The Quit Journey

got_choiceI have quit smoking again. This is day 2 1/2…I quit at 11:00 Monday morning – February 17.  I’d like to remember that day as the day I finally quit once and for all, so I am making sure to take note of it.

Two and a half (now two and three quarters, but who’s counting?) may not be a big deal to you but lately, I havent been able to go two bours without a cigarette. It’s basically all I think about for the past three years – since my mother’s diagnosis with lung cancer.  Terror is immobilizing.

In my dreams last night, I found myself with cigarettes in my hands all the time.  I kept walking entering each new situation and inadvertently finding myself smoking when I didn’t want to be.  It was incredibly frustrating and I kept throwing them out, only to find a new one growing back between my reluctant fingers.  When I would tell others in my dream

“But I’m trying to quit!”

They would just shrug and say,

“Yeah right…”-  an obvious reflection of the doubt I have in myself.

So – fake it till ya make it…

I for one am not very good self focused care – but recent events are teaching me that I can’t give away what I don’t have and so, I am on a mission to fill my own cup…a strange newish behaviour that has serious benefits.  Mostly,   it just feels good to do something healthy for myself and it is having an immediate positive effect on the world around me. I wasn’t ready to admit how much influence I have on the people I love most in the world.   The house is basically smoke free right now. Although I didn’t ask anyone not to smoke because I knew if I waited for all of the conditions of th world and the people around me to meet my fickle requirements for quitting, I would smoke the rest of my incredibly shortened life. I had to just go ahead and do it.  And here we are…unbelievable.

I guess if you’re lucky like me you hit a bottom before something tragic happens. For me it was the day I was going to the doctor for a check up for yet another winter lung infection, and I forgot my cigarettes at home  which actually caused me to feel relieved.  I decided that moment seemed like a good enough time then to stop and I would talk to the doctor.   I had been considering setting a quit date now for three years…but kept putting the actual “event” of quitting off for very possible reason under the stars.  The irony is that my greatest “stress” which was causing me to smoke, was my mother dying of lung cancer in front of my eyes.  Yet, even until I came to a point of wanting to truly be more kind and loving towards myself, even the worst of all scenarios would not move me away from this stark addiction.

I’d like to tell you it feels “hard” or “easy” – but it’s neither of these on this my third day. It just feels like a process…up and down…intense and reflective even. Once and a while I have a horrendous craving that makes me want to smoke gross dead looking things out our of ashtrays (which I have emptied because I dont trust myself).

I became tired of something other than me (a tiny chemical filled highly toxic stick on fire…really?) governing my body and telling my mind what I wanted.  I have spent my whole life trying to be independent of the direction and opinion of others, and yet here I was allowing a substancenot even a human ! – to direct my choices.  And the choice wasn’t even a choice at the end anymore – it was more like a zombie-like mindless self-imploding action.

1- Extend arm

2- Retrieve cigarette

3- Apply fire

3- Ingest poison…

4- Inhale deeply

Hunh?

I was singing at a bar a couple of weeks ago, and someone that I don’t know very well but who knew my variety of activities made some annoying passing remark as I was going out for a cigarette in -40 degree weather with death defying winds in a cold deserted parking lot.

He said

“Well that doesn’t seem like it suits you very well. It’s bad for your voice and not very zen eh?” He smirked like he knew something I didn’t.

My first thought was

“Who the hell does he think he is?” the voice of my habitual hippie that rejects authority in a regularly knee jerk fashion.

A minute later I was standing outside in the “smoker’s area”  feeling an ice cream headache explode over my entire face. As the wind came barelling at me at 90km an hour, I felt pain tear into my uncovered ears and in an final indignity, my nostrils stuck together in a  very unsexy way when I was throw into a spasm of coughing from lungs shocked and turgid with inhumane cold.  At that very moment, I peered into the big windows of the bar, my sad little orphan nostril stuck face peeting sadly into the warm bar where that same nosey man was sitting quite happily, warm, contented and snug as a bug in a rug as he listened to music and drank his beer. I thought to myself;

“I am an idiot”.

