Posts Tagged ‘mortality’

Be Here Now

December 16, 2007

I had a CF check up last week. The recent weather and allergies have left me with horrible sinus troubles, which in turn mean crackly, gunky lungs. I haven’t been feeling all that sick, so it was a little disconcerting to learn that my lung function was down from my previous visit. I was thinking about this today when it occurred to me that I don’t know what a person with 45% lung capacity is supposed to be able to do or not do. I thought about researching it, but then thought better. I could worry about this, but I won’t. I decided that I’d just keep doing what I was doing, which at the time was vacuuming the house.

“Be here now.” It’s an useful yoga mantra, as I breath (or wheeze) in and out through downward facing dogs and cobra poses. “Be here now,” which in an alternative translation could be “keep doing what I’m doing” is also a life philosophy that I aspire to.

Mortality can hit you like Road Runner dropping an anvil on Wiley Coyote’s head. For someone living with a chronic illness however, I’m not sure that the bar between life and death are ever fully out of sight. I like to think about my sense of mortality, which sometimes sits like a monkey on my back, as a blessing. The existential questions, and any insight I might have into them, provide an undercurrent in how I go about my life. But, when I breathe and repeat, “Be here now,” it’s not about cherishing every moment or doing all the things I’ve been putting off in the rush to the finish line. It’s actually about letting go of all of that.

Other people’s ideas about the limitations created by disease can be very powerful, particularly if they are come from “experts.” Too often when someone is diagnosed with a serious illness, they let other people’s expectations define and limit how they respond to the illness. I’m lucky that my pediatric CF doctor and my parents, without sugar coating the situation, never cited CF as a reason I shouldn’t or couldn’t pursue something. Thankfully, they didn’t think about CF that way. They were proponents of my taking ownership of and responsibility for my condition (and, that’s what the doctor called it – “a condition,” not a disease), figuring out for myself my limitations and setting my own boundaries.

As I have gotten older, my boundaries – the edges of what is good for me or what I can physically do – have become more defined. All the same, I get up in the morning, do the breathing treatments and whatnot that make the day’s activities possible; and then go about my business (these days my business is teaching cultural anthropology at a local university). This isn’t always an easy task; I don’t mean to make it sound like it is. But, I am resistant to putting too much time into worrying about the potential restrictions. Worrying about what I should or shouldn’t be able to do as someone with severely compromised lung capacity. I’m more interested in seeing what I can do today – who I can learn something from; who I can teach something to; where can I go; what I can ask my body to do and how it will respond. It’s a lot like putting one foot in front of the other or taking one day at a time. It’s a willingness to walk into the unknown, without forgetting what has already been established. It’s a desire to declare life, to be here now.