Another Brick in Our Collective Ruins – A Guest Post

One of the best things about surfing around Blogland is having the opportunity to meet people who become so much more than just avatars and screen names. Through reading posts, leaving comments, and interacting by email, several people I’ve rubbed digital shoulders with in recent months have moved beyond faces and words on a webpage to kindred spirits . . . soul mates.

One such person is Christine, known around the blogosphere as Flutter. Her posts push me, motivate me, and tickle the part of my brain that loves writing and those who do it well. To visit her blog is to experience a broad spectrum of emotions.

Life, work and school have been handing my ass to me as of late, so I asked Christine if she’d kindly write a guest post for The Cheek of God. She’s a very busy gal, so I’m thrilled that she agreed.

So, in lieu of a “woe-is-me” post where I bore you with the details of why I haven’t posted since last Tuesday, I’m privileged to offer you the words of a friend . . .

The act of writing is an inspired thing. You either feel compelled, or you don’t. For those of us who feel compelled, writing is an act akin to breathing.

Sometimes labored, sometimes natural, always necessary. Expression is historically documented, our written history the labor of love of those who took it upon themselves to archive. This creates a different perspective when evaluating history. When we consider the personal perspective that leaks into the gathering and the telling of fact. How fact changes depending on the view of the person telling the story.

Memoir is a blessing of history. Our own personal histories gathered, archived, shared. Memoir writing is an act of therapeutic healing. To tell our own stories is to give credence to the experience. To tell our truths is an act of bravery. Even if the story seems mundane to our own eyes, our stories have the power to heal, to unite, to teach.

My own memoir is a history of sexual assault and the subsequent decade plus of self abusive patterns. I am finally putting them to rest by placing them on the table. When brought to light, our own personal tragedies lose power. They become yet another brick in our collective ruins, ready to tumble. Such has been my experience in telling my own stories on my blog, and as I work on my book.

Bravery is essential in the memoir, as is delicacy, brutality, sensitivity and honesty. But all of these are essential to you and only you. You are not writing for your audience, in a memoir. You are writing a resonant truth. Your truth will resonate with your audience when it resonates with you. When you are touched, they are touched, when you are full, so are they.

It is the best kind of therapy, our personal histories. They are born of our eyes and can only be told by us. They are stories that need to be heard. They are history in the making.

To experience Flutter in all her finest “delicacy, brutality, sensitivity and honesty,” visit her blog and spend some time getting to know her. You won’t be the same . . .


On Dreams, Driving and Diversions – A Smoke-Free Weekend Recap

In my dream I was sitting in class listening as the professor droned on and on about this or that. Then they came in and told me I had to report to the student union to sign some waiver. Apparently word had gotten out that I had quit smoking cold turkey and needed to sign a statement absolving the university of any responsibility should I suddenly go berserk and . . . well . . . do what insane people do on college campuses these days. This form was quite thorough. I had to agree that they were warning me that quitting smoking cold turkey was dangerous and irresponsible – quitting should be only done under the direct supervision of a medical professional – and that should I begin exhibiting behaviors ranging from mild (falling asleep in class or receiving lower grades) to extreme (watch the news and fill in the blank here), then the university, its professors, my fellow students, or anyone else associated with my educational career could in no way be held liable, in either the legal courts or the court of public opinion. In this day, when fingers (and guns) are being pointed with intent to harm, I wasn’t shocked it had come to this. I signed the form, handed it back in to the distracted and overworked secretary, and was escorted back to class.

Then I woke up. This morning . . . in my bed next to my wife . . . having gone more than two days without a cigarette.

I laughed at the stupidity of it all.

The amazing thing about this whole experience is that no one in my family even noticed I wasn’t smoking. I drove in to town with my wife the morning after I quit and didn’t smoke in the van, something that drives her crazy. I didn’t stop to buy any cigarettes, and I didn’t smoke any while waiting for her to come and pick me up after class. I didn’t smoke once when my oldest daughter and I drove into town on Saturday morning to pick up a book at Barnes & Noble, some groceries from Wal-Mart, and breakfast at IHOP. She didn’t even notice that, for the first time in years, I drove with the window up and she didn’t have to ask me to close it because the wind was bugging her. To drive anywhere without smoking is damn near impossible. I can mark the miles and the ETAs by how many Camels I’ve smoked or even how much Camel I have left before I must fling the butt out the window. Driving=Smoking.

And yet this cancer, this pesky, persistent weedy habit that has eaten away at my family – they didn’t even notice that it had been eradicated. But maybe that’s the way it goes. They’ve become so used to me killing myself one puff at a time that they didn’t even notice or care anymore. And it’s not like this is the first time I’ve ever tried to quit. I’ve made those sweeping, all-or-nothing promises addictive people like me are prone to make and then gone back to the trough when the going got a bit rocky. So there’s pain there for them and I’m a fool to expect them to speak up and congratulate me for my stellar efforts when they probably realize they will be short lived – just more of dad’s bullshit. Still, while they were all good at pointing out my habit when it bothered them, they didn’t notice the clean air when it subtly blew into our home. I probably sound bitter, so hold on while I slap myself and get over it . . .