O.K. –  Maybe this is not the most gentle or spiritual thought to begin a journey with, trying to be on a more loving and compassionate journey with myself, but it is what it is. It was a real moment of clarity for me…

In retrospect I think maybe my bad habit have been destroyed by becoming more involved with meditation and yoga I my life.  Over the past few months and since my mother’s death I have become especially interested in Tibettan Buddhism.  Such a gentle culture, entirely focused on increasing the level of compassion on the planet. After reading the Dalai Lama’s Book “My Spiritual Journey”, I became convinced that the only way to being happy as an individual in this life was the adopt some form of practice which required self-discipline – but smoking was an obvious sign that I was lacking both mindfulness and self discipline. And this is where I got stuck – utterly convinced that I would never be able to really meditate or really focus on these principles because they all focus on BREATH…and I smoked.  I also felt like there could never be a day when I wouldn’t smoke – even subconsciously, I couldn’t envision a “me” not smoking.  I admitted defeat. I believe they call this a moment of surrender, but I only can see this clearly in retrospect.

Over time, this defeat didn’t sit well with me.  I began loosing my voice when I sang.  A combination of smoking, and heating in a very cold winter with electric and fire, as well as alot of indoor time because of the incredibly cold weather, my voice was shot and I had very little chance of being able to sing powerfully two nights in a row.  This felt like death approaching for me.

Not to mention that I saw my mother die of cancer in a really terrible and painful way quite recently.  This was a terrifying episode fraught with grief and loss which each cigarette only made worse, chiselling away at my guilt. Although intellectually I KNEW that cancer in her lungs was the ultimate cause of her death (second only to the chemotherapy that was the actual cause), and I also knew that this same cancer had caused me to have this exact experience with my biological grandmother when she died when I was 15 – and yet I was smoking. Each cigarette gave me a vivid flashback to times best forgotten – it was like torture.

I think it’s important for me to write my story – it makes me more solid in my determination. I think if I was still smoking, I would not read an article like this one though- it would make me feel too guilty and really highlight my feelings of powerlessness.  I hope if you smoke you got this far.  It’s worth it just to fill your mind with all the possibilities…and then one day you’ll be ready.

Here’s what I have realized…

    1. Today is “one day”      – You’re ready.
    2. Don’t wait for the      circumstances in your life to change like other smokers to quit or even      life in general to get easier.       That’s just not reasonable and it’s not going to happen. If you      wait for this you will smoke you’re entire life…which will be shorter      because you are smoking.
    3. Focus on loving      yourself.  People who smoke have an      obvious absence of love for themselves. You may want to argue with this,      but you really can’t do that AND be honest at the same time.  Maybe it works backwards.  I began by trying to eat better, and      this seemed to snowball into doing many things more gently and healthfully      for myself.  I don’t know how it      will work for you – only you know that.
    4. Quitting smoking is not hard.      Everyone tells us it’s hard – the media, the tobacco companies (yeah no      kidding), psychologists, teachers, friends, family – Jeez!  If you say something is DIFFICULT enough      well then yes,..it will be DIFFICULT. This is what we call self-fulfilling      prophecy. Quitting smoking has moments of discomfort – of needing to be      present and aware.  Quitting smoking      requires being really gentle with yourself       taking everything literally one breath at a time.  Hard is dying of lung cancer.  That’s hard.
    5. When you have a craving –    tell it to fuck off. I know…not very zen of me again, but it seems to be      working.  I know that discipline is      very important now – maybe that took all of my 47 years, but the kind of      discipline I am talking about is not what they taught in school which      should actually have been called “conformity” more      appropriately.  Discipline is a      practice that brings about self love.       Quitting smoking is a great act of self love.  |sometimes the ACTION has to come      before the change of opinion, but who cares?  As long as the result is more happiness      and peacefulness in life,. Keep your eyes on the prize, and remind      yourself WHO is in charge?  Is your      body in charge of your mind?  Do you      enjoy being told what to do?  Do you      like taking direction – especially when it involves you inhaling 200      deadly chemicals 30 times a day? Hell no.       Who does?   Yes you’re      addicted – but that’s not the end of the world – and IT’S NOT BIGGER THAN      YOU.

Who’s in charge here – me or my body?

