In Chinese traditional medicine, there is a saying: anger hurts your liver, melancholy hurts your lungs, thinking hurts your spleen, happiness hurts your heart. The thing is, we are all angry, melancholy, happy, or just thinking at different times in life. What hurts is when we do it too much, without balance.
John, my Chinese boyfriend, thinks my life has lost balance, ever since our time together during National Day — and my health hasn’t been the same.
My back and neck felt unusually sore after an evening swim Friday, October 11. The pain lingered uncomfortably for over a week, even after I received Chinese medical massage. So when John came in the weekend of October 18, he took me to the hospital for an X-ray.
“Your neck has straightened out,” the doctor said to me, looking at the black-and-white photo illuminated in his office. All of those days in the office, sitting at an office chair before a desk, had hurt my neck.
But once John and I left the doctor’s office, it was as if the doctor was still in — the doctor of Chinese traditional medicine and wisdom. “You need more activity at work,” John commanded. “Every hour, you should be getting up and moving your neck, your waist, your back,” he said, wriggling his own neck, back and waist, like a physical therapy demonstration.
Even as I began to rebalance my neck by following John’s advice, things unravelled again — healthwise — when I caught yet another round of flu, just as John came to visit the weekend of November 1. And once again, John wasn’t merely my Chinese boyfriend — he was here to teach me how I wasn’t living my life according to traditional Chinese wisdom.
“You live an unscientific lifestyle,” John lectured me, as I convalesced under the covers of my bed. “You don’t wear enough clothes to bed, or when you get up. You don’t change the air frequently in your apartment. You don’t have a regular mealtime. And your swimming is causing you to catch a cold, because you don’t dry your hair.”
It was the kind of lecture parents give to elementary-aged children, not young twentysomethings like me. But, the thing is, I agreed with everything John said. My life was out of balance, and out of sync with thousands of years of wisdom about health. And, as if I needed another reminder, I got the flu again the following weekend.
I didn’t know how long it would take to heal my neck, or how long before I stopped getting incessant bouts of flu and upper-respiratory infections. But I did know one thing — I had a healthy John, beside me, to balance my life out.
Did you ever experience mysterious illnesses in China? And did your Chinese friend or girlfriend or boyfriend help to heal you, or correct your “unscientific” ways of living?
Memoirs of a Yangxifu in China is the story of love, cultural understanding and eventual marriage between one American woman from the city and one Chinese man from the countryside. To read the full series to date, visit the Memoirs of a Yangxifu archives.