31 July 2007


Let’s just get this out of the way: I really, really, really, really want a cigarette.

Yes, I am still wearing a nicotine patch. No, there are no cigarettes within a mile of my current position. No, I will not go to the little store and buy some. No, I will not be crabby with Mr. Wren just because I want a cigarette and can’t have one. But ohhhh how I’d like to be crabby. Almost as much as I’d like a cigarette.

I’ll wear a patch for the rest of my life, if that’s what it takes to not smoke. But for now, to calm my nerves, I’ll light a stick of incense. Nag Champa. Reminds me of some parties I went to way back in the day, when we smoked tobacco and other substances with reckless abandon. I was immortal back then. Now I know better.

There. The sweet smoke curls up into the warm air, almost like cigarette smoke but not. A little Ravi Shankar on the stereo and the illusion is almost complete.

I’ve stopped smoking before this, once for two whole years before I was overcome by stress and a lack of willpower and started again, thinking “just one. I can smoke just one and not smoke more.” Wrong. But this is the first time I’ve stopped smoking while also dieting. It means I can’t substitute snacks for smokes. This is good for stopping the weight gain, but totally maddening mentally. So I’ve been forced to do other things instead, like clean the house. Toothbrush the corners. I’m learning to cook Indian cuisine. I can’t sit in one spot for long, you see, or I start growing teeth and longing for a smoke and the mysterious quiet that steals over me with the first lungful.

On the bright side, I’m losing weight – 25 pounds since mid-April. (Applause is encouraged.) I’m safety-pinning my drawers to keep them from falling down. It’s possible that I’ll have a waist again before long. I’m seeing traces of the slender, long neck I once had and my cheekbones are hinting at a full return. My eyes look bigger and I’ve lost at least one soft chin. When I can feel my hipbones through my skin, no longer amply padded over, I’ll know I’m done.

There’s a ways to go yet. While I’d like to shed all the extra poundage I gained during 15 years of work behind a desk, lots of good eating and little exercise all at once, I know it’s better to do it slowly. Make it permanent. I’m told it means a change of lifestyle if I mean to spend the second half of my time on Earth slim, strong and healthy. Well, I’m changing. There are moments when I’m kicking and screaming into the change, but I’m doing it all the same.

Mr. Wren and I are walking every morning now. Some days it’s two miles, some days three. We're both disastrously out of shape, so we’re taking it slow and easy. Trying to make it pleasant. We go down the mountain a ways to the El Dorado Trail, which is perfect for walkers, bikers, joggers and equestrians. The trail is paved, well off the main highway and meanders gently uphill through chaparral, oak woods and sugar pine forest. Each day I gimp around after the walk. Each day I remind myself that I’m in flux, that my body is relearning how to use up the calories I eat, that my metabolism, which was practically asleep, is waking up, yawning, stretching and looking around. Saying to itself “Holy shit. When did I turn 50?!

Patience. Patience. Patience.

All this is to explain the scarcity of posts these last few months. Change means relearning to concentrate and write without the benefit of a cigarette burning away in the ashtray next to my elbow. It means learning all over again to be creative without the calming effect of nicotine or of nibbly food. I’ll do it. I hope, in the meantime that you’ll bear with me and stop by now and then. I promise you I will write. I will post. And before long, I’ll be back to posting every other day or so. Maybe more.


The photo above was taken on the El Dorado Trail in Placerville two mornings ago at about 7 a.m.


robin andrea said...

Wishing you continued smoke-free days. Loud applause for you all the way from the Olympic Peninsula. Yes, to Nag Champa and Ravi Shankar. A perfect combination, one that we have indulged in ourselves.

Wil Robinson said...

Speaking as a one-time 10+ year smoker...give it 10-12 months and it will begin to get easier.

I haven't had a cigarette in more than 18 months, but I still have the cravings. When cigarette smoke starts smelling like you remember it when you were a kid - you know you've turned a corner (took about two months for me)

Keep up the good work, and at least the occasional writing. Even without a smoke, your writing is always clear and poetic.

Mike Kretzler said...

Good work. Quitting smoking and losing weight! Twenty-five pounds in a few months is good progress. Keep up the walking -- it does get easier -- and you can do it for life.

EasyDiverChris said...

Good for you, Wren.

I hope the double whammy attack you've launched works out OK. Very ambitious.

Cheers for your efforts.

blue girl said...

First of all, great attitude you've got there, Blue Wren! And I'm clapping with both hands because of your achievements.

Your post has inspired me to begin thinking about doing/learning something new. Loved the idea that you are learning to cook Indian food.

Anyway, congrats again!

Blue Wren said...

Thanks for the encouragement, friends! Robin, I used to walk along the Sound at the mouth of the Nisqually River, near Lacy. Loved it there. Wil -- I started feeling a definite difference in my breathing and generally overall within a week or so of giving up the smokes. It's been about three months now, and evidence of that improved respiration is that I can walk three miles, half of it uphill, breathing mostly through my nose and keeping up what is, for me, a fairly brisk pace. Before I stopped the cigs, I was puffing every time I climbed the driveway to the mailbox. A steep hill, yes, but short. It was alarming. And thanks for the vote of confidence in my writing. Warms my heart. Mike -- I believe you about the walking. Each morning, men and women with 20 or more years on me pass me on the way up that trail and leave me in their dust. It's great to know that before long, I'll be moving like they are. And Chris -- ambitious it may be, but necessary if I want to be anything other than a wheezy, lumpy blob for the rest of my life. Thanks!

Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

Neat picture. I like trails like that, where you can't always see too far ahead.

Madison Guy said...

Miss your blogging, but it's all in a good cause. I admire your weight loss -- I'm still up two pounds from when I stopped smoking nearly 2 years ago, and it had been a lot worse. Totally empathize with the difficulty of writing without cigarettes -- though employers' smoke-free policies and an allergic spouse forced me to make the transition to a smoke-free desk years ago. But going outside for that magical, sublime hit continued to be inseparable from writing. That was hard to give up. I was having such a hard time writing at work that I started my blog 3 months after quitting partly to prove to myself i still could write, in tiny bits.

Looking forward to your blogging return, Wren. With your new-found stamina, you'll be more productive than ever. Good luck!

Wren said...

BG: I do love Indian food, and if it's made using low fat yogurt and going real light on the cooking oils, it can be low-fat, high protein and low sugar -- wonderful as new lifestyle fare. There are no Indian restaurants within 50 miles of here, so taking on the challenge of learning to cook it myself was de rigeur.
Guy: Once again, thanks for the vote of confidence. I appreciate your advice and I've extended the "patch" period quite a lot, perhaps indefinitely. Twenty of the pounds I need to drop came from the LAST time I stopped smoking, so this time, the diet had to happen simultaneously.
It's comforting to know someone else who's been there, done that and who is still bravely fighting the good fight. Odd, isn't it, how habits associate themselves with certain activities? Writing and smokes, smokes and writing. Well, there are a lot of non-smoking writers out there creating great stuff, yourself included, so I know my imagination and creativity aren't dependent on a full ashtray and a fresh carton in the drawer. I'll find my stride.

Dragon Laugh said...

Good for you, mom! I'm proud of you! :D

Connie said...

Applause! Bravo! More applause!

Kevin Wolf said...

Wow. That's impressive weight loss. I need to do the same. I'd lost about 20 a couple years ago and have regained it. At least I know it can be done.

I was never a smoker, so I can't help you there.

Keep checking in so we know what's up.