Lungs & The Compass

“Your lungs are your Achilles heel. Or one of them.”

The message was from a friend. We had been discussing my current bronchitis, history of asthma, two bouts of Covid.

I give myself credit for surviving a Covid close call. It happened while staying with a friend in Florida who had a false-negative case. It nearly got me, but I fled as I felt myself begin to succumb and outran it.

Even so, the Achilles heel comment is accurate. My friend is right.

Trent was barrel-chested, a chest built from childhood. His response to an unsafe home was to make himself seem bigger than he was, puff out his chest, look strong.

I chose the opposite route, shrinking, pulling my shoulders down and inward, shrinking the space for my lungs.

Since last Spring, I’ve made changes to get healthier. Changed what and how I ate. Changed how much exercise I get, and how often I’m outside. These changes address the Body dimension of my compass.

A line drawing of a circle with four arrows coming from it, in the four directions of the compass, with subheads: Spirit-Spiritually Aligned, Body-Physically Energized, Mind-Mentally Focused, Soul-Emotionally Connected

The constant cough and hack of bronchitis got me thinking about the compass and my lungs. Was there something I could do from the Mind, Spirit, or Soul dimensions? Could I add something to everything I was doing for the body dimension (hot baths, steam bowls, herbal tea, and—after a visit to urgent care—two inhalers)?

What about an affirmation?

The words rushed to mind:

“I have a right to take up space on the planet because I am.”

I stopped. I knew those words that came so quickly. They were uncomfortably familiar.

When I was a teenager, about a half dozen times (which was about as often as I saw him), my father would meet me in the foyer as I came down the stairs, his face hard. He waited until I got to the bottom. He was only a foot taller than me, but it felt like twenty. His voice boomed.

“How do you justify your existence? What right do you have to take up space on the planet?”

Every time, I froze. Never had an answer. Ultimately convinced myself that maybe there wasn’t a reason.

Four decades later, after a surgery took my thyroid and forced me to look in the mirror, I gathered the courage to call him, to answer his question.

“I have a right to take up space on the planet because I am.”

I said those words to him once. He was dead less than a year later. But in the slump of my shoulders and collapsed chest, I tell myself not my words to him, but his words to me. So I remind myself,

“I have a right to take up space on the planet because I am.”

The hot tea and hot baths and rest and inhalers are healing my body. But these words, said with my arms triumphantly overhead, are healing my mind, spirit, and soul.

It feels good.

In every dimension.

PS: It makes me smile every time I get to the “because I am” part. Such a simple reason. Nothing to do to earn it. Nothing to do to lose it. It’s like a free ticket for one space on the planet. “Because I am.”

Chewing the Cud of Good

Thankful for the UC students this year. They were a delight.



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