Today, I learned that my father was diagnosed with COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It is usually brought on by long-term smoking. He started at 13. He is now approaching 62, too quickly. He sternly said, “let this be a lesson”, referring to my own kretek use.
I wanted to defend myself, but I always think of the perfect response after the fact, usually while alone. I mean, let’s do the math. I started doing this at age 35, and I go through 3-5 kreteks a day. He has a nearly-50-year jump on me, and his usage is quite a bit more, 4-10 times more.
But what I really wanted to say was, does he have any idea how much I despise the whole thing? The “bathroom” stops to go outside, changing out of work clothes and into my after-hours attire, constantly washing my hands and face and using small amounts of scented oils to cover the telltale odor? The hiding spot at the office away from the rest of the world, the lost hours of productivity with the time spent outside, the dancing with the ever-changing wind patterns to keep the smell off me, the concealment in various pockets and pouches to keep it out of sight and out of mind of those closest to me? The paradox I find myself in as a natural healthcare practitioner who also keeps a pack and lighter close by?
And then there are the effects. I never “jones” for a kretek; in fact, I feel the nausea, the dizziness, the fatigue/loss of energy, the horrible smell and taste. It’s dirty, my dirty secret that must be hidden, concealed, and omitted from all of my clientele.
And yet, it’s the one solution that has presented itself thus far. Nothing else has been as effective, cheap, and fast-acting as this. I do not do this by choice; rather, I do it because my body keeps throwing me curveballs, unfair paradoxes with mysterious origins and expensive investigation, with probably worse treatment methods, fraught with side effects and heavy ongoing costs.
I don’t enjoy this. I admit that during a period of heavy work, I can use the occasional break and diversion, but I’d rather do it another way. I’d rather not have to wait behind the fence as early-arriving clientele exit their car. I’d rather not have to enter the ladies’ room to wash my hands (again), praying that someone I know will discover me. I’d rather not have to confess to another new staff member. I’d rather put this all behind me.
Believe me when I say that I’m researching the mechanisms behind my physiological issues, but it’s not an easy task. My body has proven to be cutting-edge, but not in a good way; I develop problems that few people have, that have not been researched much yet, so even in the 21st-century days of infinite Google results, there is little information out there. Maybe someday, all will be revealed. I meditate on this daily. Some might call it praying.
Until then, I will have to choose between hours spent outside versus hours spent pumped full of Benadryl with Kleenex shoved up my itchy nose. I will have to choose between lingering scents and lingering congestion. I will have to choose between hiding my outings and convincing my clientele I don’t have a head cold.
As long as my clientele don’t discover my secret, they will continue to look up to me as a guide in their own healthcare journey instead of watching me sneeze and feeling sorry for my failures on my journey. It’s evil, but it’s the lesser of evils, and it’s the path I have to choose right now. But I would like things to be different. It’s not a smug, sneaky, “I’m a bad girl.” It’s a sheepish, “I’d rather be in my office doing something productive” kind of feeling.
It’s my present solution, but I don’t have to like it.
I know my Dad isn’t 100% correct. He thought he was invincible until the collateral damage started adding up. He as warned, and he didn’t take it to heart. His comment was a warning to me, and although the math doesn’t compute (I’d have to actively try to catch up to him in order to develop COPD myself), I can see where he’s coming from.
I’m scared for him.
I’m scared for me, too.
Not that I’ll develop COPD–my body just isn’t straightforward enough for that–but what else might result. I’m scared that the next curveball won’t be as easily mitigated. And knowing my own body, there will likely be a next curveball, because my body likes to keep things interesting.
Maybe it’s a gift in disguise, to give me first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to have what I’m telling my clientele they have.
Maybe it’s first-hand experience on how to deal with their issues. But I don’t like it. And I’m certainly not going to recommend they use kreteks. They would think I’m off my rocker. Hell, there might be some truth to that. But as they say, time will tell.
For now, I have to keep on keeping on, even if I don’t like it. And I reckon I’ll keep meditating/praying on/for a better solution. It’s all I can do.