actualizations workshop.

It was about 8pm and having returned from eating dinner together in Chinatown, we were seated in a big circle on the carpeted floor of our meeting room when I began to experience scotoma, vibrant, vibrating visual effects produced by constriction of capillaries that feed the retina, a common symptom at the onset of a migraine headache. The scotoma partially blinded me and I knew this would be followed shortly by excruciating pain and nausea. Anticipating this angered me.

What Scotoma May Look Like
What Scotoma May Look Like


I was enraged to have to be interrupted once again by this phenomenon. Without thinking, acting with tearful emotion, I stood up and surprised everyone and myself by declaring, “All my life I thought I was going to die at the age of 39! Today is my 39th birthday and now I’m practically blinded by a migraine!”

Stewart looked horrified, Carol looked like she expected me to jump through a window or drop dead, in any case leaving them with a liability lawsuit.

Instead, I said, “I don’t care whether or not I live through this year. I will not be deterred  by one more damn migraine headache!” I sat down again.

Someone beside me offered an aspirin and suggested I should lie down. “Did you not hear me! No! Just, continue. Please!” They did and I did and ever since, though I still get migraines starting with colorful scotoma, I never again experienced the pain that follows them. Isn’t that interesting? However…

I didn’t understand, when I gave up the pain of migraines, that to do this, a lot more was also set-aside. I didn’t know that to turn off the pain of migraines I had to exclude a class of memories: all extreme pain, including psychic pain, that pain associated with fear of loss of self and of self-esteem.

In fact, I had surrendered an enormous part of myself. It was in this way, like a death…

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