Post #21 01152020

In my last post, I brought up the emotional turmoil I was feeling since I quit smoking on 12/2/2019.

How to describe it?

Periodic, almost daily, headaches (before this, I have had probably 5 headaches in my entire life), a discouraging absence of passion to do anything. No motivation, no focus, no enthusiasm. The opposite of how I usually feel about life, how I greet each day.  Worst of all, the quality of my sleep, which has almost always been excellent, has fallen off a cliff. Drifting in and out, most of the night, waking up still tired.

This all came as a complete surprise to me. I had no plan whatsoever for dealing with it.

On top of the emotional disorientation, which persisted through December, I hosted a family gathering for the holidays. About 2-3 days later, I began experiencing chills, lack of energy, headaches. The flu coming on? I immediately fell into taking long naps (2-3 hours), mega doses of vitamin C (3000 mg at a time, 2-3 times per day) and Echinacea 6-8 capsules/day). After 3-4 days, I began feeling better. So I have apparently dodged that bullet, whatever it was.

While physically OK again, I am still dealing with the same emotional funk.

I found the following comments while doing research into the characteristics of nicotine withdrawal:

People who have successfully quit the habit often talk about the “icky threes” of quitting. These include:

  • 3 days. The worst period of physical withdrawal. (not really that bad for me – I had spent months re-wiring my brain to not smoking prior to my quit day.)
  • 3 weeks. The time when physical withdrawal is waning and the psychological withdrawal takes over. (Oh yeah!)
  • 3 months. Sometimes referred to as “the blahs,” at 3 months post-quit-date some of the newness of quitting wears off, and some people wonder, “Is that all there is?” This is a common time for relapse to occur. (hmmmmm)

I am definitely in the last phase, an emotional state aptly named, “the blahs.”

My approach for now:

  1. So be it. This is how I feel. Be fully present to it (practice #1/ A Beginner’s Mind). In other words, do not put a happy face on it, or grin and bear it. Rather, acknowledge how I really feel, be willing to fully experience it and see if whether Werner Erhard nailed it when he said, “Whatever we are willing to fully experience disappears.” Has been true for me in the past. Will see how it goes now.
  2. Choose a more useful attitude about it all. (Practice #7, Choosing Our Attitude, in my book). Yes, the feelings I am having suck. However, each day is another day I have not responded to the million cues a smoker gets to have a cigarette by having a cigarette. Each day I am re- wiring my brain to behave as a non smoker. Each day without smoking is another success. Each day, my body, especially my lungs, are gaining time to heal, another day it is no longer under siege. Another day gifted to my body.

It is a beginning.

Post #20 01022020

Post #20 is my first post for 2020; nice symmetry.

This post also marks a shift from a 100% focus on just my dog, Spirit, to exploring other facets of my life.

 

On 12/2/2019, I smoked my last cigarette.

I smoked my first one when I was 13 years old on a cold, clear winter night in 1951. It was a Lucky Strike, snitched from the poker table where my dad and his friends were taking a break from their annual New Year holiday marathon poker session in Dearborn, Michigan.

I slipped out of the house with my single cigarette and a book of matches in my coat pocket. I can still feel that snow squeaking under my feet; see the cyclone wire fence paralleling the sidewalk, my breath puffing out into the black night air. I stopped under a street lamp to light up, then took my first ever drag.

Oooooh. Suddenly I tumbled into a wonder world. Bliss. Safer, more secure somehow, a space without sharp edges. This felt familiar to me in some diffuse, blurred way. Did I smoke in other incarnations? Did I know then what I was feeling now? That I had a new friend I could always count on to deliver, calm, peace, joy, relief, comfort, even a keener insight into life?

I never looked back.

Some 400,000 cigarettes later, I smoked my last one a month ago in a cold garage, snuggled up in my winter coat. I liked that one too. I remember liking them all save those few I smoked while suffering from one illness or another.

Why quit now, at age 81?

I have been pleasing my brain for my entire life but at the cost of abusing my body, especially my lungs. I could see the possibility of one day having to choose between breathing and smoking. I already have COPD. Not going to live my life dragging around an oxygen tank, which is why I bought a .38 last summer, paying $700 for my long term health care plan. A bargain I would say.

Still, why not do an experiment? Give my lungs a chance to some healing. See what life is like without smoking. If I don’t like it, I can always go back to it.

My process for quitting was/is elegant and simple: Pick out a date a few months away, occasionally remind myself I am quitting, and when exactly, and why exactly. I was giving myself plenty of time to practice re-wiring my brain so on “that day” I would already see myself as a non smoker. There were times during these months I was anxious for the day to come. I was already feeling like a non smoker.

When “that day” arrived, I quit cold turkey. It was easy. Since then, I hardly think about smoking – to be generous, maybe it has surfaced as a momentary desire a half dozen times during the past month.

