Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lungs Full

I recently finished an interesting memoir, Breaking Up With God. A whole book on religion, not exactly my speed. I'll admit I read it to find out about her move to atheism and that turned out not to be precisely how it went. I wasn't disappointed. In fact I found myself crying over it relatively often.

At one point the author, Sarah Sentilles, talks about learning some things about Chinese medicine. She says that in that practice the lungs are associated with sadness and grief.

The lungs are associated with sadness and grief. 

That, unsurprisingly, resonated with me. I'm just so sad. I wouldn't classify it as depressed. I would actually say sad. Grief plays into it. There's been so much loss, glancing blows to me perhaps but sadness nonetheless happening this year.  And last year, too.

It makes sense to me that I'm having trouble breathing now. Grief has weight. It's making me breathless.


  1. I'm a lifelong atheist and so I can't understand the tears shed over it. I'm a lifelong skeptic so I can tell you than I find the Traditional Chinese Medicine's linking of emotions and organs to be complete and utter nonsense.

    I'm also very well acquainted with sadness, depression, and grief. And I can tell you from my experience with all three... when you feel loss, it is almost always because you have already felt so very much gain. The loss you feel is very rarely more than the gain from which that loss was subtracted. I've grieved so much that I thought my chest would burst from the pain. I eventually realized that I was in large part mourning the fact that I wouldn't keep getting the joy I was feeling, not just the loss of the person or situation providing that joy. It's tough, but the reason you're sad is because something that made you happy is gone, and you can still draw strength from the memory.

    Maybe it isn't my place to say, and if so I'm sorry that I trespassed on your sadness.

  2. Making me want to check out that book, sounds good. In my experience the connections between areas of your body and emotions seem pretty dead on if you follow eastern ideas. My feelings dictate how I hold myself, and it just makes sense to me that it affects my literal health. If I worry about money in more than a passing thought, my lower back gets sore.
    So glad you found the connection, so sorry for the pain. Grief is so very heavy, may you find your way through it soon.

  3. There's something about Improbable Joe's comment, that part about the pain of loss being so much greater because you've already felt so much gain. Maybe that's why I'm making this whole grief thing look easy. I feel like my life has been equal parts gain and loss.

    Every time I think about this lung connection to grief, Florence and The Machine pops into my brain. "There's a ghost in my lungs and it sighs in my sleep."

  4. The mind-body connection is undeniable. It's ignorable, to be sure, but it's there. It is also not a religious thing. It's something people have built religions and practices on, but it came first. You don't have to believe me, you can ask my ex-boss, one of the least hippy woo woo folks you ever want to meet (

    How you choose to deal with that mind-body connection is what makes us all an interesting amalgamation of fools.

    It's interesting to me, Cindy, because I haven't carried my grief in my lungs before. That's not true, I always feel my grief in that location, but it's not impaired my physical functioning. It's been something I was strong enough to carry. What I'm wondering this time is it because there's been a volume of sort of tangential-to-me grief so I haven't had the outlet of memorials or funerals? We didn't have a service for Aunt Rena, she didn't want one, my uncle and his family routinely don't do them for older people, and we didn't really know if anyone would come. There was no memorial for Tim, I didn't go to OKC to celebrate Chris. The other things going on haven't been specifically grief, more plain old everyday working sadness, so my release valve never got sprung and I wound up breathing hard. It's weird.

    Also, I'm fatter than I should be and getting thinner is surely releasing some of that weight.

    I don't know what, emotionally, I should do to facilitate that release. Lately, though, a single evening glass of wine with friends has done a lot of good. I want to keep that up so I'll definitely be taking Bethany up on her recent offer of a Stoop Summit. And just plugging along. All I can do is keep plugging along.