Thursday, January 25, 2007

Uses, using, used, used up, done.

Day two. I keep forgetting that I can't. For just a second or so, I think, oh, I've got to run to the store and get cigarettes. And then I remember I've quit, that it's not optional anymore, that I'm likely to die from the damage as it is, but I'm surely going to die sooner if I don't stop. Now.

I wake up on Day One with a throat and chest feeling like they've been sandblasted and lit on fire. It's as if I am constantly trying to swallow a tennis ball. My bones hurt. My skin hurts. My head is aching so badly that I can't focus my eyes. I can't quite stay conscious and every time I try to drift a little, to escape into sleep, the tennis ball causes me to begin coughing. I smoke a cigarette on Day One because I don't know, yet, that it is Day One. Every respiratory infection worse than the last. You're kidding yourself if you think you can keep throwing these off and keep smoking. Finally, I get to: It is absolutely time.

By evening of that day, I can't tell if I'm passing out because of withdrawals or flu. My body temperature is ricocheting up and down. First I'm shivering for hours and then I'm sweating. I can't stop smelling tobacco. Late in the afternoon, I'm almost hysterical thinking I'll never, ever get rid of the smell of it. I'll have to move. Or they'll just have to burn the building. It occurs to me that this might be a slightly delirious reaction. On Day Two, friends who are non-smokers assure me that it isn't so, but it's possible that they are being kind or have visited at a time of year when the windows are never closed.

I think I'm doing better on the second day, though. I shower and get dressed. I call the Scorpio.
He mentions that we are taking that break we've discussed.
"I'm glad you told me," I reply, a tsunami of tears suddenly storming the ducts, barely held back, "because I didn't realize we decided that and I'd have felt a little hurt by the time a few weeks went by." He laughs.
"We never decide anything," he says, "and you will never be the one to take a break when you need it, will you? Come on, admit it - you won't ever do it, will you?"
"No." He's laughing again. Very fondly.

The tsunami subsides. A saner part of my mind identifies the surge as a withdrawal symptom. I am not being abandoned, dumped or rejected. He's my dear friend. He has never been anything else. His motives are on the table - no game. I am just at the mercy of all the emotions I hold at bay by lighting up. I smoke to hold back fear, pain, rage, boredom. I smoke to celebrate. I smoke to comfort myself. I smoke to give myself a delay before I react. I smoke to help focus myself. I smoke when I talk on the phone, when I write, when I get home, when I finish a meal, when I'm nervous, when I'm sad...

And so, I'll have to quit a hundred, a thousand times a day, for hundreds of days. But right now, I'm using a tactic they use in AA, I'm telling myself that today I'm not going to smoke.

Friday, January 12, 2007

It is, of course, all about me (One blog leads to another)

I am running Phelgm Fatale's reassurance around in my deteriorating gray matter. Specifically, the idea I may have more going for me than the diamond-laden lady who sat next to me on public transit and made sure to inform me she didn't ride buses. I have more going for me because I have diamonds (or at least a few cubic zirconias) in my fabulous brain. (Phelmy, I did appreciate the compliment, but it got me thinking...)

It occurs to me that I am often entertained by the symbols we choose to cling to as proof of our importance or uniqueness in the universe. Diamond lady on the bus. Non-public transit man on bus mentioning his truck. Broken, apparently, but his TRUCK, nonetheless.

Rolling, rolling on this theme...

Men who pose by their cars and motorcycles on internet dating sites, for example, and I'd say that covers 30% of them. Another 15% post pictures of their abs. No face, not much profile, just abs. Women who post pictures of cleavage or (believe me) single out their asses as portrait material. Yes, I'm jealous, but that fact aside...

Professors who insist on being called "Doctor" at all times, by all beings lower on the educational scale than themselves or who adopt the pained look of aristocracy being forced to move amongst the plague-ridden masses when asked to present a request for help or information in understandable form or in written English.

People who do not enter 12-step programs but adopt them as an entire life, clinging to the wound because it has become identity rather than something that needs to heal so that they can move forward.

Not all of this stuff is funny, I realize. Not all of it entertains me.

The man/woman who is so needy that he/she must be complimented on every small accomplishment, over and over again. Who doesn't learn to find that approval inside the self, but will maneuver and manipulate, wasting hours of everyone else's time and energy in order to feed the hunger for validation. Never achieving the feeling of validation, mind you. But never recognizing, consciously, that "empty" doesn't go away no matter how much praise is shovelled down the well. The well has no bottom.

We do well to be suspicious of needing praise. "Needing" being the operative word there. Nothing wrong with a little sincere stroking, nothing wrong with enjoying it. Needing it constantly, past the age of 7, is another thing.

Turning the pointing finger to myself and my own symbols:

Once I had to pick a personal symbol and give it up. It was an exercise in letting go of illusion and the thing I picked had to be intimate and important to me. It came down to two things - my hair and a necklace I'd put together from specially ordered parts & wore every single day. I wasn't courageous enough to cut my hair off.

