My aunt Lori quit smoking on Tuesday. Cold Turkey. She has smoked for as long as I can remember. I believe she told me once that she had her first cigarette when she was 14. I won't disclose her age, but let's just say that she has been smoking for probably about 30 years. That is a LONG time for an addiction like smoking. I received an e-mail from her yesterday afternoon stating the exact date and time, to the minute, that she had enjoyed her last cigarette. She said that she had been eating carrots, celery, mints and chewing on a lot of crushed ice.
Although I don't know exactly what quitting smoking is like, I imagine it to be one of the hardest things to do. It must consume your every thought, all day long, every minute. As a very weak example, think of something that you have everyday that you take for granted, like your cell phone, computer, coffee or your microwave. Then imagine how you use that thing everyday- how many times you use it, how much you rely on it for something, how if you lost it or if it was taken away, how lost you would be. Smoking has got to be 10 times worse than that. It is a physical addiction, not just a mental addiction.
I don't expect you to understand how touching this is, but in all the encouragement I could muster for my aunt by e-mail, she replied that she has been begging my dad for help. Of course, I started bawling when I read that. After all, my dad died of a heart attack and smoking is one of the top causes for heart disease. After he passed away a year and a half ago, I went crazy researching heart attacks and the causes. I called my aunt a couple of times in the following weeks to try to persuade her to quit smoking out of fear that the same thing would happen to her as had happened to my dad. She knew that she needed to quit, but she just wasn't quite convinced. Her brother had just died because of the very thing that she was doing and that just wasn't enough.
Well, apparently this week was the right time for Aunt Lori. I don't know exactly what sparked her motivation to quit on Tuesday, but each person has to be comfortable with their decision, they have to be ready mentally for that drastic change. Sometimes it takes a while to become comfortable with an idea for one to take the first step. And sometimes that takes years. I remember when my mom quit smoking. She had tried a couple of times before but had not succeeded. She quit for good just after my great grandfather passed away, whom she was fairly close to. She just quit. It was not my dying grandfather's wish that she quit- he was not on his deathbed begging her to quit as a method of bargaining against his death. His death just spoke to her and that was that. She never questioned WHY it was, it was just one of those life-changing experiences that made her want to change her habit. I am not saying that a loved on has to die for someone to overcome addiction, it has been my experience that death is a great catalyst for positive change.
When I think of my aunt, I picture her with a cigarette in between her fingers, taking a long, slow, clearly gratifying drag while she listens intently to my words, keeping the smoke in her lungs for as long as she can hold her breath so as to hang onto the effect for as long as possible. It will be shocking to see her without, to not smell the stench of smoke on all of her belongings and on her when we hug or when I visit. It will be so great to have more time with her and for her to have more time for herself and for her family because she won't have to be constantly going outside to smoke.
And what an accomplishment- to be able to say that you QUIT SMOKING, that you conquered something so powerful that it harnessed your mind, your body, your every thought for THIRTY YEARS. I know this is something that smokers will understand a whole lot better than I, but I see it as one of the most noble victories. I KNOW she can do it.
I did a lot of walking today. Well, more walking than usual. From home I walked to the closest Max stop and then walked from the Max stop to work. (This is really only 10 blocks or so, but mind you it was a whopping 27 degrees outside.) When I repeated the same trip in reverse this afternoon (it was still not above freezing), I made a stop at the coffee shop down the street. Then later this evening I walked from my house to the video store and back. Strangely, I think the warmest trip was the last, which was made AFTER dark. It was the most pleasant walk I have had in a long time.
Today it snowed here in Portland. This may not mean anything to those of you reading in Montana or South Dakota or on the east coast, but snow here means NOBODY leaves their house. It's like there is a highly contagious disease on the sidewalks and streets. Nobody wants to touch it. They look at it like its the bearded lady or an artifact at a museum- they take PICTURES of it like they would take pictures of a buffalo at Yellowstone National Park.
I heard that Portland has only two snowplows, which would explain why nobody knows how to drive in the white fluffy stuff and also why only 10 streets in the entire city seem to be bare enough by the end of the day to see asphalt. From my work window today, I watched one of our two snowplows in action- what a disappointment. I think the plow was down just to make noise because the damn plow was not PLOWING anything. Generally, when a snowplow PLOWS something, that "SOMETHING" flies to the side of the street and off of the plow blade like snow does when you use a snowblower. Ok, sorry Portlanders- you probably don't know what a snowblower is, so let’s just say the purpose of this snowplow was being defeated. Buh-bye tax dollars.
I am not quite comfortable yet with driving my little 2WD car on snow or ice which is why I walked and Maxed it today. (In September I traded my adorable, reliable 4-wheel-drive pickup for a more fuel efficient and practical sedan (see "New Car, New Me" Sept. 2006.)) But more than that, I don't trust OTHER drivers here in snow or ice. (Or sun or rain for that matter. The west coast breeds the WORST drivers ever.) This morning, I saw a woman who was stuck in the middle of a usually busy intersection, spinning out and spinning out in her 4WD SUV that was NOT actually IN 4WD- she had her tire chains on the front tires. Her car was a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to feel sorry for the woman.
I quite enjoy the lack of activity that comes with the snow day though. When I walked to the video store just now, it was so quiet, so still- like it is super early on a Sunday morning. The snow is like a blanket that makes the city sleepy. Just a few cars are out, a couple of joggers. No roar of cars or buses. Not even any homeless people screaming at absolutely nothing like they commonly do.
One day last week it barely dusted snow (and I DO mean DUSTED- it looked more like frost and it was totally melted by noon) and the entire Portland school system was closed. Heaven forbid you make your children WALK to school on a few white crystals. Or take public transportation. I find all this "failure to deal with snow" a bit hard to believe since I only know TWO native Oregonians here in Portland. Are there no natives left here or do I just know all the transplants perhaps because I am one myself? Surely most people who moved here came from snowy states, no? That means they all potentially know how to drive in it, right?
I have totally lost my acclimation to cold temperatures. I have become such a wuss that now when its 35 degrees or less, I think the world is surely coming to an end. For the last week or more, the highs have been in the 30s which isn't too common for our little Portland. My toes were numb by the time I got to work this morning. Maybe I am becoming one of "those Portlanders".... if you can't beat 'em, join 'em I guess.
No, I'm NOT Joining the Circus
It doesn't look very exhilarating, but it was!! Thanks Suzanne!
Just in case anyone forgot: sometimes the truth hurts.
But like my mom says, it also sets you free. I would much rather KNOW the truth and endure the pain than be "protected" or lied to. I despise sugar-coating. (Please take note.)