    1. Pray. I’m not concerned with      the religious aspects of the way you pray, but be grateful.  Prayer is a conscious moment of the      expression of gratitude.  Let’s face      it,  quitting an addiction like      cigarettes will have many effects on your life.  Staying willing to not smoke is the      challenge.  I get cocky – way too      fast. It’s how I have failed in the past.       I start feeling better and decide to have “just one”,      maybe a puff or sneak a whole cigarette. There is a kind of victorious      feeling in this because for the first little while I feel like I am      smoking without addiction – like I have somehow regained control of this      derailed train. I can “just choose” to have one, or not – like      three times.  Quickly this unravels      and I soon find that I am smoking more than before I quit.  Then I feel terrible about myself, and I      resign myself to a lifetime of smoking and eventual gasping horrific death      by lung cancer.  No wonder I woke up      every day in a bad mood. This is a terrible attitude! 🙂 and snapping me      out of it I believe happened only by an act of grace – in other words,      something bigger than me thinks that me staying alive longer is a good      idea, and the minute I became willing enough to work with this      “something bigger”, things became clearer.   The ticket is in keeping up this      willingness.

7- DO NOT QUIT SMOKING!!

I don’t think quitting ANYTHING works because the minute you quit – you are focusing on the negative aspect. So, instead just have an positive intention to treat yourself with more love and compassion – loving-kindness.  Smoking falls away naturally this way.  You don’t need to fight anything or really put much effort into it.  You only need to have a willingness to have an intention for self-care and love.  Let go of what happens once you make that choice, making each choice in your best interest with your knowledge of self in mind.  Be ready to do some work – letting go doesn’t nmean effortless, it means diligence.

8- TELL YOUR STORY

tell others  and keep the people in your world up to date on your progress.  people want to help and function as a community. I’d say that helping someone to live longer is a great community building incentive.  Keep your “tribe” up to date! Telling your story also reinforces to you what you re doing, the direction you are heading in and can make certain instances that have helped shape your direction more clear and useful.  Moreover, you can end up helping someone else in the process. Telling your story is way more effective than becoming a nagging and annoying “reformed smoker”. You can’t change anyone – but you can certainly inspire them.

My day three diatribe from my wobbly soapbox…let’s see how this goes…:)

Peace

How to Explain Quebec Politics to an American…

TOQLF+Inspecteurhe other day I had to explain Quebec politics to an American friend of mine who happens to be a very well read, politically savvy individual.   The conversation took place on Face Book so it involved a lot of punctuation and very deliberate usage of words. It was not easy to do.

It started with a Table Topics question I like to post on my page every morning:

“Who do you believe is the most dangerous person alive today?”.

I was surprised when my American friend responded “Stephen Harper” – our ineffective and blundering  Canadian Prime Minister.

“Harper?” I asked him. “I was sure you would say Dick Chaney”…BRITAIN-G8-SUMMIT-CANADA-PRESSER

“Harper’s gas line project is ridiculous. He should be thrown out of office”.

“Yeah well he is doing nothing for Quebec that’s for sure” I said.

“What’s wrong with Quebec?”

quebec_charter_protest_1_jpg_size_xxlarge_letterbox

This is where it became challenging…

“They announced they want an election to separate from Canada”

“Why”?  Ah – the question to open a can of worms…

“Let me try and explain…”

“They are trying to pass a Bill which would put a Charter into our Provincial constitution that says that people working in the public sector are not allowed to wear any religious symbols, like Hijabs or Yarmulkes.”

“What do you mean “not allowed”?”

“It’s the same as our language laws.  We aren’t allowed to speak any language but French at the work place.”

“hunh?what do you mean NOT ALLOWED?”

image

Um…

OK.

How to explain Quebec Politics to an American…

Many years ago there was an 11 minute fight in a place called The Plains of Abraham in Quebec where the British whooped the French and they have stayed mad about it ever since.  The story could actually end here…

Benjamin_West_005In the mid 1700’s France imported into Quebec a bunch of prostitutes chosen by the King called “les Filles du Roie”. I am proud to say these are my ancestors.  They were sent here to attract moer male settlers, and populate the country with as many good looking French people as possible.  The French are known to have had an average of 14 children per family by the mid 1800’s.  The culture is based in the catholic religion who believes God made everything else except condoms.

By the 1800’s all sorts of people were immigrating to Quebec because of its easy access port, busy economy and promise of some form of stability which was not being experienced in many parts of Europe.  Settlers from all over found their place and established their cultures inside “New France” including Irish, Italian, Spanish, German, British and Jewish people creating individual pockets of cultural comfort in different emerging cities.

