Sunday, February 7, 2010

What The Doctor Said 

He said it doesn't look good 
he said it looks bad in fact real bad 
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before 
I quit counting them 
I said I'm glad I wouldn't want to know 
about any more being there than that 
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down 
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help 
when you come to a waterfall 
mist blowing against your face and arms 
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments 
I said not yet but I intend to start today 
he said I'm real sorry he said 
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you 
I said Amen and he said something else 
I didn't catch and not knowing what else to do 
and not wanting him to have to repeat it 
and me to have to fully digest it 
I just looked at him 
for a minute and he looked back it was then 
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who'd just given me 
something no one else on earth had ever given me 
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong 

- Raymond Carver 

i am grateful to the comment on this post for the discovery of this poem. this leaves for dead all other literature on smoking i have read since i started this. this is the kind of writing that will help me to quit.

images of doctor's office from wai lin tse's diary from japan

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

alone with her lungs
ink and watercolor on paper,
by ian dingman

thank you claire for forwarding this picture.

i have been absent from this blog for a little while. that is not a good sign, is it? no, it is not! i have been hiding from this waiting record because i did not feel like sharing or contemplating my late-order collapse. at a recent ping-pong afternoon i lost all desire to curb my intake and probably smoked around 10 that day. it was pure old habits. but, we regroup and we start again. i do want to give up, i really do. but the road is long and winding. a couple of positive things (my mum said i sounded a bit discouraged and defensive in my last past - on re-reading, that is very true:)

i have re-set my goals. giving up altogether was hard. and i found myself getting down on myself for not accomplishing what i set out to do. my current goal is to not take my cigarettes to work, and to not smoke at work at all. it is achievable, and i am doing it. no smoking at all at work. which has cut out A LOT of cigarettes for me. work was a classic place where i would get a spike of irritation or stress over some matter and immediately reach for the cigarettes. to not do this is really positive. it makes me believe that i can say no to myself, distract myself, beat the crave. it is baby steps, but they feel like they leave a giant's footprint in this particular battle. 

many people complimented me on my skin/looking generally healthy last time (when i had quit and was keeping to it, before i started the slow but sure blow out.) i will keep that in mind. it is a great motivation! it is amazing to think quitting can have such an immediate effect.

3. i also try and reward myself in moderate terms (because it is only moderate success right now). so i forgive myself the odd rant. see below.

(extended) footnote to point 2, above.
this one has been a bug bear of mine for a long time now. since i was very young. stay tuned for more recent, updated rants concerning the urban drivers of four-wheel drives, 'baby on board' stickers on cars, and more. 

i am a skinny person. i genuinely appreciate comments from friends to say if a new dress or something looks nice. but i am equally accustomed to people feeling they have the right to comment negatively on the way i look, just because i am skinny. that's why it was so nice to hear those positive comments after giving up the smokes a few days.

it is like people (and i am not talking close friends and family here, who are always so thoughtful and kind. more like random people i barely know, or strangers, even) assume that being skinny (and thus part of the accepted model for life?) gives the skinny one this buffer that negative comments cannot penetrate. i call this practice of thoughtless negative comments 'skinny-bashing'.

because of course i am blessed, aren't i? being skinny, i would never know what it feels like to worry about my weight; to worry that i don't fit the bill; to feel anxious when i don't see the way i look validated and reflected back at me from magazine and media pages; to worry that people might be staring at me and making frowning faces at my lack of healthiness. to this i say rubbish! everyone has those insecurities. i am underweight, and i experience that list of emotions and worry. yes, even at my age.

the body image debate should not hinge on skinny-bashing. skinny-bashing makes any argument for inclusivity invalid. it also engenders an 'us against them' attitude and perpetuates the insidious practice of critical judgement that is central to the problem of body image. so many times i have read articles that use phrases referring to the skinny bodyshape as 'unwomanly', 'skeletal', and worse. would anyone ever in their right mind consider it OK to refer, in the mainstream press, to an overweight person as 'gluttonous,' or 'undesirable'? pejorative terms hurt, no matter which way they are thrown and in what context. it is just staggeringly hypocritical: on one hand we need to 'show and celebrate the variety of shapes'. on the other hand all skinny shapes are dismissed as 'unwomanly'. jesus. who decides what 'womanly' is? i say frame the debate in inclusive terms. do not make judgement calls, and put the focus back on taking care of yourself. with every throwaway comment about a 'skeletal' body shape, i can guarantee there will be one little naturally skinny girl who feels that bit less fine about herself.


