The Elephant in the Blog

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]

56 thoughts on “The Elephant in the Blog

  1. 1000% awesome. Beautifully written, and hopefully a powerful reminder that you can come back to if and when you find your willpower shaking and you need to refresh yourself on why making this change is so very, very, very important.

    1. Funny. For all the experts and their chatter about how it’s NOT about having willpower . . . it’s about having willpower. Thanks, dude . . .

  2. You know I’m in your cheering section, right? With that in mind, also know this – if I ever stop by and you’re not here…I will hunt you down. I have remarkable skillz when it comes to finding people. Don’t test me.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You can do this!

    1. Thank you, Fran. Your skillz ARE mad, and frightening . . .

  3. Go, man! And the timing of this is funny. This very morning our bus driver apologized if she seemed a little cranky today but its DAY ONE of her official effort to quit smoking.

    I so wish I could get the mother to do the same.

    I’ve never been a smoker but I have to think that it has the same almost undeniable draw which sweets hold for me. (And almost as bad of consequences when I overindulge as my mid-40s metabolism is not shy about illustrating for me.)

    And you absolutely CANNOT delete this blog. So, I will enthusiastically cheer you on! 🙂

    1. My wife has said it would take about the same Herculean effort for her to give up Pepsi, or chocolate, so perhaps you’re right. Thanks for being in my corner . . .

  4. “If I ever smoke another cigarette, then I will delete this blog.”

    Holy Smokes that is one heck of a commitment! Being put between a rock and a hard place is often what we/I need in order to make a necessary life change.

    You are now wholly accountable to your readers…that’s gutsy and honorable.

    1. . . . and scary . . . and necessary . . .

  5. Holy Jeebus! I wish you the best of luck cause I love reading your blog!

    Hopefully, I can put that badge on my blog soon. Damn elephant keeps getting bigger and bigger in our house!

    1. Thank you. And that’s the thing about elephants . . . 😉

  6. Three days and the blog is still here.
    Much strength, Bryan.

    1. Kitty,

      Thanks. And long time, no chat, my friend. Off to resolve that right about now . . .

  7. We have one of those elephants in our house. But the “elephant keeper” doesn’t want to talk about it.

    Thank you for writing this. I think i’ll go back and read it again.

    1. Ouch. Be patient. Maybe some change is closer than you think . . .

  8. Every time you’ve said you were going to quit smoking, I had full confidence that you were going to quit and was always surprised to realize you’d started up again. Which means that again I have full confidence that you are going to quit smoking.

    1. Glad to know that my past behavior hasn’t influenced your opinion of my abilities one single bit. Looking forward to writing on your blog very soon, my friend . . .

  9. That’s commitment (or craziness as you have an amazing blog)! Stomp hard!!! Sounds like lots of people are rooting for you.

    Here are some good statistics (compliments of American Lung Assoc, 2007) to keep you going & make this a permanent change for yourself and your family:

    At 48 hours after your last cigarette: Nerve endings start to regrow, and ability to smell/taste is enhanced.

    At 2 weeks – 3 mos: Circulation improves, lung function increases.

    At 1 – 9 months: Coughing, congestion, & fatigue all decrease.

    At 1 year: Risk of heart disease declines to 1/2 that of smokers.

    At 5 years: Risk of stroke drops to = that of non-smokers.

    At 10 years: Risk of lung and other cancers decrease compared to continuing smokers.

    At 15 years: Risk of death drops to about that of people who have never smoked & Heart disease risk is close to that of non-smokers.

    P.S. Love the new layout

    1. That layout? Much fun to implement and tweak. Glad you like it . . .

  10. Stomp. Isn’t that some sensational, wildly succesful Broadway play? There’s gotta be something to that word, man.

    And I, for one, am more than willing to give that fucking elephant a few boots on your behalf. Let me just get some inappropriate footwear on first, so I can at least leave a mark.

    Once you get to a place where you have no choice, you act. Which sounds EXACTLY like what you’re doing. You will do this. I have faith.

    1. Thank you, Shelley. Glad to see you’re still around and reading The Cheek. Be well . . .

  11. Good luck, I’m rooting for you!

    1. Thanks, dude. And I think it’s very cool that the avatar my site chose for you has a reeeealy big brain. Sort of Mojo Jojo-ish . . .

  12. I quit cold turkey 25 years ago. After the first two weeks without a cigarette, I realized I was really done with smoking. For about 2-3 years after that, I would very infrequently have a strong craving, but they were pretty easy to dismiss. Now, I never think about smoking at all. You’ll do it, no question.

    1. Thanks, Beth. Appreciate the testimony. Also? What I said about hubman’s avatar? Your brain is bigger. He’ll be so pissed!!!!

  13. Since you love blogging and comments from readers make your day , I’ll contribute to the effort by coming around more often and leaving comments. I’d hate for your blog to disappear. As the now grown daughter of smoking parents, I know how much it means to your daughter that you listened to her and didn’t get angry or defensive, and actually are doing something about it. Yay you!

    1. Howdy, and glad you could slip over from Twitter to touch base here. It’s such an honor.

      Now start a blog of your own . . .

  14. Congratulations on quitting smoking. It’s the hardest thing in the world to do. I know. I’m the one that has let the elephant in and hasn’t kicked him out yet.

