An Ode to Smoking, An Ode to my Youth

When I first started smoking at 18, I promised myself I wouldn't smoke past 30. 

I made this seemingly arbitrary deal with myself for a few reasons:

  1. I couldn't smoke longer than my Dad. 
  2. Smoking in your 20s looks trendy. Smoking any later than that looks like an addiction.
  3. I really don't want to be that smoker that dies of smoking-related illness. 

I have been 30 for 5 days and a ~non-smoker~ for 21 days. 

This isn't the first time I've quit. I have smoked on and off since I was 18. Sometimes quitting for as long as 9 months and then picking it up again -- purposefully -- as soon as I was traveling again or as soon as I was in a new place trying to make new friends. For me, smoking has almost been part of my identity. I held it close and associated it with my adventurous spirit, no-fucks-given attitude, and general efforts to live in badass-ery. It was, indivisible from my youth. 

I love smoking. I fucking love it. I wish it couldn't kill me. I have described many moments as, "cigarette moments." Those moments that are enhanced by sharing a smoke or taking the time to sit and reflect over a smoke. I have only ever dated one non-smoker; there is no better feeling than getting to know someone you're into over a smoke, or sharing a smoke in a stolen moment alone, or having your boo roll you a smoke while you're driving. I love smoking after a day of shredding. I love smoking driving home alone at night with the Northern Lights above me and country music playing over the radio. I love smoking with my friends outside a bar in the freezing cold. I love everything about the social aspects of smoking and the way it ties together a moment of aloneness into one that is special and remarkable because revelling in one's aloneness is good and nourishing and sometimes a cigarette would make that OK for me to do.

This is an ode to smoking, an ode to my youth. I want to quit smoking for my health, both mental and physical, for my relationship, and for myself. I don't regret smoking but I certainly don't want to bring it with me during this transition phase of my life. I don't want to bring smokes into adulthood with me. I want to leave them where I needed them and remember them as a friend I outgrew. They were always there for companionship, comfort and prop, but to be honest, I want to rely on myself for those things. I don't want a cancer-causing stand-in for self-care. I want to find new ways to relish in those special life moments.

 

Patterns

Photo: "Grrrl, bai!" Dryden, ON | 2017.

Today I'm thinking about patterns.

The ones we are stuck in, the ones that feel like an endless loop of, in my case, self-destruction. 

I have a pattern that I fall back into whenever I'm feeling discomfort. I used to think of the tactics in this pattern as appropriate coping mechanisms. Now, however, I think that this pattern is getting in the way of my flourishing. It goes like this:

Somewhere new, discomfort, grasping at straws, failing, smoking, negative self-talk, more grasping, more discomfort, and then, ultimately, moving place. 

When I say moving, I mean literally moving. In the past three years I have lived in Montreal, Revelstoke (BC), Dryden (ON), Vancouver, back to Dryden, and now finally home to Edmonton. Each place held a new promise, a new opportunity for me to finally live my true authentic self. Of course, each of these places have only presented their own challenges to which I have never risen, only slinked away from before any real life could materialize. 

This is not to imply that these have not been fulfilling adventures. Rather, I think they speak to an innate part of my personality that I am only just becoming aware of and in tune with: I am an ideas person with very little interest or time for details. I have an intricate interiority made up of detailed fantasies that I have, for better and for worse, attempted to turn into realities. There are so many lives I want to live and so many versions of myself that exist within this interior life that I am overwhelmed choosing just one to commit to.

My gut instinct is to drop whatever I have started (because I have very little patience to sit with the discomfort of seeing it through) and move on to the next thing, the next opportunity and the next place. This pattern is usually accompanied by bouts of smoking, which much like each of my undertakings, experiences multiple levels of commitment.  

How does one drop a pattern they have spent almost thirty years curating? How do I exit this pattern with my lungs still (adequately) intact? 

How do I foster and feed the best parts of this pattern -- my penchant for big ideas -- while encouraging a new response that brings the focus downward to the details without getting lost? 

Someone said to me once: "Do the things today that will make you proud of yourself tomorrow."

The tactics inherent to my pattern has left me with a lot of unfinished projects, burned bridges, spotty experience and even sadness. Essentially, a lot that I am not proud of. When I think about what I am most proud of, it is the follow-through I have done to accomplish my goals, dreams and even fantasies. I am proud of myself when I don't smoke to cope. I am proud of myself when I am a supportive and giving sister, daughter and friend. I am proud of myself when I am active. I am proud of myself when I am contributing, whether it is to the knowledge economy or my local community. 

Clearly I am capable of focusing on details long enough to see their materialization as goals checked and as dreams fulfilled. And perhaps this is the key to moving forward with action, rather than getting stuck in my pattern of inaction and disempowerment.

A friend of mine once told me, "you know you can do this because you have done it before." Teachings in mindfulness tells me to self-empower by counting my successes, rather than my failures. Mindfulness teaches the ability to sit with discomfort, because it will pass. 

Respect the process. 

This is huge and something I need to constantly remind my impatient self. For such a future-oriented person, I often forget that attuning to details now will pay off in the long-run. That it is the details that build the success of the future. It is acknowledging that perhaps those huge lofty fantasies I have for my future self may never materialize but that that is ok. To allow for the flexibility of where the details I spend my day today, tomorrow and next week may evolve into something I could never have even imagined for myself. And that, my friends, is the exciting part and the part I need to be mindful of. Often, to get myself through those moments of self-induced panic when my goals feel too overwhelming I remind myself of the importance of this flexibility and excitement of not knowing by reminding myself:

"Real life is better than any fantasy I can dream up for myself."

Because it is the texture of real life made up of challenges, failures and bad choices that will inevitably be a better ride than the flat, two-dimensional projection of a perfect being devoid of flaws. It is the flaws, the failures and the details that make us in the long run.