I did buy some licorice candy and licorice root (to chew on) because I had heard it helps with cravings. Maybe it does. I like the root best, no sugar plus it provides oral satisfaction while chewing on the root. Nice.

What has not been easy at all, however, is the emotional turmoil I have been experiencing ever since. Ouch!

No energy, no motivation, no focus, no desire. Lousy sleep during the night so wind up taking long naps during the day too. And in the past couple of days, coming down with …. something. Chills, coughing, feeling delicate, vulnerable. I am devouring thousands of milligrams of Vitamin C, Echinacea.

So this is where I am at today.

There is always tomorrow.

Well, usually.

Dear Steve and dear Mark,

You guys should have stuck around awhile longer.

I have nearly completed my second book.

Would have loved sharing it with you, seeing how you reacted to it. Of course, I know neither of you can read but at least you could have held it in your hands and admired my great work. 🙂

My working title is 11 Life Practices/ sub title: Creating a Life that Works.

I split the book into two parts.

Part consists of four practices in being.

Part II consists of seven practices in expressing our being.

The two parts are bridged by a chapter called “The Huddle” where we review what is at stake for us all and why these practices matter.

My goal is to publish it sometime in the fall of this year. Hopefully sooner but we will see how it goes. Better done as well as I can than just done.

Miss you both very much.

Will be seeing you soon enough. But not too soon either.

Love always, dear friends

John

 

Dianna’s Way is now available at www.diannasway.com, Amazon, and, soon, at Barnes & Noble – or you can order it through your local bookstore. Fairly soon, it will be available as an eBook as well.

This book is a very personal and inspirational story about an ordinary woman who chose to live an extraordinary life. She also happened to choose me as her husband. Lucky me.

When I look back on my life with her, I can see I may have taught Dianna a bit about the world as it is but she taught me, by example, so much more about how it could be. It also occurs to me she offers a template for living that opens the possibility for creating an extraordinary country.

Perhaps transforming America begins with transforming ourselves via an inner, individual process but I would not rule out interacting in concert with others by “feeding” each other. Some do best playing solo while others are at their finest in an orchestra. The music is no less beautiful or moving.

No matter our pathway, our creations still emanate from self with a willingness to be responsible for self.

Responsibility: literally, the ability to respond appropriately [to life].  What I learned from Dianna is the only appropriate response to life is to practice being a context of Love.

Self: Careful about the definition of self. Not what we normally think it is. Something to be explore later.

So, I find myself being guided on an odyssey into the wider social implications of living in “Dianna’s Way”. I have tentatively titled this journey A New Age American Dream (NAAD).

From a social perspective, a fair starting point is look at where we are now, which is becoming, for too many of us, living a new age American nightmare.

Why do we, as a nation, seem to be headed in the wrong direction? What can we do about it? Is there any hope for a better way forward? Is there any way to knit together a deeply divided nation into a sane, workable whole, pulling in the same direction?

Frankly, I don’t know.

It doesn’t have to turn out well. It isn’t going to turn out well unless we do create a better way forward.

I do know I am not much interested in generating a laundry list of our problems – we already know what they are even if we may not agree on why or how we have created them – nor am I keenly interested in a different laundry list of nice little remedies. All of this is in the realm of what we can call the content of our lives – and the society we live in.

So, while I may begin with a broad overview of what works and what doesn’t in our society, this is merely a description of that content – many others have already done a fine job of detailing all that stuff.

I am much more interested in the context all this content thrives in.

As Einstein once so famously said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

True.  

For my purposes, I would say it this way:  we cannot change the content of our lives – or our society – while trapped in the same context that creates the dysfunction we find ourselves already immersed in. We will have to step outside the box (the current context we live in).

So, first, some definitions:

Content: Everything that shows up in our lives as our experience, individually and collectively.

Context: Where we come from when we act and experience the acts of others.

“Where we come from”: What we believe is true and, even more deeply, who we believe ourselves to be, whether consciously acknowledged or not.

In Dianna’s Way, I describe my own discovery process that led me to appreciate I need both Light (consciousness) and Love (not love as we normally think of it but Love, the energy emanating from God, Spirit, from the All That Is). Only then could I comprehend how this incredibly powerful woman was able to live her life the way she did – and realize these same tools can be used to create a society that somewhere inside ourselves we have all dreamed but not yet successfully created.

Dianna supplied me and others, consistently, seemingly effortlessly, with a model for expressing our selves when and where it matters – in the practical, day to day life that greets us each morning.  

She supplied us with a Context that works.

Not a bad place to begin.

 

Ironically, I have had the idea to write a book called the NAAD for at least 40 years. But, until Dianna cracked open my heart without saying a word, silently pointing the way toward surrender, toward trusting in Spirit, it was a book I was totally ill equipped to write.

Perhaps now I can.

You and I can certainly have a conversation about all this as I think out loud on this blog.

I welcome your participation.