Another Busy Weekend Ahead

Alright! Had a huge long bout of insomnia last night (as in, more than usual) so am feeling a tad rough and headache-y today, but have managed to be at least a little bit productive at the start of my day!

Cancelled both Guinness World Record attempts I’d been approved to make – Largest Online Photo Album of Animals (my plan was to highlight the Toronto Zoo’s residents to help raise awareness as well as give zoo-goers a place to showcase their photos), and Longest Chain of Paper Hearts. My plan for that one was to get a Mind Reels booth at Toronto Comicon in March, and coincide that event with a launch of my children’s book about hearts. I wanted to get visitors to our table to help cut out paper hearts all weekend, and assemble them into a huge chain together at the end. The attempt/book launch was to tie in with other ideas we have for a con table, rather than be a stand-alone event in and of itself.

Speaking of which, I really need to find an artist one of these days, to help flesh out a few things with me.

At any rate, neither attempt was ever likely to happen, at least not any time soon, so I’ve scratched them off my long and vague To Do list. As well, I cancelled a subscription, which will save me a bit of money, and declined this month’s feature title in the Disney movie club.

Another packed weekend is staring me in the face, but at least I’m feeling physically better than the past couple of weeks. Not much, mind you, because #nosleep, but better nonetheless.  Do not be surprised if I don’t post much or at all over the next few weekends, actually.  Maybe next month sometime my schedule will go back to something normal-ish (for me).  I’ll be glad when I’m not writing this anymore and have time to focus on different, more useful (for me) writing, I think!  But if it gets me into the habit of writing every day, regardless, then it will have not been a complete waste, at least!

Will be sending out invites to start casting the next radio play soon – probably early next week, if not later today. I want to do it before the end of the month, though I am frustrated with our inability to go live with anything.

I’m frustrated with a lot of things.

I’ve taken to envisioning shooting people lately. Just random people who piss me off. It feels a bit like a cathartic release to imagine it – firing little rage bullets at the guy wearing his backpack on a crowded subway, or strolling along on the wrong side of the sidewalk (walk on the right, pass on the left, people), or driving too fast on residential streets in particular. Not in a they-deserve-to-die kind of way, but in a releasing of anger from inside of me. I mean, we’re all going to die whether we deserve it or not, but my imagination is more along the lines of a mental slap in the face, but more violent, and thus more satisfying. I never picture it as a hail of bullets spraying everywhere, either. I’ve often maintained that a gun is the weapon of a coward, but at least in my mind each shot is deliberate, and focused and up close. It’s personal. Each individual knows they are my target, and sometimes I even tell them why, like that scene in Dogma when Matt Damon wanted to smite everyone in the boardroom because they didn’t bless him when he sneezed. Only in my case, because everything happens in my mind, I keep my mouth shut and move on with my day, but carry less anger around as I do so.

I’m so completely not a violent nor confrontational person in practice, but the scenarios which play out in my head are everything I’m not. Which I guess is a good way to be, really. Much better than the opposite, anyway.

I managed to fall asleep for 45 minutes or so this morning, I think, before my alarm went off. Naturally, I had a really stressful and emotional dream during that time, to ensure I awoke even more exhausted than necessary for a Friday. I was moving slow, left late, but still got to work on time. The rest of the week I’ve been leaving early and getting to work late, so even that much went better this morning than it has been the rest of the week.

I just…need to get through the weekend without being even more of a mess by Monday morning!

On Quitting Smoking

On this day, April 13th, in 2003 I quit smoking. That makes today my 13th anniversary. Not really sure how I feel about that, actually.

See, I looooved smoking. Loved it. It was the biggest crutch I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t walk down the street without a cigarette in my hand. I’d have one before bed, when I woke up in the morning, sometimes even if I woke in the middle of the night. I’d have a cigarette before and after every meal, and every time I went out for drinks. I’d smoke when I was angry, or sad, or stressed, or anxious – I mean, mostly anxious. I am anxious pretty much all the time. Smoking calmed me or, at least, I believed it did, which is really all that matters.

At the time, we could still smoke inside some establishments, or on patios of others. And packs of course cost way less, just like everything else did in 2003. It was far less difficult to find a spot than it is now. I went on multiple breaks from work during any given shift, and I drank way less because my hands were kept busy. I always had a lighter on me, but still preferred the smell of matches. It was kind of a social thing sometimes, too. We’d go out together and have conversations that didn’t include the people inside, and the cigarette would act as a timer to let us know when it was time to go back in.

For me, though, it was mostly just a huge crutch. A thing I felt I needed – or at least really wanted – to help get me through the day.

Then one day, I found out I’d been accepted to teacher’s college, and I’d promised myself that I would quit before school started, because I didn’t want to be a hypocrite teacher – one who tells the kids not to smoke, but then hangs out in the parking lot every recess and lunch break, puffing away and setting a bad example. I figured I could be the poster child for Don’t Ever Start, but I didn’t want to be a hypocrite if I could help it.

