The Cigarette Break
“We all have secret lives. The life of excretion; the world of inappropriate sexual fantasies; our real hopes, our terror of death; our experience of shame; the world of pain; and our dreams. No one else knows these lives. Consciousness is solitary. Each person lives in that bubble universe that rests under the skull, alone.” ― Kim Stanley Robinson, Galileo’s Dream
There are certain things which I would never or rarely tell people about myself. Am I ashamed of these things?
No, not personally.
I used to think that I should feel ashamed, because other people seemed to consider this an appropriate way of dealing with such things, and I did go through a period of doing exactly what I thought was what I should do and felt ashamed of these things.
“I used to be ashamed of my perceived eccentricities so I modified my behaviour accordingly in an attempt to appear normal. This galvanised my shame, it was making me a better person yet there was so much more work to be done for I was not good enough and it truly believed it could make me a perfect example of a human being. Its control over me grew and grew, critiquing every move, word and thought I had until I could no longer do, say or think anything. My awkwardness was total. My behaviour erratic. I ran away from other people for fear they would see how weird I was, and thus my shame became my greatest eccentricity.” – something I wrote a while ago and that’s why it’s in quote form.
Please don’t lecture me, I have heard it all before, I have internalised it and can now lecture myself. In fact my self-lectures are better than anything you can come up with because I know my secret self, I know exactly how to get through to myself and make it a form of painful torture. Your lectures will bounce off of me, because you don’t know me, just as I don’t know you. Your superior attitude will annoy me and I won’t listen to what you are saying, I’ll listen to the subtext and it’ll give me a few insights into you which you won’t appreciate if I share them with you. Remember, we may be different, but we share the human gene. I am very messily human. I know my darkness and can recognise something similar in others. I keep quiet about it, because it’s a secret we all know but don’t discuss openly.
If you really feel the need to lecture, give advice and express your views, please do so… I’m not a fan of censorship. That flows both ways. Think about it.
I am going to die, whether I assist death or fight it. Fact, unless anyone has proof otherwise. Yes, my father was convinced that he was immortal. My father was crazy. My father is dead. Guess he was wrong. Guess I’m crazy, but not immortal thanks to hereditary stuff.
I do not try and surreptitiously murder anyone by smoking around them. I do it alone. Yes, my loved ones will suffer if I die slowly from a smoking-related illness. They’re human, they suffer because that’s what humans do. No, I’m not really that insensitive. I try to quit for their benefit. I should really be doing it for my own benefit.
My smoking addiction timeline – I started in my early teens, because I was a teenager in search of experience and I lived in France – where smoking is a national pastime of sorts. I did it for about a year. Quit for 15 years. Took it up again when I was stuck living in Italy. Very few will understand that. I smoked intermittently after that for a couple of years. Never really quit, just did it sporadically. Eventually I quit again, became very ill with something unrelated to smoking. Took up smoking again as a solution to the symptoms of my illness. It paradoxically helped. I got better. I’m planning on quitting again, but…
The addict’s ‘but’…
I’m actually not addicted as much to the nicotine as I am to the cigarette break which is a break from life. That’s not an excuse. Nicotine addiction is there, it’s just not the most important part of it. The proof of that is in the fact that when I take other breaks from my day to day life I have no urge to smoke and don’t, it’s only when my life intrudes on the break – usually at the moment via an email from my lawyer or someone connected to the case – that I feel the need for a cigarette break. Time to think without the noise of life to clutter my thinking.
I was wondering why I took to the habit of smoking. Contemplating that habit and the whys of it has been very insightful, it pushes me deep into myself to uncover my motivations. There are times when I think I smoke so I can battle the habit and try to quit because that interaction between different sides of myself creates very stimulating friction which yields much self knowledge gold. I’ve come up with so many reasons why I smoke, and each reason has led me on a thought journey which has disclosed much of what lies in my subconscious and latent mind. It’s a bad habit which has helped me to find other bad habits which work much more insidiously in my life and affect my mental and emotional and sometimes physical health in a way that is not overtly obvious as smoking.
Those quietly creeping habits which undermine the self from the inside out and which we don’t notice because they are subtle and usually don’t have a physical representation which is so blatant. Such as when we dismiss our inner knowing in favour of rational logic which probably doesn’t belong to us and which we may not even agree with, but society and others – others who may have rammed the point home into our brains through repetition, the constant drip, drip, drip hypnotism of media and nagging, and bullying in the form of authoritative statements, experts postulating that they know and we don’t, that they have proof positive and that’s that – have forced us to adopt as our own for fear of being or looking stupid. Don’t question what the norm has decided is the norm or the truth or reality otherwise they will come down on you like a ton of bricks, crush, shame and humiliate you, then ostracise you from the group until you cry for mercy and accept their dogma.
I’m not saying that society and doctors and experts and those around you are not right about the effects of smoking. I’m just saying that there are far more poisonous things which we inhale, eat, drink in and absorb that can’t be seen, or are seen but not noticed anymore and are sometimes not heard because we hear them so often their words are now subliminal. We accept a lot of things because we are used to them and we no longer question whether they are right or wrong, good or bad, for us as an individual. We like to think we think for ourselves, but how much of our thinking is actually our own. How much of our thinking belongs to someone else and is disguised as our own thoughts.
And that is why I think I took to smoking. It’s a pause for thought. A pause which is less likely to be interrupted because I look like I’m doing something, which I am, and it’s not smoking, that’s a smoke screen for what I’m actually doing which is spacing out and letting all the other voices in my mind, all the absorbed information flow like a river passing by the bank on which I am sitting waiting quietly for my own voice to emerge and speak to me of my true thoughts and feelings. It helps that many people find smoking disgusting and avoid smokers, because the media has thankfully hypnotised them into thinking that being close to a smoker when they are smoking may kill them. It might. And people usually don’t lecture smokers while they are smoking, as long as you don’t do it in a public place which isn’t dedicated to such a cancerous habit. Which I don’t. I don’t inflict my smoking on others, and they don’t inflict their thoughts on me while I’m doing it.
As part of the Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Lunch Posts – which suggested making this a week long feature (thank you for the inspiration, magical beings of WordPress’ blog), I’m going take a break from what I normally do with my blog and each post this week will be a thought which I have pondered while having a cigarette break. I am self-employed, I don’t do lunch, I probably wouldn’t do dinner either except for my loved ones needing that kind of thing (and I’m grateful that they do or I’d forget to eat) and breakfast is only what is necessary to get me going for the day. Cigarette breaks are my lunch break.
Hopefully those posts will be shorter than this one. I roll my own cigarettes (how hard am I – kidding, it’s cheaper this way) and they’re small and short to smoke. They’ll be snippets of thought like that quote/thought of mine which I included earlier. My typical posts tend to be the accumulation of many cigarette break thoughts which are then analysed and reviewed and other kind of mental stuff. I’m very mental. So, they’re looooooong. SIGH!
Who knows, maybe this will be the affirmative incentive to quit for good and you will be a witness and a part of that. Don’t get your hopes up… I don’t aim to disappoint expectations, but I’m quite good at it. Expectations are perceived as challenges to be met with disappointment and disillusionment. Expect something of me… and I’ll consider you to be someone who is trying to control and censor me. Sorry, some habits die hard.
“All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.” ― Gabriel García Márquez, Gabriel García Márquez: a Life