An important difference here exists between Canada and the USA which is that when the settlers arrived from Europe they maintained their original cultural identity. Canada became a “mosaic” of cultures, as opposed to the American “mixing pot” where immigrants were encouraged to assimilate into the American way of life.

By the time the 1960’s arrived, Quebec had become well established as one of the most international and welcoming places in the world. English and French were widely spoken making it accessible to anyone who spoke two of the world’s major languages.  Expo ’67 heralded the culmination of hundreds of years of evolution in the Quebec political tapestry. The nations of the work gathered for a Fair that would promote peace and harmony between all nations. But the peace wouldn’t last.  Somewhere in the background, the French of Quebec were still simmering, down from the generations about the events on the Plains of Abraham and the domination of the English in the emerging and booming trade economy.  Prime Minister of France  Charles de Gaulle came to Expo under the guise of attending the fair and declared “Vivre le Quebec Libre”, putting words to a sentiment that had been bubbling under the surface for unilingual francophone Quebecers.  imagesVLLA9G6O

The “Quiet revolution” began – but not so quietly.

People were kidnapped and killed. Bombs were detonated. It was a brief but nasty par of Quebec history and the beginning of real extremism which we are seeing a resurgence of today. My family was very involved in the political movement of what we here call “the NO side”. This is the anti-separation movement. The “other side” is the separation movement – those who want Quebec to be its own country. Everyone here has an opinion on this issue. Slowly and over time, French pro-separatist politician have gained power in the National Assembly – the political house of power in Canadian provinces, and have put into place on law after another which has irrationally eroded the personal freedoms of the Canadians living here.

Our American friends have to remember when talking about Canadian politics that we are not a democracy.  We don’t have the same basis premise in our political structures.  We are instead what you call a “constitutional monarchy” – which means we were poartially governed by the queen of England for a long time. Until the mid 1980’s any laws or changes ot our constitution had to be “approved” by the queen. Our government owns some of the major businesses as well, which makes us socialist.

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I could go into allot of details about the people and the dramas which revolve around our politics here but my intention is not to give you a history lesson. More like a current events update…so I will give you some specific details so you can relate to the level of craziness we have reached

  • You are not allowed to speak English at your work place. If the “Office of the French Language” catches you, your business can be fined. Heftily.
  • Your child is not allowed to go to school in English ESPECIALLY icf you come from a country where all you ever spoke is English. Its all about blending.
  • You are not going to be allowed to wear a cross, a Hijab or a yarmulke at work if you work in public
  • You will not be given medical service if you don’t speak French an dthe attendant doesn’t speak english.
  • You will not be given service by government agents (including tax offices and police) in English
  • Retail businesses are told to address clients only in French. They have signs up no their store fronts saying “In Quebec we do business in French” (written in French obviously)
  • No advertising in English. Ever.
  • All products imported into Quebec have to follow regulations about how BIG and how small French and English have to be. English can only be 20% of the size of French writing.

The insanity goes on and on.

Here’s my point…

In a world where we are in DIRE and urgent need to promote understanding and cohesion between individuals and nations – Quebec is the fastest backwards moving place on the planet as far as I can see.  We have all the education, technology, and social structures in place to be a wildly successful place – an example to the world even on living in integrated cultures. Instead, we spend all of our time promoting our own opinions. Conclusively, places in the world who identify with their nationalistic cultures, linguistic, religious or political  structures have the hardest time.

The other day I asked the question on Face book “ How important is your national identity to you?”

I was somewhat surprised at how many people said they were “Proud Canadians” – that their country is very important to them. But when I asked myself the question, I was more surprised to understand how UNIMPORTANT my nationality has become to me.  I could care less about being Canadian, or Quebecker, English or French.

I have come to believe…

Who we are is not our country. Who we are is not our language or skin colour or religion. We are part of a living system – all of us together. Our belief that we are separate or different from each other has resulted in us causing major destruction to the place that we live.  It is critical that we understand that we are not only part of one geographic location – we belong to the world – and the world has no real borders.

As long as we hold on to language, skin colour, religion, culture or national identity our “personal” identity, in Quebec or any other place – we are doomed to continue making the same mistakes we have made throughout human history. Quebec is a prime example of the opposite of the direction we need to be taking to unify the cultures of the world.

