I’ve returned from Europe with an upper respiratory tract infection – the kind that sticks tiny, sharp knives in the chest and throat, where the windpipe sporadically seizes closed, hot-flash-type sweats are on a loop, and one either gags as green gluey gunk attempts to exit on its own, or extricates the stuff from one’s facial cavities with each excruciating wheeze.
I almost wish it made less sense….
When learning about oriental medicine, one is generally told that the lungs are related to grief and sorrow. What is not so well known is the correlation of each organ to the programming of our parents and our issues with them. (Oh-oh…I’m making my mother nervous already…or maybe that’s a projection…. Ah, the joys of “self-awareness”….)
Before this trip, I spent a difficult couple of weeks attempting to help a friend deal with a major health crisis. The hiccoughs occurred when unacknowledged patterns from her (dictatorial, arrogant) father arose and all of her self-defence mechanisms engaged to deny what was happening. After a week, I was unable to not say something when being treated as inferior – I could not continue to just let it go…. Whatever I pointed out was denied, so I tried walking away when it was happening. Either option induced defence mechanisms involving extreme physiological symptoms in my friend, so I ended up having to leave with her feeling abandoned by me, feeding into her belief that she will always be abandoned….
The physical reaction that I had to being belittled by my friend – like being punched in the gut – told me that I was dealing with something old in myself as well. We call these situations to ourselves for just this purpose – what remains to be recognised and released arises to allow this possibility.
Past what I have lived in my lifetime, I know that my parents’ life experience is also encoded in me, and a part of that is my father’s experience as a man of colour in the U.S. and Canadian mid-west. When, as a teenager in the 60s, I asked my parents how they had dealt with racism, my mother replied, “What racism?” and my father said, “I’ll talk to you about it later”. He never did. My father died on June 8, seven years ago.
After the experience with my friend, there was very little turn-around time before travelling to a family reunion, and I was only able to stay there a couple of days before flying back to Montreal for our departure to Europe. Touched and grateful to my mother for letting me stay in the retreat she had set up for my father, and really aware of my father’s presence in spirit, I nonetheless was flooded with sadness while I was there. I now feel it was not only mine….
Within days we were on a tour in Europe. I was aware of feeling intensely alone and “exotic” – there was only one other person of colour in the group of more than 150 North American university alumni…. Comments (not unkind) that singled me out flew fast and furious – not an unfamiliar situation in this lifetime (or many others, for that matter). Those who have studied with me will recall that nuances to the “sorrow and grief” – lung association are feelings of being alone versus a part of a group.
We shared many meals and invigorating discussions with a wonderful couple from NYC who were also somewhat separate from the larger group. “Ephram” is 85 years old and still practising law, and “Adele” is very involved in the U.S. Interior Design Association. As we were travelling on the Glacier Express train through the Alps, Ephram had a crisis that involved his not being able to breathe. I did what I could to be Present to him as the train made an emergency stop and he was rushed to hospital. Most of us felt that we would not see Adele and Ephram again on the trip – some with experience felt that he would not make it to the morning alive. I felt very emotionally connected to them both and was upset for the rest of that day. There were deep sobs lurking that would not rise to the surface – there was no safe place for me to let them go.
That night in semi-dream state, I remember merging with Ephram’s body and saying to him “Breathe with me”…. The next day, they rejoined us at the hotel. I’m not at all sure of the role I played in his condition stabilising (he was still unwell), but as we parted paths, Ephram hugged and thanked me, calling me “the best faith-healer (he’d) ever known”. I thought I had told them I was a teacher….
By this point, I think I must have started having lung symptoms. When we arrived in the U.K. and I realised that I would have the responsibility for both driving (on “the other” side of winding English roads that have 3D space for just one vehicle) and navigation (my partner lost his glasses and is a nervous driver under the best of conditions), I developed a sporadic dry cough. Another emotional state related to the lungs is of feeling unsupported or abandoned, specifically by men, in one’s life.
It was after the opera at Glyndebourne that I realised I was not feeling well at all. With hindsight, I can understand the effect of combining English driving (at night) – and once again finding myself “exotic” – this time we were 2 amongst the full house of 1200 attendees strolling and dining throughout the elegant grounds in formal-wear , who were wearing saris.* The emotions arising had so many layers of experience clinging to them – lifetimes and generations of accumulation. I was aware of them, but more as an observer of this replaying of a well-thumbed script. Ironically… perhaps synchronistically, the opera was Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, which deals with issues of gender, race, power and politics in layered timelines in Roman history.
(*Actually, I do not think it is just not being white and not dressing as others do that inspires people to gawk. I do consciously carry a light in my heart that I believe others recognise – they see their own light through me…)
At the time, I still believed that the symptoms were a lingering result of the food we were served during the tour, especially by the Eastern European kitchen crew on the river cruise, who just don’t get “vegetarian”. Mushrooms stuffed with cheese; baked potatoes stuffed with cheese; eggplant with melted cheese – the variety was endless….
The initial reason for going to England was to visit a dear friend – an elderly gentleman who has had severe health challenges and recently had to have his dog – his anchor to Life – put down. I was grateful that he has been able to find and accept another dog of the same breed – young, house-broken, and as full of Life as puppies can be…. At the end of our visit, my friend clutched at his chest after climbing the stairs, but insisted I should not worry. His son and daughter-in-law do care for him wonderfully well, and I am simply grateful for having been able to see him again.
That night the stabbing pain began in my chest and throat. We were not able to change the flight back from England, so I once again “sucked it up”, drove back to Heathrow, and returned to Montreal late last night.
Antibiotics have been suggested. I think, though, that what’s left of the Laphroaig should put me to sleep long enough for my body to do a lot of the healing necessary.
And when I get back to Heartroot, I’ll cry….