    I hope you never pick up another cigarette because I don’t want you to stop writing the blog. Good luck!

    1. You can borrow my boots when I’m done . . .

  15. Aw, yeah! I’ll wear Bono shades and speak with an Irish brogue if it helps.

    You can do this.

    I became a smoker at 17, behind that teen was a 7 year old who’d rolled up little notes in her parents smokes, imploring them not to continue an unnecessary march to shorter lives.

    There will be temptation, there will be excuses, there will be yearning and while bells won’t ring and bystanders won’t cheer when you push through to the other side, when you write about it here, we will.

    I am proud of you. This arrangement is like a work out buddy. Make us hold you accountable. Honor your daughter. Show your lovely wife you want every last second you can have.

    Do it.

    I have faith you’ll do this. What’s my first song?

    1. You are, and have always been, my biggest cheerleader. Thank you! Stay tuned for the post featuring your first song . . .

  16. Allen Carr’s the “Easy way to stop Smoking”, Not sure if you ever read it but my buddy who smoked for years said it was the best read ever. He hasnt smoked since.

    Two motivating factors in life. The pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Avoiding pain is the bigger of the two. Hopefully the pain of losing your blog will outweigh the pain of not smoking. I would say good luck, but luck has nothing to do with it. So here’s my 2 cents, “Just Fucking do it”

    1. I’ll be writing about Mr. Carr and his book soon, so stay tuned for that whopper of a post. For now, thank you . . .

  17. This is the most awesome thing I’ve read in a LONG ass time. Good luck to you. I mean it.

    P.S. Yours is one of only about four blogs I still make time to read, for what it’s worth.

    1. I am humbled, my dear friend. You’ve always had by back, and that’s worth more than a farm in Texas, as my grandmother used to say. I hope she meant a bunch . . .

  18. This is fantastic. I am very proud of you, my friend. I know you can stomp that elephant but good. I think I told you before, quitting sucks, but being quit is great. I’ve been there.

    1. Being quit? So far, I’m finding it only mildly agreeable. But I crossed a major bridge today. I had to take a road trip. About 100 miles round trip. Alone. And no smokes. If you know how much I used to smoke in the car, your real jaw, not the prop, would hit the floor.

      I’m still amazed . . .

      Thanks, Travis.

  19. Stomp, stomp, stomp… my money’s on you! And it would be a tragedy to delete this blog – you can’t do that! i’m still poking around in the archives every now and then and finding treasure!

    1. Really?! Archives. Those are sooo yesterday . . .


  20. I love the new setup of your blog first off.

    Secondly… I can’t believe you are going to give up BLOGGING!

    You don’t have a choice now.

    You smoke and I’m going to personally come over to where you are and kick your butt!!!

    No lie.

    Giving up the blog is not an option.

    So YAY! Good Bye smoking forever!

    Incredible post!

    1. Isn’t kicking butt against your moral outlook on life? I’m sure it is . . .


      1. I’ll even supply her with the address!

  21. I keep thinking about writing a post to you, because I understand and sympathize. I quit in September 2001, but I always sort of intended to go back to smoking. Cigarette smoking is a friend I just figured I wouldn’t see for a while, and maybe I’d get tired of that friend and not really want to look him/her up again. Nearly nine years later, I still have a fondness for smoking. I’m glad I quit, and I wish you the best – and I love your blog – but what well-meaning nonsmokers don’t understand is the emotional connection, the FRIEND aspect.

    If you can drive 100 miles without breaking, I think you’ll be fine without that friend. Ship ’em off to Patagonia and promise to write. Then: reclaim your life! All those moments that were sucked up by, uh, sucking on cigarettes – use them to notice and appreciate things. There’s a whole world going on outside that friendship.

    If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel. On your knees, boy.

    1. Believe me, I get the FRIEND aspect. I get it more than most smokers, for reasons I’ll explain as this stomping thing progresses . . .

  22. Elephants are hard to stomp. But it can be done.

    1. And they make an ungodly amount of noise as well. Egad!

      Thank you for stopping by, fresh off your excursion to the land of gyros. I hope you ate one for me . . .

      And ain’t Daisy and Myra just the shit!!!???

  23. michael.offworld July 4, 2010 — 8:16 pm

    This is awesome. Real. You make me want to either quit something to start something. I’ve got a decent list of things I should and shouldn’t be doing…

    1. I plan on making a play of that dichotomy, the starting and stopping, in the title of the book I eventually write. Stay tuned for that . . .

  24. michael.offworld July 4, 2010 — 8:20 pm

    Not sure if someone asked this already. How will we know if you start smoking again and choose not to tell us (i.e., delete the blog)? Do you have a fail-safe? Someone who will delete your blog for you?

    1. I did think about this, but have yet to really come up with a way to make it happen should I get busted and choose not to come clean. My wife blogs on, so she could pull it off, I imagine. And my daughter is quite the computer whiz as well. Since she’s the one that prompted this effort, I trust her to do the right thing if I fall . . .

  25. First-time visitor. I love your blog name! I believe we all have addictions. One clue about them being hardcore is when we tell lies, little or big, to ourselves or others about them. I think it’s really hard to stop anything cold turkey, but maybe you have to do that in your case. My dad stopped smoking on the spot and it worked for him. (After he got a bad case of walking pneumonia)

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