Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.
~ TS Eliot; Little Gidding

Lately, I have met many women aged 40 to 50 who are suffering from hairshirt syndrome. This is a condition where life becomes so unbearable that you simply want to rip it off and stuff it in the garbage.

These women are not suicidal. Menopausal? Perhaps. They tend to have children, too many, though they do not live out of a shoe. In fact, they are often emotionally and financially autonomous and they usually work out too. But they're still bored. And how they suffer! The slightest glitch in their lives causes them unbearable distress. Their husbands, if they still have them, get the brunt of their dissatisfaction because they are desperate to pin the blame somewhere.

Why? Why are they so angry? And what is the cure?

Toni Packer suggests in this article that anger comes from not getting what you want and that you can pull the plug on that “deep reservoir of rage” by bringing attention to the stories fueling the belief that you've been wrongfully victimized.

But if you reach down deeper still, beyond the story and into the more diffuse negative energy underneath, you touch into disappointment. You'd been spurred on by the belief in a happy ending but now you see that imperfection is one of Life's inexhaustible resources and you're surrounded by unmet expectations. You thought you'd get out what you put in, but you got karma, not justice. And in the process your faith got mangled like your gnarly middle-aged hands, and your good nature's become like a latex glove to which you've developed an allergy. Your own skin has become a constant source of irritation.

Stop fighting and make room. Make room for it all. A Zen koan goes "When cold, be thoroughly cold; when hot, be hot through and through” (Tozan). Some versions say: be so hot/so cold that it kills you. Be like a snake shedding its skin. Let it die so Life can renew you.


  1. perhaps I am getting the wrong intent of your post, but I believe women of a certain age have finally realized that they have sacrificed for their children, their"men" and their careers for far too many years and it is time they start getting the "good stuff", time to stop settling for the "burnt toast". Guilt causes us to have difficulty shedding the skin. I believe you are right, "be hot, be hot through and through". Well that could definitely be menopause!! Pauline


Post a Comment

Popular Posts