Wednesday, June 3, 2009

High Five

Dreams I had the other night left me lingering in bed Tuesday morning. As I reviewed them, I enjoyed new favorite way to wake up, which is to breathe slowly and somewhat deeply through my schnoz.

The return of my nose has been bittersweet. It is both a joy and a disgrace to digest how long I have ignored my lack of smell. In my defense, it was a subtle process of slow erosion that withered my sense until one day it was more gone than there. While it has never been okay that I couldn’t use my nose properly, it more disturbing to realize I just stopped using it. I now think of it as something I let die or flounder as not being important enough to fix. Such is how I deal with medicinal interactions in my life: I wait to see if the problem will go away. Ailments fester in the background until they are so out of whack that they demand attention. I finally decided to do something about my nose because I realized I could endanger myself by not smelling things. This was after letting myself get to an almost handicapped-like status.

How could I do that to myself and my senses? It was unfair to my senses, who had to pick up the buck for lost sensing happening in the schnozal region. Reconnecting with my nose now makes me more aware of all my senses. I have just not been paying attention all these years. I have been on autopilot floating through the days. It is an awareness I have come to lately and I would be a fool not to acknowledge that one discovery was a byproduct of the other but I can’t say which came first. Definitely the experiences were a bit symbiotic but I think the day I realized I couldn’t smell gas in the house and thus needed to do something about the problem was the day I decided to take action on my nose. It was synchronistic that almost a month later (days before my allergy appointment) D came into the house as I was cooking and said it smelled like gas. I didn’t smell anything but told him that was precisely why I had finally decided to do something about my nose.

At National Jewish, I almost cried when the woman told me they would do a test to see if my vocal chords were damaged and, if so, how much. D always says to me, “I wonder how your voice would sound if your nose was fixed?” I always thought he was over-thinking the problem. During that grand appointment of allergy, etc., I downplayed my lung capacity and breathing as well. After tests the doctor said sometimes patient’s perceptions were off because they were used to the impairment. One more slap to wake me up although I still disagree with how much medication they prescribed.

After that, my realizations about living on autopilot and not taking my time to experience and taste life have come around in waves. This time though, I have my sense reminding me to pay attention. Sitting here now I realize how “itchy” my ears are and how stuffed they feel. I feel my throat and my vocal chords and after two weeks of rinsing out my nose, smell slowly is returning to my existence. I sense what I have been missing out on for a good three years definitely but if I was being honest it would probably be more like six. Six years spent with no real acknowledgement of smell; not even a whole-hearted try most of the time; just a write-off of a sense I rarely used anyway.

Then one day I realize I forgot to pack my sense of smell. I don’t’ blame smell for being mad at me. I’m trying to regrow the friendship. It’s going to take sometime and probably will never be the same but I will enjoy and relish what I can get.

Five senses and I default to sight and touch to navigate my way through life. They bring me the most joy and comfort. But then there is sound and taste and smell - interesting to think about how all three are in the same region and interwoven together. It makes me want to read A Natural History of the Senses again.

With my new found realization of the senses, I wonder if memory is not tied more directly to my use of the senses and the act of being present. I come across smells in the day and literally think to myself, “that smells like something” and then pick through my memory of things I know and match together what I am experiencing. It is a process I find myself being extremely present in because I haven’t participated in said process for a while. It is like a game of memory, turning over cards and trying to find the location of the other matching picture.

I was taking a walk in the neighborhood last night. We were almost home when we passed a house and the smell of watermelon floated to my nose. More specifically it was the smell of watermelon seeds. It was so indicative of summer and gently implored memories of barbeques and seed spitting. With that smell, I always return to Southglenn Country Club and the 4th of July activities, where they would grease up a watermelon and have kids try to get it from one end of the pool to the other. Afterwards they would wipe it off and cut it into pieces. We would have impromptu seed spitting contests in the grass. That is my biggest watermelon memory. They smell brought me back to it and it was a high point of the day. It was a simple joy, like a picked flower, that I hold on to now.

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