Monday, September 21, 2009

a beginning, a middle, and a hopeful end

I haven't been posting very much lately. I don't know how to explain, exactly; I'm busy, it's true, and there's been an awful lot going on, but I also seem to be suffering from some sort of amateur's form of writer's block, and I have been for roughly the last month. This has happened before, but this feels like it's already lasted far longer than is normal for me and, in all honesty, it's kind of freaking me out. The stories are dissolving before my eyes, and I can't seem to draw the connections that I need to make in order to form them into coherent ideas. Even my thoughts feel muddy sometimes. And while I wouldn't exactly say that I'm depressed or repressed or even particularly unhappy, I miss the glow that the world has when I'm fully immersed in it.

This isn't to say that life isn't good, because it is. Good things are happening to me every day. That's part of the problem, because I know that I could be experiencing so much more if I weren't lacking the clarity of vision to see what I thought I was seeing before, to figure out how my interior life and the life outside of me are connected, to bridge the gap between mundanity and exaltation. It's frustrating, because I know it's there and that it's passing me by and I can't seem to do anything about it. I'm starting to recognize that I'm once again reverting to old patterns: not talking enough, not making sure I get what I need or even (gasp) just want, losing my grip on my sense of personhood and worthiness. It's not as bad as it has been in the past, but it's enough to set me back a few steps and remind me that figuring things out is an ongoing process, and one that I will probably be repeating and struggling against and dealing with for a long time. Recognizing the warning signs is an important part of stopping things before they go too far, and I'm comforting myself with the thought that at least I'm getting better at that part, at recognizing and thinking about and fixing things before I end up in a Bad Place with myself.

So I sigh, and I remember what I've learned in the last year. That when I stop valuing myself and treating myself accordingly, I am not happy. That when I'm not happy, I'm less able to fully connect to other people. That when I lose that ability to connect, crazy beautiful things don't happen as often, or at least I don't recognize them as such. And then I lose my words, and then I become a person I don't like very much, and then the spiral continues until, if I'm not vigilant, I end up back where I started. I don't want to be there anymore. I tell myself that everything is connected: I need to make myself happy in order to be happy with others and with my life. I still don't know why letting this happen is so difficult, but at least I can work on it.

And so: a step back.


Here is an almost-confession, almost because it's not a surprise to many of the people who might be reading this: for years now, I've gone back and forth between smoking cigarettes and not smoking them, but in the past few months I've mostly been losing the battle. I've never admitted that in print before. On one level, I absolutely hate smoking; I hate the smell, the taste, the self-hatred that comes from abuse of my body, the knowledge that I'm slowly killing myself every time I flick my lighter. But on another level, part of me loves to do something bad for once, to do something stupid and harmful and wrong. Plus there's that whole addiction thing, which I took lightly in the past but now is finally registering in my body as a need.

I quit smoking once before, for almost three years, because a girl that I loved very much asked me to give it up for myself and for her. When we broke up, I began smoking again with a vengeance (literally) and since then it's been harder and harder for me to distance myself for any length of time. Today, I said goodbye to her as we unloaded boxes of kitchen equipment from her truck, boxes that were going up to my apartment because she and her girlfriend are moving to San Francisco on Friday. I couldn't think of a fitting goodbye, and so after a brief hug and a hopeful promise to visit in the spring she was gone and I went back to my cats to think about change.

I went up to my apartment and unpacked some stuff, and then I sat down to look at this post again. It's all well and good to write about the changes I need to make, and it's entirely another to actually make them. After a few minutes, I packed up my bag and headed out again. I went to the corner store; I bought a pack of cigarettes. I began to walk towards the lake, slowly smoking, and when I got there I threw my butt into a trash can. I walked to the water, and I sat down on a rock and pulled out my planner. I made a small mark next to today. I decided that by tonight there would be no more than three of those marks, and that I would continue to make no more than three marks every day until, a week from now, there would be no more marks because there would be no more cigarettes.

I've tried to quit cold turkey many times in the last few months, and have almost always ended up buying another pack within a few days. Here is my new decision: this week is my goodbye to smoking. I'm no good at abrupt leavings, but if I want to love myself again I have to let go of this thing that is ultimately, for me, an expression of self-hatred or self-pity or self-abuse. I need to prove my strength to myself again by beating this fucking addiction. And because I need to do this, I need to write about it here and tell other people so that you can help keep me honest. That is perhaps a lame way out of this cul-de-sac, but it's what I have. Please ask me about it, make me talk about it, ask to see my planner, check up on me. Knowing you're out there will make a difference. I am, apparently, fully capable of lying to myself, but you all? Not so much.

As I walked back from the lake after making my decision, I didn't light a cigarette, even though I already wanted to. Just as I crossed under Lake Shore Drive, it began to rain. I thought to myself, "So, here is my story," even though I hate attributing some sort of personal attention from something as uncaring as the weather, and I walked slower, failing to remove the umbrella I had in my bag and instead letting the drops hit me. I walked all the way home that way, and then I changed out of my wet clothing and sat down to finish this and as I did the sun came out and shone through my windows and somebody texted me to tell me that there is a rainbow outside, and I decided to go with the metaphor. Stories are really in the way I see the world anyway, and if I need to tell myself that the rain and its stopping mean something in order to regain my clarity than so be it. I can only hope that this small vignette and the seeing of it is a stepping stone back to where I want to be.


Rosiecat said...

I admire the way you are reaching out to your readers to hold you accountable for reaching your new goal! Smoking is frighteningly addictive. I'm a little scared for you here, but you can count on me to help you quit. If you have a weak moment or just need a word of encouragement, call me or e-mail me and I'll be your cheerleader.

Much love and best of luck, friend!

pulley-whipped said...

You can do it, Ammie! If not, I'll punch you in the face.

And I'm a huge believer in symbolism. That rainbow was for YOU.

erica said...

and this might be one rare thing that inspires me to send a text of my own free will: checking in on you :-)

Lauren said...

::many hugs:: This entry was beautiful, and I love taking emotional cues from the weather. Good for you for working towards quitting! I'll ask you about it! <3

ammie said...

I love you all. <3

ShanaRose said...

good work on the quitting Ammie! be nice to yourself all the time, especially when you make mistakes or missteps.

Alicia Dabney said...

Ammie, I love you! I love the truth of this post and of the thoughts on smoking. I wish you luck, and I will ask about it in a short time.

(I quit smoking about 5-ish? years ago, and I do still remember the love-hate relationship I had with each cigarette.)