Friday, June 8, 2007

Little Tidbits From Someone Who Knows Jack

And I’m sure you little smarties out there know which Jack I mean (!)

Anyway, I thought I would brighten your cyberspace doorstep by relating yet another one of my adventures resulting in abject humiliation. Keep this in mind at all times: if you ever feel stepped on, abused, misled, ignored --- come on over. I’m here to remind you that there is always someone who’s screwed up WAY worse than you.

No problem. My pleasure.

So, let’s talk about: oxygen. You know, like in breathing.

Biology 101: Your Autonomic Nervous System.

This system takes care of things so you don't have to. I wish I had an Autonomic System to shop, cook and clean...and pair up those damn socks in the laundry, but unfortunately --- unavailable at this time. Your A.N.S. assures your heart beats (varying rates at varying times, but generally anywhere from 70-80 beats per minute), makes sure your eyes blink (around 20 times a minute, unless you are working on a computer or concentrating on something, in which case the number decreases) and makes sure you suck in OXYGEN and blow out CARBON DIOXIDE (at a rate of about 16-18 respirations per minute). There are many, many other things your A.N.S. takes care of, but then we'd have to graduate to Biology 202 and screw that.

Now as an important sidebar to that info I listed above: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. I'm just spitting out generalities. So if you figure out you blink 25 times a minute, please move on immediately and find something else to do.

What I really want to discuss is breathing. You don't think about it much unless you are climbing 4 flights of stairs after a meal consisting of a 12 oz Porterhouse, 2 pound spud with butter, sour cream and salt and a couple of green wisps in a bowl smothered in liquid fat disguised as "salad dressing". As you push your stomach before you while trying to remember what floor of the parking garage your car is, your legs will begin to complain around step 12-ish. By step 15 - 16, you are sweating. By 20 you are gulping air by the bucket fulls, by 25, you're sure you're having a heart attack. By step 30, you are swearing off food and alcohol forever, sacrificing children, parents, pets, your own eternal soul. Oxygen, at this point, is foremost on your is your lack of getting proper exercise. And as you crawl on hands and knees up step number 32, you sadly acknowledge that the simple acts of breathing and getting a little exercise have been totally ignored by you for years.

Now we can go on and on about exercise. I have and will. But for now, let's talk about breathing….and how, as a 40+ year old woman, I found out the hard way that I wasn’t doing it PROPERLY.

Things, as they are wont to do, started out simply enough. I wasn’t feeling well. Not feeling well on my radar always translates into ensuing drama. To save you the gory details, because of my cardiac issues and panic disorder, I ended up on a gurney at 2 am, being taken to my local ER once again by those nice paramedics who know me better than some family members.

I undergo my usual battery of cardiac testing and then Dr. Donald comes in. Dr. Donald and I know each other well. Dr. Donald is wonderful. I love Dr. Donald. I’ve seen him more in the middle of the night than his own wife has. And when I hear him say, “Lara, your heart is fine”, I relax and know I’ll be going home soon.

One night however, Dr. D sat down and held my hand. He looked me right in the eye and said, “Lara, if you are ever uncertain about how you are feeling, I want you to come to the Emergency Room. Always listen to your body. Never leave your health to chance, but Lara, do you breathe? I mean do you know HOW to breathe?”

As my respirations were still about 30, I guessed not. So I began another journey to learn how to breathe, how to relax, how to count breaths, how to monitor that I’m not hyperventilating. I did poorly in the beginning and Dr. Donald and I had several more discussions over the year at 2 am, but I’m getting the hang of it.

Soon, and I think VERY soon, I may be able to give up the little brown paper bag I carry with me to breathe into in case of hyperventilation. I will then lose my “bag lady” designation, but that’s ok. The point is to be healthy. The only down side?

I’ll miss Dr. Donald.

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