This morning I woke with a tickle at the left back-side of my throat, and a vague sense of a lump hanging at the inner end of my left sinus. It’s an odd sensation, because I didn’t know that my nerve endings there were precise enough to distinguish left from right, deep inside my neck. Nonetheless, there it is — an odd sensation signaling a potential infection of some kind, on the left-hand side of my body, starting in the lower back sinuses, perhaps an onrushing bout with the flu or a norovirus intent on making me phlegmy and uncomfortable for days.
Western standard operating procedure in this case is to panic, stay home from work, rest up with lots of tea and toast, and so on — or simply to ignore the sensation in the hopes that it will go away. I’m not sure I’m doing either of those things, actually. First of all, I’m going to work: I’ve done my tai chi for the day, because while I’m aware of this symptom, it’s just one symptom. There’s no fever, no plugged sinuses, no stomach bug, no horrible digestive issues, or any symptom suggesting that this is anything more than the usual mild winter cold.
I used to be phlegmatic. I used to have a sinus infection all the time. I used to be a mouth-breathing dope with a perpetually runny nose. Was tai chi the only thing that cured that? I don’t think so, but even now as I sit and write this — the sickest I’ve been in a year, really — I’m breathing with my mouth shut. It’s an easy breath, not labored, and not so heavy as to suggest that I’m rasping out my last breaths. I’m feeling in the prime of my health.
And…. as I write this, what I thought would happen has happened. I did my tai chi, and felt this obstruction or preliminary-to-infection loosen. I sat down to write, and I kept breathing normally — through my nose, unforced, deliberate, controlled — and this lump of mucus or whatever has popped free, and is actually liquefying on its way down the esophagus to my stomach, where a range of acids will effectively and permanently dissolve it.
And that tickling sensation I had at the start of this little writing exercise is gone.
I don’t know that I’m always going to be healthy. Maybe tai chi isn’t part of the reason why I’m healthy, although it feels like it is. Maybe this thing will come back, and attack me in my guts; or maybe it will climb out of the “pit of despair” back up my throat into my sinuses and lungs. If it does, good for it — it’s evolved in interesting ways. So have I. A few years ago, the least sickness would have felled me for a few days or at least kept me home. Now I lure the diseases in with a soft, pudgy-looking body, and then I drown them in a pool of acid.