“Go run and play.” She said. She always said that. She never understood how impossible that was, running and playing. Even short sprints would leave me breathless. when I was in elementary school, participating in my first field day, I tried running in all the races. I couldn’t finish most of them. When I came back in tears dejected and frustrated, the teachers tried to console me with a participation award. I still have it around here somewhere.
No one, especially not my mother, the “go run and play” voice in my head, ever thought to ask if I was having trouble breathing. Never in my life did anyone ask. I just assumed this was the way everyone felt while running. The feeling of slow asphyxiation, the inability to ever get enough oxygen into the blood.
I remember the time when running became a thing that everyone thought they should do. I listened incredulously to the descriptions of the runner’s high, wondering how anyone could ever get to that state of euphoria while slowly strangling to death. But I was intrigued by the idea, so I bought a pair of running shoes and some sweats, and tried running a few times just to check it out. Could I run long distances, at all? In all the times I’ve tried, I have never made it much further than a hundred yards, no matter what mindset that I started the run with. It simply was not possible for me to run long distances. I was never going to experience the runner’s high.
Bicycling was different. If you do the exercise correctly, bicycling puts you in the prone position. In a prone position you breath easier, and I could ride all day on reasonably flat ground if I needed to. Trying to ride uphill was a near-impossibility though, as I soon found out when I moved away from the flatlands of Kansas as a teenager.
Breathing is key. If you can’t breath well enough, you can’t do any of these things. I never understood this fact when I was younger. I just assumed that everyone faced the pain of their lungs being on fire all the time that they were exercising or competing. I simply wasn’t driven enough. Wasn’t motivated enough. Wasn’t good enough to compete.
That is where interest in competition stopped for me. I knew I couldn’t win, so I decided not to try. No sport that required physical stamina would ever be something I would excel at. That was me as a teenager and a young adult.
When I met the Wife, she infected me with a need for competition that I had never cultivated in myself. We tried playing softball on the team one of my architecture firms maintained. Between dysgraphia causing me to catch balls with my face almost as much as I caught them with my glove, and my restricted lung capacity keeping me from being able to sprint around the bases without needing to stop and catch my breath, I didn’t lead the roster of most valuable players on the team. To say the least.
I had to change allergists a few years back. The allergist that I had been going to retired, and the random choice that I was required to make put me into the hands of an allergy and asthma specialist. He immediately suspected that I had borderline asthma, and confirmed it with testing. Once again my mother’s indoctrination into the cult of Mary Baker Eddy had taken its toll. Had she been curious enough to go talk to doctors about her son’s weird breathing problems, I might have gotten treatment early enough that my lungs would have developed better.
We treated the Son’s borderline asthma when he was a baby. It was breathing the albuterol with him while giving him his treatment that made me wonder if perhaps I had similar problems. I few years later I no longer had to wonder about it. I’d like to officially thank the Church of Christ, Scientist for fucking up my life and the lives of my mother and her siblings and her children. Without their influence, I wouldn’t have had to watch my mother die from a treatable disease, with virtually the last words out of her mouth being “doctor’s don’t know anything.” As it turns out, they seem to know quite a bit.