The Aspen Princess: Letting go of the pain |

The Aspen Princess: Letting go of the pain

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

Eileen holds my feet and takes deep breaths, sometimes blowing on the exhale as I lie on the massage table and cry.

I was starting to worry that I might be slipping into a depression. No matter what I did to try to pull myself out of my grief, distract myself, plan activities and trips to cheer me up, I still felt something more than sadness. It was as if I had somehow lost my bearings and was lost, reaching for something that was no longer there, the Earth tilted on its axis.

I also was concerned because I’m at an age when my hormones are tenuous to say the least. Depression also runs in my family. I’ve had my own struggles with anxiety and depression in the past but have been on somewhat of a happiness bender since my son was born. Everything felt in perfect balance; our little family was complete.

I thought about seeing my dear therapist, whom I adore and would love an excuse to sit with for an hour, but what could he say? Grief is grief. I’m going to feel sad for as long as it takes to process.

Still, when I woke up in tears after a dream that Gertie had come back to life and saw the look of concern in my husband’s face, I knew I had to do something.

I had contacted Eileen shortly after Gertie’s passing, but she was out of town. When she returned a few weeks late, her office contacted me for an appointment. I had started a 10-day detox program with my friend Lisa Cohen as I am a huge believer in nutritional medicine and will often turn first to my gut — literally — when I want to find some kind of relief or regain control over my health. I love working with Lisa because in her programs you cook all your own food and prepare your own detox drinks and smoothies, so it’s a lot more empowering (and genuine) than most of these programs that require buying hundreds of dollars of product for companies that are run on multi-level marketing platforms, which essentially means everyone who’s buying is also encouraged to sell. It’s hard for me to get past that.

I had already completed a three-day liquid cleanse, drinking concoctions with ingredients like apple cider vinegar, turmeric and cayenne. I was feeling a little bit better, going to yoga whenever I could and trying to get outside to clear my head.

When Eileen’s office called, I was feeling better but figured I would go in anyway. I have friends who have worked with her and I was curious about it.

I walked in and immediately burst into tears. She took me into the back room and started with a gentle adjustment, using one of those activator things instead of the manual technique many chiropractors use. I like both, but this felt right for the day because it was gentle. I had been holding a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders and lower back, so she alleviated that somewhat, and it was a good place to start.

Then it was onto the massage table in a quiet, dimly lit room with relaxing spa music. As soon as she began our session, the tears rolled down my cheeks and into my ears, wetting my hair. Why could I not get a grip on these emotions? As Eileen spoke, chanting gentle prayers and telling me things that would ultimately change my perspective immeasurably, I heard her voice quiver a little and her nose sniffle and I realized she was crying, too. You can’t fake that, I thought.

Let me pause here to tell you I was raised by the two people who could not be less spiritual or less sentimental if they tried. My mom is the more cynical of the two. I think my dad has the potential to be spiritual, and probably should be considering how many near-death experiences he’s had. But my mom, not so much.

“Oy vey,” she crowed when I began telling her about my session with Eileen. “For Christ’s sake.”

“Never mind, forget it. I’m not even going to tell you another word,” I huffed. “You’re going to ruin it.”

There’s nothing unusual about this type of mother-daughter banter, I just know better. It’s no big deal; it’s just one of those agree-to-disagree things.

Listen, topics like “what happens when you die” can ruin friendships, cause fights at family gatherings and even start wars. Stephen Colbert recently posed the question to Keanu Reeves on his show and Reeves coolly replied, “I think the people who love us miss us.”

Eileen told me things that under almost any other circumstance, I’d find hard to believe. But all I can tell you is she was able to translate what I was feeling into a language I could understand. Maybe it’s one of those things where someone tells you what you need to hear, or you hear what you need to hear so you adapt the meaning to fit your perception, but I don’t think so. I will not accept that we are all there is. It seems ignorant, and arrogant.

Some of what she said was practical, like using visualization techniques to let go of my pain. She had me assign a color to it, and I chose fuschia. She told me to imagine a white rose vacuuming up that color. She said it’s important that we learn from our pain, but that there is a time when we can also let it go. As I imagined this, I felt the tension in my chest subside, then experienced a sense of calm, then a warm sensation, and then a lightness.

For Mother’s Day, Ryan bought me roses that were white and tipped with fuschia. As I’ve watched those roses bloom, I’ve felt my heart open, too.

The Princess is probably tripping on account of not eating enough. Email your love to