Monday, January 18, 2010

smoking satire. or is it irony? or just sarcasm? i don't know. i feel like winona ryder in reality bites: i know it when i see it.

any way, i like these book titles even if they are not all that clever. it probably appeals to the part of me that is anti the social pariahism, hysterical roll-back of basic personal freedoms, and general malediction flung at smokers without heed to the reasons people smoke and how much they actually hate themselves for it. 

either way, i like them today, being in a mildly grey frame of mind - in case you can't tell. a sudden then sustained decrease in cigarettes makes you down. an extra discovery.  but a small win today. i had no cigarettes at work and fought and won many small skirmishes against insurgent cravings. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

okay, so quitting is not being accomplished. i am having to fight for every cigarette left unsmoked. the last two days have seen figures balloon to 6-7 per day; well over my keep the motor running 1-2 per day levels. i am going to try some new tactics:

1. fake nicotine 'cigarettes' - you can get them at the chemist. little plastic cigarettes with a small dose of nicotine in them
2. buy alan carr's easy way to quit smoking book
3. refine my reasons, like the 'brigette bardot principle' (see below)

it is commented upon that brigette bardot shows the effect of years in the sun and smoking all her life.

"She lighted a cigarette. 'I'm not an extremist, you know,' she said, smiling in a conspiratorial way. 'Someone has to do this'".

but i do love how she has aged with natural grace and seclusion, and is now a champion of animal rights (which is what the above quote refers to).

it may seem a bit superficial to have 'fear of what it will do to my skin in terms of premature aging' as one of the main reasons to quit. because of course, real beauty is a thousand leagues deeper than the skin. but it is all part of the emotional makeup, isn't it? and as i breach the early thirties and steam around toward the mid-thirties, maybe that reason has more potential to work in the clinches, when others more health-related fail the immortality test.

i should make a new 'reasons i am trying to quit' card: the facing side with young brigette, the back side with old brigette: natural and graceful, but sun-beaten and smoke-wrinkled nevertheless.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

yes, the one that has brought the smoking habit back to the fore on prime time.

as a trying to quitter, personally, as far as i can figure out, smoking on tv or film will not always trigger the need to light.

i think that is a bit of a myth myself. seeing a madman character or for that matter a belmondo or a jean seberg light up i do not have a pang and an automated pat of my pocket for my fags. sitting in a darkened theatre, seeing smokers on screen, it is not their smoking that makes me wait impatiently for the credits to roll so i can rush out and gasp in some of the same in the fresh night air. 

what does trigger it, rather than seeing the beautiful smoking on screen, is an emotion portrayed. usually, a quick, piercing insight into the soul of me or of the world. like if a film maker portrayed something like this (quoted directly from hannah waldron's blog):

"This poem 'They are the Last' by (John) Berger really stood out for me. I think he noticed something. I will pick out 1 section-

Now that they have gone
it is their endurance we miss.
Unlike the tree
the river or the cloud
the animals had eyes
and in their glance
was permanence.

It was the same fox for ever and ever.
To kill him
was to drag him
from the earth
of his eternity."

i have never read john berger's book ways of looking. now thanks to hannah, i want to. my initial investigations via trusty google (where else) led to this interesting article.

Monday, January 11, 2010

it is mind-meltingly hot in melbourne today. i think about 44 degrees at top. the sun feels like it looks. i wish i was a swiss mountain goat perched on a craggy outlook over the wintry snows. and yet, i light the fire in my hand one more time. insane. 

but a small improvement: i don't take my pouch of tobacco to work. that effectively seems to eliminate the work cravings i was battling. but what? you still have your tobacco on hand? that is not the way to quit! i know. but it is just really hard. there can be very real, escalating panic if i feel like a smoke and i have no access to it. even though it is readily available at the corner store. it is a mental thing.

anyway, if you are in melbourne or victoria and happen by some strange chance to be reading this, i wish you a thousand cold showers and a sea breeze. and please put a large bowl of water out for the stray cats and dogs, and one up high for the birds.

top image source
bottom image source

Thursday, January 7, 2010

every breath you take

blow out. 3 cigarettes today. have been too easy on myself, i think.  and the thing is, i don't really want to smoke the cigarette for the cigarette's sake, they don't taste any good and give me a mild head spin now that i have a much lower intake. it is just something to do.  will try and re-group and go for zero tomorrow. dependency. 

images from Keetra Dean Dixon’s Just Between You And Me: Objects of Co-Dependency series. taken directly from the extremely excellent zero1 blog.

an unexpected spark

in your eyes

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

the guilt is strange. i smoked one cigarette today. that is one more than none. but i think i should have some right to say to myself, 'good job, you have gone from smoking usually at least 10 a day down to one.' but then i feel like i should not allow myself to say that, because i am guilty of the one, and the compromises feed the devious smoker's mind.

please forgive the diversion below, but i was just thinking about guilt, and seemed to recall from 2nd year philosophy nietzsche being all over the guilt thing. some searching and i found this...this is all just taking bits and pieces and totally does not give justice to the totality of the arguments of the original text or the insights of the essay!

