Tag Archives: 1997

Just had a smoke with S___

Just had a smoke with S___. She stopped here at cafe as break from her work at lawyer’s office across street. She’s about done—tomorrow’s her last day. K_’s done with her job, and I will be, too, as soon as I finish my stories (it’s not measured in time, as much as in getting this work done). I feel maybe I’m an inspiration—several people have told me now is the time to break away, while I’m young. They tell me to find something I like, that if I’m not happy, it’s not worth it, that sort of thing. Maybe I’m even an inspiration to [my editor] W__ —he talked today, for the first time I’ve ever heard him, about how the years are all similar, they play back like tapes in his mind, and maybe it’s time to throw those tapes out. He even said that maybe he should look for a job at Springfield paper. Maybe aimless pondering, but there’s a real sentiment behind it.

So, smoking—there’s a subject to be written about here. I haven’t smoked for two days until tonight—and as long as I don’t start again—and the first smoke is always the best or the worst—tastes bad after a period of not smoking, yet that is the only one that gives a buzz. Future smokes, the second half of the pack, are just consumption, busywork, unspecified and unsatisfying—same as chewing a whole pack of gum at once—because you have it.

But herein lies a topic for discussion—why is it that I smoke when I chose to smoke, each individual instance? It really got in the way sometimes, like smoking one just before I got in my car to drive home (such as from work). Sometimes it’s just something to do, like during a commercial break in a TV show. I would just think to myself that I hadn’t had a smoke in a while, and that harshness in the lungs—that solidity, that substance—somehow filled a void, met a need. At other times, like why I would smoke during a writing session (not while typing, however, and while writing in the journal, it was just a hindrance, and it wasn’t noticed or enjoyed), this is almost the “break” theory, the pause from work—though it was both procrastination technique and reward for work already done. And it truly was just a break, a pause, a chance to think about what I was to write next—lede or just next transition, next block of text.

And then there’s the smoke that I “need”—don’t usually feel it unless I have the smokes and I just haven’t smoked one in a while, like at the stare fair this week. I don’t get needy from my body (as I do when I’m quitting), but moreso antsy in my mind. Maybe this partly shares with the “something to do”/waiting motivation.

My question here is, why do I want the second one? Almost no other substance I know of—excepting maybe sweets because of my sweet tooth—makes you want to have another. In an evening, I’ll want to drink more than one beer, but that’s almost a sipping thing—wanting to have one handy, nearby always, and at those times, smoking is like that, too—I keep one lit constantly or almost so at those drinking and smoking and talking times.

But The Second One—do I really expect it to be as good as the first? Or is that where the addiction kicks in?

Why do I smoke a second—yeah, probably because the first was good. But that’s too simplistic, doesn’t really apply for me now, as someone who has established a smoking habit. In my case, the reason I light a second is because the first put me back in a “smoking period”—it’s OK to smoke a second because I’m not trying not to smoke, I’m allowing myself to smoke, and so why not live it up in this period of self-granted freedom? That’s what these jags—weeks of smoking—feel like, I think. Then soon it becomes a pattern again: wake-up smoke, before and after drives, before and after lunch, during TV, etc., etc.

Why do I smoke? After the first couple, I don’t even taste them. Is it a habit for its own sake, like breaks during writing? I was sick of cigs by Tuesday a.m. after smoking much of Monday night until 3 a.m., and then smoking more at 7 a.m. But I kept doing it until I was done writing.

But really, smoking isn’t too much of a habit for me. It’s not too deeply ingrained, or I’m not as chemically addicted, or something, or I wouldn’t be able to go even a whole day without a smoke. Sure, I am an addict at some level—like B__ said, I can’t take one because I’ll want another. The way to quit is just not to pick up the next one—there is somehow that reassuring feeling that if you take one, the next is “indulge yourself.”

But I know that I don’t want to keep smoking, that I can’t keep smoking, not only for the long-term considerations, but really I don’t like myself as much when I’m smoking. #1 is the weakness. I’m using a substance. Because it makes me so weak and out of breath, etc., and makes me smell bad, costs $, etc., I’m submitting to the substance. But I also smoke so fast—like I’m sucking these things down. I’m not attempting to make them part of my life—which is what I was thinking today, that deciding to smoke (at least by not quitting) is a large life-choice, almost a lifestyle, because of the prominent role it plays in your life. You have them with you all the time, you’re often thinking of how/when/where to have your next smoke, you’re choosing to not be athletic, or, really, healthy at all.

[From journal of 14 Aug. 1997, Journal 18, pages 210-15]

What’s hard about quitting is just the thought

No burning thoughts or issues tonight, but it’s probably good just to get the thoughts flowing. Ate first sweet corn tonight, and picked ripe tomatoes, more than I can use.

I don’t know why I’ve lost some level of interest in the garden. Partly I haven’t been out there much because of lack of time. And probably some of it is simply lowered excitement—there’s less to do out there now, more bug troubles. Planting and seeing sprouting seeds is the most fun, exciting. Nothing to do now except weed, water, and wait for ripe vegetables, excess vegetables we can’t use. And I did get kinda tired of salads, even though we didn’t eat all of our lettuce by any means.

I remember telling some people early in the season my biggest challenge of having a garden is seeing if I could stay interested in it season-long. That’s still the challenge, I suppose, though I haven’t given up on it. I just know now that for next year, I should plant smaller batches of each vegetable, so it doesn’t ripen all at once, and two, I need to do more work on protecting my plants from bugs, as well as spacing things out better and staking tomatoes up better.

