Smoking and Masochism

Smoking and Masochism

June 22, 2018

It’s late, 1:30 in the morning, and for some reason, I couldn’t get right to sleep when I went to bed at midnight. I decided to get up and smoke a lot of weed to knock me out so I could get to sleep. But I guess I didn’t smoke enough because instead of passing out I’m getting ideas. Like what I need to do to continue to feel motivated enough to go through the pain of quitting smoking cigarettes. I need to do a little of what Jane does, and limit the number of cigarettes I smoke to only those that give me a great deal of pleasure, enough to be worth all the misery it causes me each and every time I light up and lots of time between smokes too, when I’m coughing up shit or out of breath or shaming myself, or disgusted by the sight, smell, and taste of cigarette smoke, ashes, and butts. Basically, the pleasure I get is in fidgeting with the cigarette, sucking on it, flicking the ashes, and enjoying the time I take out of my life when I’m alone to just smoke it, doing little if anything else while smoking. It’s a time killer and for some reason, while I’m in Greece, I felt the need for an implement to help me kill time. I guess I have a lot more time on my hands in Greece than I’d had in Israel and in the U.S. Or I need help to kill time and before I was perfectly capable of killing time on my own. In any case, smoking no longer gives me enough pleasure to outweigh its misery. I don’t really have much concern about health risks. I figure a smoker who starts at my age can probably outlive the health risks, but maybe that’s erroneous thinking. Perhaps the aged body is more fragile, less resilient than the younger body and hence more likely to quickly register the toxic effects of ingesting tobacco and other chemical additives, vapors, smoke, tar, all that bad stuff.

So the idea is to limit my cigarettes to only those that are truly pleasurable. The ones with no feelings of sickness, neither physical nor emotional. If, in a couple of weeks, I’m still smoking too much, which would be more than 5 a day, I would limit myself to only the top 5. I mean, the point is, I don’t think there’s even one cigarette that’s really enjoyable for me, that doesn’t taste or smell absolutely disgusting and look disgusting when it’s been smoked—the ashes and butts. I could easily remind myself of how disgusted I feel by carrying around a plastic bag of wet butts and ashes. That’s what Barbara did when she was ready to quit smoking. And I remember someone else, Vicky, told me about keeping a jar of wet butts in the kitchen, and taking a sniff whenever her resolve threatened to falter. I tried that for a while, but never unscrewed the lid to smell the stench, so I wonder if I’d unscrew this time around in order to stiffen my fortitude. I’ll probably have to do both the bag and the jar. As well as my old standby, prayer.

The big question is, should I turn over this new leaf right now, tonight, or wait until I’ve had my night’s sleep and the sun is up on a new day. I’ve been struggling all through the writing of this piece to not quit writing and get up and go out on the verandah (to where I’ve banished my smoking self ) and smoke a cigarette, which I could easily do within the parameters of the program I’ve set up if I truly anticipated that this smoking a cigarette would, in fact, be an experience of pleasure for me. I know, however, that whatever pleasure I get from the physical sensations of fidgeting, playing with the ash and taking long, deep sucks on the cancer stick pales when compared to the shame, fear, and sensory disgust I will experience. So I might as well quit tonight. And just go to bed, which is how this whole thing started in the first place. If I was asleep, I wouldn’t have to deal with the monkey on my back, this masochistic obsession. But in order to make the transition to bed, I’ll just have one last cigarette out on the verandah.

****. *****. ***…..

And here I am, July 9th, re-reading this post and realizing I played the same drama again last night, vowing to quit this morning and go out in a cloud of smoke, as Jane said. But I didn’t. I didn’t give her the pack of cigarettes when she dropped me in front of my house and when she didn’t ask, I considered it a sign from God that I wasn’t quite ready yet.

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Embracing My Creative Process

I told my friend Gail that I was working on writing my blog post for today but was uninspired. She asked, “what’s the theme?” I told her, “that’s the problem.” I usually start writing without knowing what my theme will be and discover it along the way, during the writing itself. Not the most efficient way of writing a new piece, but it’s the way I work. She suggested that I write about creative blocks. That’s an idea–start with a theme and see what develops. So today’s blog is about creative blocks.

At my painting class with Angelika last night, she suggested I bring in a large canvas to work with, and I also brought along the big chunky Sennelier oil sticks I use at Peter and Heidi’s studio painting circles. I sat at the easel in front of this big canvas and couldn’t stand seeing the empty white space, so I started covering the entire surface with a color, yellow ochre. Covering up all the white made me feel less nervous, but then I had to do something more and that made me feel a little queasy again, since I had nothing in particular I wanted to paint and Angelika has stopped giving me objects to paint in still life. So I took up another color with the big oil stick (it’s like a huge crayon and immediately upon picking one up, I regress in age to a seven year old). With the big color stick in hand, I scribbled on the canvas, drawing loop-de-loops and zig-zags and different lines. Then I switched to another color and again drew lines and loops and swoops but didn’t find a form to work on. After a while, the canvas was a chaotic jumble of lines and colors and I had to stop for a cigarette break.

Sennelier Oil Stick

When I returned, I called Angelika over for a consultation and she said “it’s missing some colors, pinks and purples” so I mixed up some pink from my tube oils and with a palette knife, started applying it here and there, at first not liking the color combinations and then beginning to really enjoy seeing the colors. I worked in pinks and then purples for a while and the painting started to come together and a sort of harmony formed. The more I enjoyed it, the better and more nuanced it became.

In my work as a psychotherapist and life coach, I often considered the work I was doing to be editing lives, helping people  reshape themselves and their relationships.  I had always been stymied by the blank sheet of paper, the bare room, the unimagined project, but I was great at coming in to a work in progress and seeing how it could be improved, tweaked, restructured, added to or parts deleted. In the physical world, I have a “good eye” as my former husband used to say, discerning beauty and harmony and knowing what was off-kilter. So, I guess my way of creating in the plastic arts is to start by creating visual chaos and then edit and reform. Maybe that’s the same thing with the way I write creatively.

Becoming aware of and embracing my creative process is showing itself to be an extreme act of self-love. Otherwise, I am rejecting a core aspect of my self, the playful, joyful, child within. Angelika helps a lot. She encourages me to embrace my singular approach. When I create art or write,  I feel like I poop out whatever is inside and then play around with my poop until it pleases me. That’s my creative process. Organic and messy. And if I’m not having fun, it doesn’t work.

It’s all about accepting and forgiving myself for not being perfect. For not having the skills I would like to have, for not having enough patience, for being who I am. Embracing my process of living life my way. Because, after all, it’s the only way I’ll ever be able to live life anyway, so why not be kind to myself for it? And better yet, why not exalt and celebrate my quirky way? Be happy when I see it coming my way, just as I light up when I see someone I love. Wag my tail and greet it with whole body enthusiasm.

Roni came over, bringing her crocheting with her. She’s learning how to fashion flowers and baskets and other objects d’arte  from crocheted yarns, including yarns made from strips of plastic bags. I couldn’t understand what pleasure one could possibly get from crocheting small flowers on a tiny crochet hook with yarn composed of plastic bags. The pleasure in crocheting is all in the sensuality of the yarns. After a few minutes of working with the plastic yarn, Roni concurred and put it down, reaching instead for a yarn made from sheep’s wool.

I’ve just now been blessed with a serendipitous incident; minutes ago I found the following quote on a friend’s Facebook post:

“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything. So please calm down now and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

Thanks for sharing!