That’s better. Sorry for that little pity party. I’m such an idiot.

But I’m damn good at Guitar Hero. “You Rock!” the game reminds me at the end of every number. So, since I need to feel like I rock on occasion, I’ve played GH a lot this weekend. Between that and all the movies I’ve watched (some twice), the diversions have been myriad and miraculous. I’ve attempted to reconnect to my family even as I’ve fed my inclinations to pull away, to pull inside, and fight the battle alone. I’m like William Hurt’s character in the movie The Doctor – I’ve kept my arms up for so long pushing people away that I have no idea how, or effort left, to put them down.

So what’s left of me? I’m broken and weak right now, but I’m doing it.

Tomorrow begins the true tests. I jump back into the routines of school and work – two arenas thick and cloudy with smoking triggers and an enabling cast of characters also unaware of my decision to quit. Despite all prose to the contrary, I’m feeling good about quitting and plan on doing it for however long it takes.

Thank you all for your comments and encouraging words. They are appreciated more than you know.

There Is No Try! – Eulogy for a Habit

The moment I hit “Publish” and send this post into the blogosphere – a moment that will have come and gone by the time you read this – I plan to walk out to my garage and smoke my last cigarette. It’ll be a Camel Turkish Silver, my brand of choice, and I’ll enjoy it immensely.

Saying goodbye to smoking won’t be easy.

I’ve been telling folks for several months that I’m “trying” to quit smoking. But in the words of that intelligent and sagacious green Jedi, “Do or do not! There is no try!” So, like a good Padawan, I’m doing it.

I first lit up when I was a freshman in high school. My friend Dave had a cousin who 1) had easy access to cigarettes and 2) lived near a pool hall, so starting was relatively easy. Nothing beats shooting pool with friends, drinking an icy cold soda, and dangling a smoke from your lips. We were badass back then. But then we got busted. I don’t recall how my parents found out, but I will never forget my dad forcing me to chain smoke some unfiltered, manly variety of cigarette until I puked. Much fun! Either because of that experience or the lack of money, I didn’t smoke again for quite some time. Oh, I’d occasionally bum a smoke from someone and give it another try but it never stuck.

Then one day, just over four years ago, on a particularly boring drive to campus for my Human Anatomy & Physiology class, I pulled into a convenience store on the corner of Crescent Avenue and State Street and bought a pack of Marlboro Ultra Lights. Reasons for doing so include:

  • I had weight loss surgery two years prior and was running out of things to with my hands besides eating while driving.
  • . . .

Funny . . . As I write this, I can’t really think of another reason. I could make up some bullshit about wanting to try something different, or how I desired to experience the joy that could be found by smoking in front of the building between classes, or how I needed something to do that was sneaky and daring and mine-all-mine, but it would sound like . . . well . . . bullshit. Maybe it’s just that simple.

Anyway . . . it stuck – big time.

I have since become a very good smoker. Almost two packs a day when I’m on the road a lot. Smoking in the car is an inexpressible pleasure; the wind in my face, the bass pounding the back of my seat, and ashes flying out the window and into the slipstream.

Nothing beats the feel of warm smoke in my lungs on a cold, winter morning; it mingles with the steam from my coffee and helps me open my eyes and get in the mood for the busyness of life.

Cigarettes have been there for me when times get stressful, like just before a big test or when a paper is due in less than an hour. Last semester, I took a philosophy course which required extensive reading and an explication paper once a week. My favorite time of day for sixteen weeks was those few hours on school mornings when I’d go to Bob Evans, order biscuits and gravy and coffee with cream, set up my office in the corner of the smoking section and smoke and read and write about Descartes or Kant.

When I’m home, smoking gives me at least one chance every hour or so to be alone in my garage or on my porch and think and hear only the tiny sounds of my tiny town instead of the roar of the circus I leave inside the door.

Yes, I will miss smoking.

But saying goodbye is something that must be done.


What will I not miss about smoking?

  • Aryn’s “No! No Smoke-oh!” chant.
  • Zoe’s plea for a pinky promise I could never give.
  • Ethan’s coughing as he sits in the seat behind me on road trips.
  • Ty’s innocent, spontaneous looks of disgust and the way he tries to plug his nose without me noticing when he’s in my car with me.
  • My wife’s worried expressions that seem to crop up more often lately.

Am I quitting for my family? Some would suggest that this is a bad idea, for only when we do something for ourselves will it actually stick. I started smoking for me and it stuck quite easily. And now I am choosing to quit for me. Maybe it’s just that simple.

I need to wrap this up . . . I’m dying for a smoke.