When I was a small child I used to lie in my bed every morning and take really deep breaths into my lungs and then slowly release the air back into the world. Sometimes I would look out my windows and try to create a world in the tree branches visible from my windows, while I continued my breathing exercises. Other times I simply enjoyed the feeling of breathing in an out without care or worry. I often wonder if my younger self enjoyed these exercises because she had foresight into my future…?
This past month, I convinced my doctor the time had come to find a new medication, to help keep wheezing to a minimum whenever I try to breathe. You see, every morning as I laid in bed, breathing had become increasingly more difficult-I could hardly take a good breath without ensuring a coughing fit to follow.
Most of this is my own damn fault.
Over the fifty years of my life, I developed asthma-not because I had a predisposition to the disease, but rather because I willingly took smoke deep into my lungs-several times a day-for several years. I loved Marlboro Light cigarettes–the taste, the smell. Even after I quit smoking I used to attend parties and invite smokers to blow their smoke directly into my face so I could absorb that old familiar smell and feelings, smoking used to give me.
I began smoking in grade school-not continuously, a hit off one here, a half of one there, etc. Doing so was easy because my dad was a smoker; I had an unlimited supply of cigarettes to sneak. In addition, everyone smoked back then-parents, teachers, older siblings. Smoking was a rite of passage, if you will and I didn’t want to be left out. I didn’t begin smoking seriously until my senior year of high school. By then most of my friends smoked and I had been taught how to inhale the smoke deep into my lungs, essentially inviting asthma to become a part of my life from that moment on.
I remember people concerned for my well being telling me how smoking would lead to my death. My standard stock answer back then was, “Well you have to die from something…” We even began referring to our cigarettes as “cancer sticks” yet were undeterred. By the time I finally did quit, I was a 2-pack a day smoker. That meant I went through 48 cigarettes in a day or 2 per hour per day.
I bring this up today because of a conversation the doll and I were having the other night. She watched me suffer through a coughing fit-water went down the wrong pipe-and handed me my emergency inhaler as a precaution. Once my breathing was back under control I said to her “This is a direct effect of smoking cigarettes. Please don’t ever smoke…it’s not worth it”. Looking at me as if I’d lost my mind for even including her in the conversation she said, “Why would I? Mom I can’t even stand wood smoke smell…I would never do that.” “Because doll things change as you get older. Peer pressure builds and sometimes you do things you never ever thought you would do….just to fit in”. I explained. “Mom, that’s not me”.
Taking a moment to respond I said, “Have you ever heard the expression hindsight is 20/20?” Shaking her head “no” I replied. “Hindsight is the ability to look back at something and realize you were wrong-even though it felt right while you were doing it..” I stopped to see if she understood what I meant. “Oh you mean like when Julie took our text fight and posted it on Instagram, but thought better of it and took it down?” “Wait, what?” I began but decided that was something to pursue at a later date. “Yes, something like that. Anyway, I wish when I was your age I hadn’t been in such a hurry to grow up. Perhaps I wouldn’t have sneaked my dad’s cigarettes…and gotten hooked on them. I wish I had had the foresight to know better then”.
“I wish I knew then what I know now…and listened when others tried to warn me” I left unsaid-for fear the thought would have the opposite effect of what I was trying to convey.
The doll turned her head and asked, “Grandpa used to smoke?” “Yes he did..and so did all of your aunts and uncles-on my side of the family; at one time or another. But I digress. There will be times when you’re going to feel pressured to do something-because “all the kids are doing it” and I’m telling you…while it may be fun at the time, there are always consequences. My consequence to smoking cigarettes all those years ago, was developing asthma which will likely lead to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). You know I used to tell people, “I have to die from something” when asked why I smoked. Talk about a dumb answer. I mean seriously, wouldn’t you rather die a nice peaceful-in your sleep kind of death rather than a long drawn out inability to breathe kind of death? Just totally dumb and stupid on my part.
Tired of this conversation she nodded her head and then left the room…
Hopefully understanding the full scope of my hard learned wisdom.