The real meaning of enlightenment is to gaze with undimmed eyes on all darkness.
~ Nikos Kazantzakis
She sat there, in her normal spot, my La-Z-Boy chair at the foot of my bed in the corner of my bedroom next to the window that faces the sunset, in her typical manner, legs folded under and one elbow perched on the soft and cushiony armrest, at or around the usual time of day, in those desirably peaceful and yet mindlessly frantic moments that precede the closing of eyes and the dreaming of dreams, so her presence did not startle me.
No book sat open in her lap. No tales of wizards and witches on broomsticks or teenagers with wings or drawings and words inside and outside boxes about a little boy named after a theologian with a tiger named after a philosopher for a friend. No mystery for me to hear her unravel or adventure to watch her ride upon or joke for me to get, again.
I stopped cold, the smile on my face gone with the realization that she sat there crying. Staring at me and through me and beyond me at the significance and meaning of me. At a place without me. So she cried, tears so big, from a place where tears store up over time before overflowing uncontrollably and torrential.
She said she doesn’t want me to die.
How do you talk about something so top-heavy with what-ifs? In one scenario, the words eventually dead end upon the bone-shattering rocks of some imaginary torment, conceiving the inconceivable, and we are left staring, at nothing, our minds at the end of the world, with eyes so wide our muscles ache. Or, if we can manage to staunch the flood, we take control of the words, the careening thoughts, and steer them along an alternate route, away from fantastic and horrific speculations, and back to reality, toward what can be accomplished. Each avenue have a fecundity all its own, and it takes skill to recognize the divergence and bend that fork back together.
To allow the tears to flow, even as we wipe them away.
Smoking has become the elephant in the room around here. I stare at it on occasion, point to it and ask you to do the same, and then we move on. I write posts about wanting to quit, you encourage me to do so, and then we move on. I move on. And keep right on smoking.
Ignoring the elephant.
Sometimes, you see it. You ask me how it’s going. And then I either lie and say it’s going great, or I say something completely meaningless and void of any manner of conviction, like, “Well, it’s hard, but I’m trying.”
Read: I’m still smoking.
One thing I’ve learned about smoking is that there is no real discernable and immediate consequence for not quitting. For continuing to smoke. Sure, my lungs are working harder and my joints are stiffening and my heart is pumping faster, but that shit doesn’t happen overnight and is quite manageable in the short run. If given less than a moment’s thought, each of those things vanish under the rug that aging pulls over us when we’re not looking. While we’re busy doing other things.
Like blogging. It may sound cliché, but it is an honor to write for you. You don’t have to read my blog, but you do. You make your way here, read my ramblings, sometimes comment, and then move on, a few minutes each week that add up to one big smile on my sagging face. But you’re not stupid. You know the elephant is there. You ignore it as well, and forgive me when I do the same.
Can I be completely honest with you?
It’s time to stomp the fucking elephant.
I’m tired of writing about smoking. About how much I hate it and love it and can’t live with our without it. At the same time, I’m tired of ignoring it. Of brushing aside your kindness.
Of trying to dry my daughter’s tears, only to see them spill over, again and again and again. She cannot ignore the elephant. She refuses to do so.
I took my last drag on Sunday, June 27th, 2010, at 10:02 PM. Before I took it, I stopped and thought about the import of the moment. I asked myself if I could follow through. If I could do the thing I have decided to do . . .
If I ever smoke another cigarette, then I will delete this blog.
Since that moment with my daughter, about a month or so ago, I’ve been laying a foundation. Preparing for this moment. I have a plan, it’s working, and I’ll perhaps share with you some of the things I’ve learned in the coming weeks. For now, I give you a date, and a promise. In case you missed it . . .
If I smoke another cigarette, then I will delete this blog.
The entire blog. I know how to do it. Have only seriously considered doing it once. And now, all these years and posts later, I can’t imagine ever hitting that button. But I will. Because I figure that if I choose smoking over blogging, then there is something very wrong with me. And I needed a choice. A real one. Something I could make happen. And I don’t see this as a punishment. A negative thing. Instead, I see this as an opportunity to keep doing the one thing, besides smoking, that brings me pleasure. A measure of fulfillment. A million reasons to celebrate life. And the consequences of my choice are discernable and immediate.
I imagine some of you will think I’ve set myself up for failure. That I have set before me an impossible task.
You might be right. But it had to be done.
Or you might be thinking that, at some point in the future, I will find some loophole in my logic and take up smoking again. While if/then statements are generally hard to refute, any proposition has its logical limits, and a skilled bullshitter can find a way. I know this, for I am the king of bullshitters, and I am getting better at calling it on myself.
Simply? I had to choose. Life is about choices, after all. And for choices to have meaning, they must carry some weight.
I will blog. And I will not smoke. I am:
I made a badge. Isn’t that special? I made an even bigger one as well:
I must be bored. Or maybe serious . . .
Oh, and Amanda?
It’s on. I get to pick, though, so stay tuned for Songs for Amanda, coming soon . . .
[Flickr photo is by exfordy and is protected]