Who Nose

I have a small nostril. That means little air gets through and when it does it makes a ruckus. One alternative is to breathe through my mouth instead. A short-cut with a major drawback- although I’ll breathe quietly, it’ll be shallow and from the neck up.

Once, I thought the problem was a deviated septum. At the time I was on (my parent’s) excellent health insurance, and so decided to have the septum removed via Rhinoplasty. To have a few millimeters of stuff taken off that thin plate of bone and cartilage separating your left and right nostrils comes to a total of $10,000. That’s a lot of money, enough to pay for a life-saving operation that one of my fellow human beings without health insurance probably couldn’t afford. Such an operation would surely be unjustified, unless it actually made it easy to breathe for the rest of my life.  THAT would be worth $10,000.

But no. As soon as I came off the anesthesia, I realized the operation didn’t do anything. The tiny hole isn’t caused by a deviated septum, but is actually further up my nasal cavity, beyond the reach of surgery. All the operation did was make my septum thinner, vulnerable to being broken, and prone to pain in icy weather. All that, for just ten thousand bucks.

Despite the surgery, I still struggle to breathe. This is where the story gets good, if by good we mean positive, uplifting, and mildly instructive. If only for a moment…

The small nostril has led me to develop a meditation practice. I specifically focus on breathing from my stomach, using the diaphragm to take long, deep breaths. That way, even though the chimney up above is narrow, the bellows far below take in and push out vast quantities of air. I guess you can say this is a model for transforming a problem into a practice. But the truth is that there is another technique for me to breathe easier which is far less austere.

If I take the heel of my hand and press it against my cheek, sliding my face toward my ear, the nostril opens up. I can breathe as quietly and efficiently as any normal person. If I did this, I’d have no need for either surgery or meditation. But I would have to walk around with a hand planted on my face and my elbow jutting in the air. I would perpetually look like I rested my head on my fist and forgot to take it off. In short, I would look eccentric.

But I FEAR being eccentric. As much as I want to be unique, different, I fear being outright strange. And as much as I crave attention I don’t want THAT type of attention. I don’t want to explain all the time how in order to breathe I need to apply pressure to my face with my hand. Not to mention, I enjoy having use of both of my hands. So far, a daily practice of meditation seems less difficult than doing all that. But maybe one day I won’t give a shit, and you’ll see me walking with an elbow in the air, smelling the roses.

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