"to take upon oneself not punishment, but guilt. that alone would be god-like."

friedrich nietzsche

all quotes below from an essay on nietzsche's genealogy of morals here:

"Guilt, in its general form, is ethically-experienced regret at one's failure (not necessarily intentional) to honour obligations to which one genuinely feels committed;"

the essay goes on to describe the relationship between guilt and the concept of nietzsche's 'bad conscience'. in terms of an awareness of one's 'masterly' instincts for bad, anti-social behaviour and the need to quell these instincts, the experience of 'bad conscience' is an "unpleasant combination of potential guilt towards society, liability towards oneself, and the need for self-aggression towards masterly instincts."

but bad conscience can be active, positive:

"... Nietzsche burn into a great part of one's nature a 'no' to its outward expression, to become contemptuous of instincts of which one was 'formerly' proudest, to live with the contradiction of a freedom that is both restricted (externally) and enhanced (internally), creates a wholly new phenomenology: that of human nature as problematical and contradictory, that of oneself as a riddle to oneself, that of the tortured 'inner life' perpetually examining itself, that of a compromised 'outer' freedom versus a purer 'inner' freedom. In short: with the 'bad conscience' we get 'the internalization of man', his creation of an inner, freer world, later christened 'the soul'. Nietzsche calls this state 'active' bad conscience (GM, II, 16)."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

and now, we turn to the french.
they smoke so fine.
gainsbourg #1: charlotte

charlotte sings with serge

such a bad lapse today, with very strong cravings and mental weaving and wavering. the one cigarette yesterday opened the door to let that dangerous chink of smoke-infused light through. a new discovery of feeling guilty. i had one cigarette in the morning, with a cup of tea (russian caravan). i sipped and smoked while the plumbers were carting my water tank down the side of the house and maneuvering it into place next to the jacarandah tree, commendably protecting the potato plants from tradesperson harm. then i smoked another one when i got home after seeing the old rosemary bush was pulled out to make way for the tank. but i think i can save it. i look forward to watering my burgeoning vegetables, fruits, herbs and some flowers that i love, garden with my new guilt-free water harvested directly from the sky.

anyway, it was a bad day for the willing. i see now this is a big fight i have on my hands here. very big, and:

"Let's face it, you're losing the one who kept you company throughout the day, got you through those stressful moments, helped you celebrate your triumphs. Yep, you're giving up your best friend."


tuesday january 5
cigarette count: 2

Monday, January 4, 2010

it is really hard today, first day back at work after the holiday break. i really miss popping outside to have a little cigarette and a cup of tea break in the sun. i so far seem to have avoided the bad withdrawal symptoms; worst at the moment is feeling stiff and sore after playing tennis yesterday (exercise really does help).

playing tennis: john mcenroe doing what he does best. it is kind of what i look like when i crack it because i can't hit it like i want to.

for context: on a good day, i would smoke between 7-10 rollies (roll your own cigarettes). over 10 and above and up and up and never stop on a really bad day...

lots of quit advice says that you should try and keep in mind the reasons you are quitting, and bring them to mind when the cravings hit. carry them around on a little card. one of my main reasons is health. so my first card would read:

"lung. cancer. emphysema. stroke. heart disease. throat cancer and that voice box replacement that means you have a hole in your throat and a vibrator to speak. eye disease."

my next card will have to have something to counteract the little voice that says,

"what about those 90-year-olds happily puffing on their daily cigar and sipping their daily straight whisky and rum?"

via this paramedic's blog

via here

Depending on the number of cigarettes you smoke, typical benefits of stopping are:

  • After twelve hours almost all of the nicotine is out of your system.
  • After twenty-four hours the level of carbon monoxide in your blood has dropped dramatically. You now have more oxygen in your bloodstream.
  • After five days most nicotine by-products have gone.
  • Within days your sense of taste and smell improves.
  • Within a month your blood pressure returns to its normal level and your immune system begins to show signs of recovery.
  • Within two months your lungs will no longer be producing extra phlegm caused by smoking.
  • After twelve months your increased risk of dying from heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker.
  • Stopping smoking reduces the incidence and progression of lung disease including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  • After ten years of stopping your risk of lung cancer is less than half that of a continuing smoker and continues to decline (provided the disease is not already present).
  • After fifteen years your risk of heart attack and stroke is almost the same as that of a person who has never smoked.

january 4 2010
cigarette count: 0 (but REALLY borderline 1 before I go to sleep)
edit: cigarette count = 1
and it didn't taste good at all. it was a purely mental need, i didn't feel like the nicotine at all. the mental games begin?