On Spitting

Spitting is gross. It is rude, unhealthy and socially unacceptable (in public places at least).

Spitting is kind of like wetting the bed. People wet the bed when they are kids, college age and then when they are like 105, because I guess at that point no one really gives a shit. Spitting falls into that same category. Babies do it and everyone thinks it’s super cute; it’s not uncommon to see college kids spitting Skoal wintergreen onto the floor in an unfinished basement somewhere off campus; and of course those people north of a century have fluid coming from everywhere.

FullSizeRender 3

This is what the bacteria in my mucus look like. When I little, my parents called it “goopies”

I know spitting is disgusting… you know it… the whole world knows it.

I spit every day, and I spit a lot. I spit into plastic cups when I’m doing treatments, out the car window when I’m driving, onto the ice when I’m skating and out of the pool when I’m swimming. I have to, and so does everyone with cystic fibrosis.

My body has no other way to regulate mucus production. It is not hard for me to fill up about a third of a solo cup when I do my treatments. It’s difficult to otherwise conceptualize how much mucus is living in my lungs. I’ve actually gotten to the point where I can get some serious distance on the mucus I cough up.

But in a world where spitting is socially irresponsible, how do I manage to fit in when I’m walking down a New York City sidewalk, cough and need to spit in front of hundreds of people?

Luckily for me, I don’t really care what people think about my habits, but I will say that it is impossible to ignore ALL the stares, comments or scowls directed at me after I put a nice green wad on the pavement.

I love when people say, “Can you not?” or “Great, now I’m going to get sick.”

Can I not, what?

I do my best to keep it out of the way. I try to spit on the street instead of the sidewalk, or things like that. I’m obviously not an asshole just spitting all over the place, but my friends will be the first to tell you that we’ve experienced a few crisis moments (I’ll let you use your imagination here).

football helemt

The only safe way to walk down the street alongside me. (BEF is a pretty fun place to work)

In the heat of the moment, though, there’s really only so much I can do. Swallowing mucus loaded with bacteria will only upset my stomach, so it’s always better out than in.

I think I am pretty solid when it comes to fighting off some of the stigmas that come attached to an “invisible illness” such as CF. I don’t place too much time and thought into the things ignorant people say, but when I do, I definitely like to consider my feelings.

Spitting is never going to be accepted. It’s just one of those taboo bodily functions, like farting. I also don’t expect random people on the street to be okay with me clearing my lungs the old fashioned way, I think that would be ridiculous of me to think otherwise.

I guess I am just used to it. My parents actually encouraged me to spit whenever and wherever when I was a child. I know nothing else. I like to think that my manners make up for it in other departments (like bread on the left, drink on the right), and I’m sure my parents probably hope that’s the case too.

The bottom line here is that I know my life isn’t like everyone else’s. I know that there are countless hurdles and sometimes these things like spitting or going shirtless on the beach with a tube in my stomach, may seem unfair, but they are required for me to live successfully. In the grand scheme of things, spitting (or even coughing) in public is just one more thing that constantly weighs on my psyche. I have to refuse to let the thought of spitting in public scare me.

The real skill involved here is compartmentalizing my emotions, tasks and challenges (as if balancing emotions is a refined skill). Thinking negatively only makes my life harder, and to be honest, sometimes it’s a challenge in and of itself to maintain a positive attitude. As a result I try to remove anything negative in my life, and a lot of the time that is the things people may say or think when they see me spit in public. It’s almost as if I remove myself from the reality of the action.

Next time you see me cough, just watch out in case I accidentally re-color your shirt.