(This post was first published as a column in the Staunton, Virginia News Leader on April 26, 2009)
I have had the hiccups for two days now. Not kidding.
It started as I was putting the kids to bed. One little hic, followed by another, followed by a double: hic-hic.
To my children, this is the funniest thing they have ever seen. Because these are not the sort of tiny urps you can keep to yourself. No, these are violent, thrashing inhalations that scramble my insides and cause the people around me to stare. And aside from a hour or so here and there of blissful calm, they will not stop.
I think I may be going insane.
Hiccups is technically known as singultus. “A quick, involuntary inhalation that follows a spasm of the diaphragm and is suddenly checked by closure of the glottis, producing a short, relatively sharp sound.” So says my dictionary.
Caused by “many central and peripheral nervous system disorders, all from injury or irritation to the phrenic and vagus nerves, as well as toxic or metabolic disorders affecting aforementioned systems.” So says Google. And if you can figure out what exactly that means, please let me know.
As far as cures go, it seems medical science is a little lacking. Drugs, of course, are an option. And also something called “digital rectal massage.”
I’m not sure what that means, either. But no…way.
The tried-and-true cures of holding my breath and getting scared haven’t worked, though my son continues to run up to me and shout “BOO DADDY BOO!!”
Undaunted, I am now studying the possible causes of my condition:
Lack of water. No, that can’t be it.
Eating too fast. A possibility, given the hectic nature of a normal day. But as this began in the peace and quiet of home, I don’t buy it.
Being hungry for a while. Another possibility. But as we had dinner just a few hours before this all started, I’d say no.
Laughing vigorously. A very good possibility.
Talking for too long. Me? No.
Overstretching of the neck. Huh?
Not much help there, either.
So here I sit, trying to type, hitting the backspace whenever my body convulses and renders “type” to “tyyype.”
Still, it isn’t all bad. Charles Osborne had the hiccups from 1922 to 1990, a record sixty-eight years. Since I’m competitive by nature, I now have something to shoot for. And I am slowly building a remarkable set of abs.
Besides, I would much rather have this sort of hiccup than the alternative definition: “To experience a temporary decline, setback, interruption, etc.”
Oh, yes. I’ve had plenty of those.
The interesting thing is that the causes of physical hiccups are the very same as the causes of spiritual ones:
Lack of water. Not the liquid kind. The other: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again,” Jesus told the woman at the well, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
Eating too fast. And not just eating. We judge and condemn and speak and live too fast as well. How much beauty and joy do we miss in this life because we simply won’t slow down? Too much.
Being hungry for a while. Not a good thing for your body. Worse for your soul. Because if you’re hungry enough, even poison tastes good.
Laughing vigorously. Yes, life should be enjoyed. And yes, it should be fun. But let’s not forget that we’re here to make this world a better place. That takes work, serious work, and a lot of it.
Talking for too long. As my Grandma said, “God gave you two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you talk.” Our words are precious things of mighty power. Use too many of them, though, and both the preciousness and power wane.
Overstretching of the neck. This one hit me particularly hard. I’m always trying to crane my neck to get a better view, whether it’s to where I’m going or where I’ve been. But it’s more important to pay attention to where you are. The best way to make sure tomorrow will be fine and yesterday won’t matter is to take care of today.
How this will end is anyone’s question. But I know this: I would rather hic like this in my gut forever than hic one moment in my life.