Breathing In The Air

I’ve been wanting to write this for months, but I have hesitated, because I feel alone in my experience.

Either/or thinking is killing me–maybe literally.

At the start of the pandemic I had a lot of trouble wearing a mask. No surprise there–I am missing most of my right lung. Having trouble breathing is usual for me. I can’t take a brisk walk without stopping occasionally to gasp.

And so for a while my “system” was to wear a mask, dash in somewhere to do an errand, dash out, hyperventilate, almost black-out and come to panting in my car, grateful I hadn’t hit the steering wheel.

I received a fair amount of advice:

Just wear a mask to protect others. (Which I was doing).

Stay home (This is a difficult–enraging–thing to hear if you are disabled. The time of being forced out of public space is over, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act. When everyone stays home, I do too, but I want parity in my access).

Get a health dispensation (Which no doctor will give and which creates an appearance of disregarding others. Here in the wild west I have no desire to draw negative attention or enrage strangers.)

Then, a wonderful friend who was once a pulmonary therapist gave me some very useful breathing exercises. And my osteopath started working on my thorax. And I went back to an old practice I had neglected of forcing air into the mostly dead lung.

The upshot–I can manage much better now. However, in general I’m appalled at how little we as a society seem to care about dwelling in gray areas. About improving situations rather than labeling them. About how advice seems to be either “safety first at the cost of living life itself or mental health” or “I do exactly what I please without concern for either my own body or the well-being of others.” Is there nothing in-between?

My entire life experience mitigates against either/or thinking. If I’d believed that as a woman I could have either writing or family I would have truly suffered. If I’d believed a person with one lung shouldn’t frequently set out on a beautiful trail–and yes, then have to turn around in under an hour–then I’d have missed things I truly wanted.

If I’d believed that authority–the president, the police, my parents–would save me…well, I hardly have to say it.

I won’t oversimplify life, not even for the sake of my fears–or my aspirations.

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

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