Here’s an analogy: I’m quitting smoking again. Voice and lungs were getting tight and phlegmy, respectively, lately. And when I’m smoking a pack a day, I’m not really sure why I keep smoking after the first couple of the day. I never feel a buzz after first one or two. I just keep smoking them. Really for me, smoking more than anything else is something to do—take a break, go outside, think about things (get ledes for stories during those breaks), something to do while waiting somewhere or walking.

I thought about smoking today, but the need was never real strong today. The need is the feeling from my lungs that they’re empty, they need to have something in them, filled with smoke or tar or whatever. Never felt that today—spent most of the day coughing up phlegm. Lungs have been full lately.

What’s hard about quitting is just the thought that from now on, I will never smoke another cigarette. Like today—for a moment, just as we were packing up to go home, I thought to myself, I could smoke in a few minutes when we go outside— a reward of sorts?—then I realized: no smokes, and no smoking. It was just a background thought, the kinds of thinking you do when you smoke: where/when would be my next chance to smoke?

But for me now, as I write in notebook today, I’ve just got to think not about wouldn’t it be nice to smoke, or the good times I had smoking—not really, thought—can’t taste after a couple, anyway—or that I’ll never have another. What I’ve got to think of is my healthy body, being strong—clear, strong lungfuls of fresh air, something I felt almost ecstatic about when I experienced it today. Feels heavy, like a deep inhale, but it actually tastes good, light on the throat, empowering.

Analogy—landing airplane

In a few weeks when my lungs don’t feel so bad, then smoking won’t seem so bad again. My lungs will be better, it’ll be easy to breathe normally.

I regret all the time I’ve smoked already—I’ve never really quit.

[From journal of Wed., 13 Aug. 1997, evening, Cinema Cafe, Urbana, 10:25, Journal 18, page 207-210]

Dad’s going nuts

1:45 p.m. Dad’s going nuts. He tore into that real estate agent, in front of [my brother] N. I wonder what N’s reaction was. I wonder if dad is burning bridges he doesn’t realize he’s burning.

11:25 p.m. This is the first thing I’ve ever heard about dad that makes me ashamed of him. Sure, there was his … and that lowered my respect for him, but this is the first time that Dad has been a public embarrassment. N said he felt bad for J__ having to listen to it.

Called N tonight to see what he thought of dad’s scene—first thing he said was dad’s insane, or rather, that dad is to a higher degree of instability than before.

I’m going to say something this weekend. I feel like I ‘m the adult and he’s an adolescent, or at least an irresponsible adult. I’ve felt more like an equal to him, rather than a son, and maybe his … and my resulting loss of respect/awe for him is a cause of that. But I feel I need to say something. I don’t feel burdened like it’s my duty to say something because I’m the oldest son—I care about him, and I feel sad and helpless to see him get like this. I feel I need to say something because no one else will—either like mom or C__, they aren’t that close to dad and don’t particularly want to be, or they’re either more distant, like D_, J__, P__ & P__—they see his madness, I suspect, but they maybe don’t feel it’s their place to say anything. Or they simply aren’t close enough or don’t care/want to bet involved, etc. And I’m not saying they should. But I don’t think G__ or J__ will say anything either. N and (my brother) D largely just want to distance themselves from this situation.

I’ve been sitting here in my observation booth, making comments. Hell, I’ve almost been rude in my questions lately, asking whether dad actually has the money to make these purchases. Well, I never asked anything that directly—well, maybe I did, with this farm. I’ve been asking about risk. I hear the news second-hand, usually, filtered down from mom or N, and then dad tells me, and the last month I’ve tried to not be a cheerleader, like maybe I was more of last fall. But I’ve been almost reluctant, or hesitant—though not going so far as to tell him it’s wrong. I’ve still reacted with surface interest, surface enthusiasm.

But it’s time to say something. I won’t say he’s wrong—I don’t want to alienate him. I’ll just say that he’s not himself. Maybe I’ll bring up medication. He’s just not himself. N tonight said,”he’s all extremes.” H called back last Thursday morning and apologized for cutting me off after an hour-long chat. There was no need to apologize—and that’s just not him. After blowing up Monday, he apologized four times to N.

What C__ said was that manics have delusions of grandeur—they’re all-powerful. Dad’s been buying like a madman. So I hope dad doesn’t just tell me I’m wrong and leave, or, worse, get mad at me—a real possibility, seeing what these other conflicts are doing to him. He’s irritable, like C__ said.

Today is bad—this is a bad sign. For someone who has this job built on all his person skills and respect in the community, he’s going to lose not only his job but his respect in the community if this keeps up. But this isn’t him, he’s sick. He’s not well. It’s like I want to tell everyone this—maybe they can tell. Whether they know he’s sick or not, this kind of outburst isn’t good. You either lose respect or gain pity (and distancing).

And also, like N said, it’s scary to think this might run in the family. M tonight said I’m happier/more excited now than during winter—and that’s true. But I’ve always been down in February–a sh!tty month.

The thing with me telling dad is that, even though we’re more like equals, he’s still my dad, and there’s the feeling that he is competent, qualified, good, worthy of respect—maybe not in his marriage, but he’s always done well at work. He’s gotten along with people, and he’s carried himself well—groomed, respectable-looking and behaving. He’s never been an embarrassment. I’ve always been proud to say I am his son—but, and N said this too tonight, I might not want to say I’m related to Gene H___ much more.

He’s still my dad and there’s a feeling he should be able to take care of himself and now there’s the realization that he can’t—he’s sick, he can’t fully take care of himself, he’s not himself. He’s like Grandma H__, he needs some help. I’m stronger now than my dad and that’s hard to take.

[From journal of Weds., 26 March 1997, Journal 18, page 27-31]