By personally dropping your identity with religion,  language, nation, skin colour, ancestry – each individual can contribute to shifting the perception of each other from opposed to united.

We are not our opinions – We just ARE.

Peace

ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT

Monday’s “How much can a human put up with” story…
So, in case no one has noticed, I haven’t been riding much this year. That’s probably because every time I got up (especially on Mac) the level of pain I experienced was pretty extreme.  The thing is, when you have a BARN you have to SAVE YOURSELF for the work that has to be done, rather than the happy riding moment you enjoyed when you were a boarder. An old farmer once tol dme before I got my barn that there was nothing worse for your riding than actually having your horses at home.  I was going to prove him wrong.  I failed.
Last week I gave in and I decided to see my family doctor, who actually knows that I neither trust nor like him – luckily he thinks I’m funny. However, I am LUCKY to have found a doc who looks at who I am and what I do in my life.

He made me stand straight and said something like “oh my god…”

I said what??

“Did you fall?”

Last year twice and HARD down the stairs. My right bum cheek has a permanent dent in it from the impact.

Over the past two months I could barely sustain myself on stage or walking to the barn – but I kept going. The pain had been increasing in my hips and had become significantly worse since the fall. But, being a cowgirl mom means I had allot of physical work to do in my life, and I unconsciously developed a very effective technique of being unconscious of my body – until my body got my attention. 

I made really incredible concessions now that I think of it…I just assumed I would feel like that for the rest of my life.

OK if you go to the sink, you can only stand for 15 minutes, then you can sit and fold laundry and…”

Really?

The doc takes my hand over to a skeleton and points to the pelvic bone.

“This is the place where all of your body rests – your entire weight and balance right here in your sacroiliac”.

“yup…”

“and yours is like this…”

He takes the poor thing, pulls out both hip bones, rests them on top of the joint and moves them around making them grind…

I feel nauseous.

“Hunh? I said dumbly…

“Your pelvis is dislocated”

“pardon?”

“Your pelvis is dislocated on both sides.  I have no idea how you’re still walking”.

He says it with abit of a victorious tone because he knows very well that I am his most unconvinced client when it comes to modern medicine. I suddenly feel the now familiar shooting pain down my leg, the burning, and think – how the hell did I let myself go this badly?

He indicates for me to go to an “adjustment room” and I lie down on the bed. I have no idea what he is going to do. The last time I went, maybe three years ago, he gave me laser therapy, which was lovely. Nice music, warm lasers and a nap.

I lay down and he comes in, asks me to undo my belt and lay on my back. As I chat with him babbling about how dumb I feel for coming so late he takes my right leg, pulls my knee up to my chest, walks back to the end of the table with it, pulls it abit to the side and says

“Ok now, look in my eyes and take a breath..”

I start nervously babbling questions…

“what are you going to do? Should I sit…”

“Breathe” he says as he braces his leg against the table I’m  lying on with his left leg and grabs my lower calf with both arms…

I look at him, take a breath and CRACK…he yanks my leg up out and back into the joint. I feel both hips shatter in pain  – all I see is bright white light for a second.

Then relief.  wow. what relief.

I sit straight up as though I actually had abs that would normally let me do that (no one does at 47 after three kids)

“See that wasn’t so bad” he says smirking.

I burst out into tears and told him he should run now.  He felt terrible – and a little unnerved.

He explained also that lower back pain can also be a highly contributing factor to the disbalance of chemicals associated with clinical depression. 

Since this “adjustment” every time I DON’T feel pain, I am shocked.  I am simply not used to it.

Which got me to thinking – how much do we all adapt and integrate pain that is physical and emotional into our lives in such a way that we are not even aware when we are shaping our lives around that pain completely oblivious to how much it is limiting our choices?

Usually the universe teaches me the best lessons through pain – but in this case I am learning through extreme relief.  

In the past days I have been abnormally gentle with myself more focused on my balance.  This “body awareness” makes me feel very centered and calm – and very EXCITED to start riding again! 

My purpose in writing this was really to share how much we can ignore ourselves.  I thought I had been doing so well in being more “conscious of self”, and yet again the universe teaches me that I will not be arriving at the destination any time soon – there is still so much to learn.

Peace