Friday, January 15, 2010

Couch Confessions

Picture, if you will dear readers, a quiet evening at home in a cozy, downtown New York apartment. A cup of tea, maybe, and the faint scent of a home-cooked dinner still lingering in the air. Imagine a young woman, sleepily lounging on the sofa, a book open in her lap and a contented shorkie puppy nuzzled close to her curled up legs, as nearby her mother sits working the New York Times crossword. Enchanted by this comfortable scene and the knowledge that his favorite people are close at hand (er, make that paw), the shorkie lifts his muppet-like head and gives the puppy equivalent of a smile. He resettles himself, laying his head carefully across the young woman's feet, and gives a deep, long, and rather loud sigh . . .

. . . at which point he is promptly kicked off the couch.

Okay, look, I know what you're thinking. This is bad. I mean seriously, what kind of dog owner kicks her sweet, adorable, loving puppy off of the couch for something as innocent as a sigh? Surely there aren't actually people out there cruel enough to pull a stunt like that, and if there are then such people are most likely out lurking in dark alleys and searching for small kittens to torture, not sitting at home drinking chamomile tea and reading David Sedaris. (Actually, on second thought, such people probably do read David Sedaris, most likely in unhealthily large quantities. But I'm sure they do it in far less idyllic settings.) In short, I'm sure most of you find the idea of interrupting a dog's sleep and forcing him from his comfy nest because of a simple sigh to be a pretty disgusting turn of events, as well you should. And I assure you, it was.

But in my defense, I happen to have a very low couch. And I didn't really so much kick him off as I did nudge him to the edge with my foot, at which point, sensing he was no longer welcome, Sampson jumped off of his own volition. He certainly wasn't hurt, and he frankly didn't seem all that sad. In fact, he seemed angry, and for good reason. He favored me with rather scornful look (punctuated by a derisive snort most often reserved for the rare occasions when he finds his water bowl empty or is denied a treat before bedtime -- universal shorkie code for "you should be ashamed of yourself"), and promptly stalked off to greener pastures (i.e., the warm spot near my window heaters). I, on the other hand, was left on the couch, fully aware of the ridiculousness of my actions and forced, at last, to face what has become an undeniable, if slightly disturbing, truth:

I have lung envy.

Okay, if I'm honest, I'd have to admit that this isn't really a new development. For years I have watched with awe as my friends performed simple, everyday actions like laughing, climbing stairs, yawning, and yes, sighing with what seemed to me to be an almost ridiculous lack of effort. "Is laughing even fun when you get to do it without thinking?" I wondered, marveling at the force of their eruptions and waiting in vain for the coughing fit I felt sure they would eventually experience. "Where's the sense of triumph?" I asked again, as a friend blew out all 26 flaming candles on her cake without so much as a hint of exertion. "Surely these people are missing the true meaning of climbing this hill," I consoled myself through gritted teeth as the rest of the group tromped ahead to the concert venue, assuring me that they would save seats as they gallantly pulled the heavy picnic basket out of my grasp as though it were nothing. And so I continued up the steep incline, slowly making my way toward my friends' fading voices, periodically stopping to appreciate the beautiful Colorado mountains in the distance and the lovely wild flowers -- before I was forced to spit among their blooms. True meaning, indeed.

It's only been recently, though, that I've actually found myself jealous of other people's lungs. The other day, for example, I caught myself staring at a young child who was throwing a tantrum. Not just looking over with a shake of my head and a sympathetic glance at the exhausted mother, mind you, but full-on, open-mouthed staring for a good minute or so. This was not because I disapproved of the child's behavior; it was the sheer intensity of his screams and wails that caught my attention. Because seriously, how does a boy of five, who probably weighs 50 pounds soaking wet, manage to sustain a perfect exhalation for well over 30 seconds? And so I stood, eyes wide in sheer admiration for this behaviorally challenged but perfectly healthy little boy, until the faint hiss of my O2 tank brought me back to reality.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm obviously not saying that I want everyone else to have lung disease, too. I would, of course, prefer that nobody have lung disease, even if it means the world will have to put up with a few more wailing toddlers (or, worse yet, wailing adults, because I have to admit that I've been to a few karaoke bars where, after an hour or two, the idea of widespread lung damage doesn't seem like such a horrible thing). And most of the time I'm able to keep my envy in check, at least to the point where I can appreciate the long sighs and giggles of others and hope that one day soon I can join in the chorus. Without coughing, of course.

In the meantime, though, I guess I owe my puppy (and his beautiful, healthy lungs) an apology. Don't worry -- I made it up to him with an extra long belly rub, during which he decided to press his luck and let out several sighs and snorts of varying intensity. He even punctuated his performance by sneezing on my hand, which I guess he thought was a fitting revenge for earlier events. But I took it all with good humor, and held tight to an image of Sammy and I together again on the couch, sighing in perfect unison as we contemplate the beauty of a perfect New York evening with perfect lungs.


  1. You put into perfect words how I feel from time to time. I also envy those who are able to run without so much as a single gasp or coughing fit, or those who can run up flights of stairs only breaking a little sweat. Any of those activities leaves me gasping, running I don't even do as my lungs have a hard time keeping up with the demands that running would put on them. I honestly can't even remember how it felt to be able to swim miles or to run on a whim and without thinking about breathing.
    I can feel that those new beautiful lungs will be inside you soon Piper and you will be able to finally breathe effortless and do all of the things that you dream of doing.
    Hugs from another cyster on the couch...

  2. I just had a conversation similar to this with my husband, though it was about eating. "What is it like to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, without a thought?" I aksed. He, of course, had no answer, because for him, that's always the way it's been. And the opposite is true for me as well. Never a time I didn't have to eat something (enzymes) before I ate something (meals)....I like to think it makes me more mindful of every bite. :)

  3. This is a great piece of writing. I get jealous that people can cry so easily. Why does it have to be hard to cry?! Much love

  4. I have lung envy tooo! At least, now I know what to call it! And I also have a therapist, and you are also the brown haired me! :) or me the blonde you.

  5. i love this post. i think had lung envy before too.... not of my dog, haha, but lung envy nonetheless.

    beautifully written...

  6. I love your blog. We are sitting in the hospital at UAB (Children's Hospital). I read some aloud, and Dan and I burst into peels of laughter. Thanks so much for your humor and your candor.
    Love and Light,
    Christy(Danielle and Sarah's- CFers Mom)

  7. I get lung envy too and I'm not even listed yet!!!! AHHHHH LOL

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  9. I get lung envy too! Last weekend at the dog park, a lady ran by me as I shuffled along. On the back of her jacket was written, 'Love Your Lungs.' I turned to my husband and said that I loved HER lungs too.

  10. Hello Piper :) I discovered you through Leah Boren's blog - and immediately am hooked. I have a question - would you mind if I used an excerpt from this post to put on my step-son's facebook page? I would give you all the credit of course, but want to show the people that follow him a CF perspective that quite frankly - we non-CF'ers just don't get - even though we try. I think the way you wrote about lung envy was very pointed - and fun too. No worries if you would rather not, but I thought I would ask.