i used to smoke. there’s no excuse. i averaged maybe a pack a day for three years and half that for another four.
one outcome of doing it, and reason i continued doing it, was that i was twitchy and nervous and profoundly uncomfortable with the creeping unstoppable passage of time. a cigarette to me was a way to divide up a task. it was a reason to leave a conversation. i thought there was no more graceful exit from a room than, “well, i’m going for a smoke.” i thought that was the smoothest possible thing. it was years until i appreciated that it was shorthand for, “please excuse me while i indulge my addiction to this toxin. i will return in five minutes smelling like toasted garbage but also beaming and sighing with a kind of gross satisfaction that will possibly subject you to the insidious teenagery fear of missing out. i may also cough tarry mucus up into my mouth.”
i was nauseated by the idea of quitting. without cigarettes, time was just undifferentiated endless time. there would be basically nothing between Now and Death. quitting meant jumping into a cold lake of time and just being in there until it was time to die.
but finally, one day, i jumped into the lake. i tread water, shivering obnoxiously, for a few days. then i scrambled back out. then a few weeks later i jumped back in. i went in and out a few times. and eventually i found that i didn’t want to get back out. and that was because the lake made me meaningfully different than before. more patient and more empathetic. also i could play pickup basketball for more than ten minutes without wheezing.
the metaphor is a little inane, but it’s good to go into the cold lake and just be. and be content with just being. you are reading this on your phone or tablet or laptop or whatever. there’s a good chance your life has a lot of comforts, chemical, technological, or otherwise. they might be poisoning you. they also might be poisoning the planet. if you don’t need to be comforted, comfort is the enemy. go into the cold lake. have a good 2014.
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