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.