the numbers

Just to give you an update: the post I’m working on now has languished in WordPress for over a month, consists of 1401 words in 15 paragraphs, and is only half finished. I believe this situation to be indicative of patterns that exist elsewhere in my life.

At this point I’m comprised of 87% nonsmoker and 13% smoker. I didn’t smoke at all for 21 days, and then, sitting on my patio talking on the phone after a particularly difficult day at work, I lit a cigarette. Smoking it felt unfamiliar, like my hand belonged to someone else, like my lungs weren’t mine, like the smoke in them shouldn’t exist somehow.

So now I smoke a cigarette every two or three days, or sometimes two or three cigarettes every day, but I always make sure I’m alone. I put each cigarette out when it’s 3/4 finished and think to myself, “That wasn’t terribly pleasant, now was it?” Then sometimes I light another one.

When I quit on March 15, I had 2.5 packs left over. Of those 2.5 packs, 6 cigarettes are now left. The reckoning will come when I smoke those 6 cigarettes (over the next 2-13 days). If I want to smoke any more, I’ll have to go buy more, and I’d rather not do that.

The point is that it’s much harder to write when I’m not smoking.

things I miss about smoking

1. All the delicious cigarettes.

2. Smoking and driving. I used to think I loved to drive, but now I think what I really liked was smoking while driving. Driving’s boring now, and every trip feels like it takes an hour.

3. Smoking while driving and listening to a really good song on my iPod. Since quitting, I’ve had to listen to NPR instead of my iPod while I drive. The change of routine has helped me think less about the fact that I’m not smoking, since a) NPR requires more of my concentration, and b) I don’t have to hear the same songs I’ve heard before and think, “I smoked a cigarette the last time I heard this song in the car.”

The upside is that thanks to NPR, I now know all about hyperinflation in Zimbabwe, Sarkozy’s visit to Britain, online curriculum for high-school students, and the ramifications of the San Francisco plastic bag ban, and I also know how much Tracey Ullman hates bloggers, pimply fucks named Craig who live in their parents’ basements and use their blogs to say that they wouldn’t sleep with Heather Locklear because she’s too old. The downside is that going sixty-five on the freeway and enjoying a delicious cigarette while listening to the Pixies was fucking fantastic.

4. Smoking with friends. We went roller skating on Tuesday night, and when we all walked out of the building, the first thing that happened was that we noticed the ambulance and all the police cars in the parking lot, but the second thing that happened was that two of my friends lit cigarettes. I really, really wanted to stand there and smoke with them and talk about hey did somebody fall down on the rink or was there a knife fight out here or what and boy are we going to be sore tomorrow from all this skating, but instead I took a long, beautiful whiff of secondhand smoke, said, “See you guys later!” and went home.

6. Smoking while talking on the phone, especially during in-depth discussions.

5. Using smoking as an excuse to move away from conversations at parties. It used to be that if I was running out of things to talk about with someone, I could just say, “Well, I’m going to go smoke a cigarette,” and then go outside and smoke a cigarette. Now I don’t know what to say. “I’m going to go get something to eat,” doesn’t work because I’m trying not to replace cigarettes with food, and “I’m going to go get a drink,” doesn’t work because drinking just makes me want to smoke.

Even better, if I didn’t want to talk to anyone at all for a few minutes, I could just go outside and stand there by myself and smoke a cigarette. If anyone saw me, it didn’t look like I was upset about something or hiding or loitering or anything, it just looked like I was very busy smoking this cigarette, thank you very much. Now I guess I’m going to have to become a loiterer, or that girl who always has to go get something from her car, or a person who takes forever in the bathroom.

7. Smoking while sitting on my patio, having a glass of red wine, and writing.

8. Standing outside with the dog at night when a cold front is coming in and the wind is blowing through the leaves on the trees in that crisp way that lets me know I’m going to need a jacket in the morning. And smoking.

Public service announcement:

Today is Day 13 of Not Smoking. I’ve been able to get this far for two reasons:

1. I was sick with the flu for eight of those days.

2. I am sticking to this philosophy, telling myself that if I crack and smoke a cigarette, it does not ruin all my efforts to quit. Trying to quit smoking is really good for me even if I don’t do it perfectly. I’m willing to bet that putting a lot of pressure on myself to be the perfect quitter would have made me crack by now, but I have not cracked. Giving myself permission to fail is the thing that has given me the strength to succeed so far.

My point is this: in the future, you may see me smoking a cigarette. Maybe I’m smoking because I’ve cracked and let myself have one even though I didn’t want to; or maybe I’m smoking because I’m hoping that this cigarette will be the LAST ONE, the one that will make me hate it forever; or maybe I’m smoking because, fuck, I really enjoy smoking, and having just one cigarette every now and then is better than having a pack a day. If you see me smoking a cigarette for one of these reasons or any other reason, please do not ask me about the cigarette or say anything like, “But I thought you quit!”

I know. I’m trying.