The necklace was a silver chain with three heavy, circular silver medalions on it. The medalions bore three symbols: the healing hand, the serpent, and the tree of life. The symbols had meaning for me and I never took that necklace off. When you invest in a symbol, it becomes powerful, a talisman.

I gave it to my younger sister. And I'd like to tell you that I let go. But I grieved for that necklace. I thought of it for months. I felt vulnerable without it. Which was the whole point of the exercise, I suppose - a vivid illustration of attachment to false identity.

I have attached to being clever, to writing, to being "artistic," to looking slightly younger than I am, to feeling different and other, to being proud of my practicality and ability to look after myself, to articles of clothing and articles of conscience. I have attached to being tall, to being thin, to being right, to thinking of myself as honest or kind or fair or a law onto my myself or a team player.

I am the woman clutching her diamond rings and the man with the truck. We are all her and him.

We are hilarious and we are heart-breaking, aren't we?

If you had to give something up that mattered, what would it be?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bus people

I'm in my post-workday, nearly-there fugue state when he gets on. He's wearing the standard ball cap, worn jacket, jeans and boots that identify him as a regular Spryfield guy. He perches skittishly on the edge of a seat opposite me, at the front of the bus. In spite of the fact that he's wearing the working-class, minimum wage uniform, he's noticeable.

"Hi!" he says loudly to a woman who is obviously in her own fugue state. His voice is loud. He squirms a little in the seat, looking ill at ease. "I had to ask what it cost. I didn't know the fare. Truck broke down." She nods slightly. Oh God I don't care just leave me alone. "Don't usually take the bus," he broadcasts, just in case no one else heard.

Some of us usually take the bus. Some of us don't.

Those who don't (apparently) feel a class apart, above. Those who own a vehicle, drive it every day, don't cram themselves into the uncomfortable seats of overcrowded buses driven by surly drivers. They don't know exactly whose child will end up pitching a fit before the end of the run and whose cell phone will be produced at the tinny sound of a symphony ring tone, who hasn't washed their clothes, or can be counted on to give up their seat to the older lady or the woman with a small child and six bags of groceries. The Bus is a whole new world.

Once, a woman whose hands bore enough diamond rings to finance most of us for life sat next to me on the number twenty. She asked questions. Where the bus stopped. How long did it take to get there. "I don't usually take the bus," she explained, as if I might not be getting it. Or as if her station in life was in danger of being downgraded in one trip on public transporation.

In my mind, I translate "I don't take the bus" as "Hello, Bus People. I am from another galaxy far, far away where people travel in single vehicles. I come in peace. I wish to observe and respect your customs." I figure they are thinking, Jesus Christ. I'll walk next time. I'll rent. How in hell do they stand it?"

In my mind, I consider answering: "Stranger. We have allowed you into our territory and to sit amongst us. At least have the courtesy to shut the hell up and allow us to remain semi-comatose until we can flee this vehicle, without reminding us there are more dignified modes of transportation. If you cannot perform this courtesy, we will force you to sit with the cell phone woman and her flu-infected crying child. And take warning to your leaders - you are one pay check or busted transmission away from this hell at all times."

There. Now I feel better.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

It must be time

She catches herself checking her own blog for new entries.

There are no new entries because no one (not mentioning initials here) has written any.

Nope. She's been busy. She's been acquiring jackets and uncluttered, non-floaty clothing with tailored lines, in subdued colors. Some of them are so subdued they fail to pass as colors. They are more...shadows. Weedy says, "Oh. Grown-up clothes." And she thinks, why in hell am I buying grown-up clothes?"

No one answers. The plants continue to ignore her and do their excuse-me-but-we-need-watering thing. She's paid up to $14.95 for the things but the plants have yet to provide one valuable answer. The furniture continues to be furniture. Much of it in need of cleaning, all of it silent as...well, furniture. And asking actual sentient beings for an answer is useless. She'd run the risk of an answer like, "what's odd about that?" or "well, you are 58."

Now she's worn tailored clothing, but normally it's by way of costume. The famous 40's suit that made her feel like she was Queen of the Known Universe or at the very least, Katherine Hepburn. But this is different. This is not worn with spike heels, stockings that have seams and little gloves. This is jackets and dress pants. This is necklines without cleavage. This stuff screams - I'm serious, dammit.

She's serious. Serious business is transpiring in her world. She is seriously overloaded at work and determined not to have her term-beginning meltdown. She has work in her first serious show. She is not just someone having fun anymore, beading until her eyes cross. She is now One of Eleven Nova Scotia Designers and the opening is tomorrow night. She considers renaming herself "One of Eleven." Borg Artist and Serious Human Being. She hopes she will not act like a dip stick at the opening. But the hope is frail, in spite of the jacket.

She is having a good time writing this. Having given up hope of serious subject matter.