So I planned a big party to celebrate my acceptance, and smoked as much as I wanted that night – then stopped as of the next morning. It sucked, too, because my last cigarettes weren’t even mine. I ran out too close to the end to make it worth buying another pack, so I bummed a few off someone at the party, and THEIRS were the last ones I ever had.

To make matters worse, I’d done all kinds of research into quitting, and thought I’d set myself up for success, but it turned out that the information I had was only part of the issue. I don’t think even now addiction is truly understood, let alone withdrawl. Nothing I saw online prepared me for the acute depression, for example. Not one mention of it. I had the patch ready in case I needed it, but that only helps with cravings, not all of the other crazy things that happen to your system when you’re going through severe withdrawl.

The other thing that sucked was that, for months prior, I’d cut down to the lightest cigarettes I could find, so that it’d maybe be a bit easier to stop smoking completely if I happened to get into school. But the first step of the patch contained way more nicotine than I’d been ingesting, so it actually ramped me right back up to higher doses than I’d been used to. I could feel it in my veins, I thought. And it gave me crazy vivid dreams.

A few weeks later, my partner decided to cheat on me fairly publicly, and then break up with me not long before school started, so there went my financial and emotional support system out the window. Luckily I’d loaded up on student debt that I’d hoped to not need. Poor timing much?

The bets were on as to whether or not I’d cave and take up the habit again, but to my mind that would be failure, and I suspected my ex would love to see me fail, so I kept not giving into temptation, which I’m sure also saved many lives.

Also, I’m stubborn as hell sometimes.

Now, keep in mind that I really loved this habit I’d quit, and my reason for quitting was simply not to be a hypocrite. It wasn’t for my health, it wasn’t because it was too expensive, it wasn’t for my own good nor the good of anyone else. It was ONLY so I could face the children each day in class. As well, I got very depressed very quickly, and not being able to smoke felt not only like a punishment, but a punishment I deserved. In that sense, it was easy not to break down and buy more, because not having them made me feel bad, and in my mind, I deserved to feel bad.

So, there I was – alone, unbearably sad, my self-esteem the lowest it had ever been at that point. Trying to teach children. I started drinking more and eating more, so I packed on an unimaginable amount of weight in a very short period of time, and have the stretch marks to prove it. Hell, I have pictures to prove it. I almost flunked out of school a few times, but knowing that failure would also make my ex happy, I hung in there, too. I took on another shift at work, and all but maxed out all the lovely credit I’d been handed as a student. Hating myself pretty much every minute of every day.

But hey – at least I wasn’t a hypocrite.

I haven’t had a cigarette since that day, except for one accidental inhale when I’d only meant to pull it into my mouth to help out a friend. I was drinking at the time, and even though it was years later, habit still kicked in. My body still knew the motions automatically, and I knew that if I ever did have one myself, I’d be back to a pack a day in no time. And who can afford that, really?

Do I feel better as a result of quitting? Not really, no. Am I proud of myself? Meh, kind of, I guess, but more in that it was one more way I made my ex wrong about me. And I’m told nicotine withdrawl is actually harder to go through than heroin, so there’s that. Don’t worry, though – I can’t afford a heroin addiction, either. It does seem that I am always a little addicted to something, though. I tend to just temporarily quit something long enough to get it out of my system, and then pick it back up later, just to make sure I still can. I don’t really want to quit anything else I love forever, though. The very idea makes me sad. I can cut way down, and even quit temporarily – but for good? No thank you. That feels like punishment, too, and I don’t wish to punish myself that way anymore right now.

I likened the whole experience to getting out of a bad relationship. You know they aren’t good for you, and that your physical and emotional health is suffering as a result of such toxicity. But against all rational argument, you still love them, and even though you’re technically glad you got away, you really do miss them quite a lot.

Then, every time you go anywhere, you get see them with somebody else.

More Than Routine

I suppose I’ve always been a creature of habit; of routine.  Like many – maybe even most – I have specific things I do when I get up in the morning, and before I go to bed at night.  I travel the same route to and from work most of the time, and usually go for the same spots on the subway and streetcar.  I  have a favourite area to sit in the movie theatre.  I even buy pretty much the same things at the grocery store.

Many of those routines and rituals are born of convenience and logic.  They are things I need to get done before I leave for work, or it’s the quickest way from Point A to Point B.  Things I do every day because they need to be done, and usually on a schedule that is also the same each day.

I’d be super easy to stalk, really.  I rarely deviate except out of necessity.

But there are so many more things I do that most people don’t know about, and that I barely catch myself doing, in part because they are habit and in part because they make no sense.

I breathe a certain way if I feel there are germs in the vicinity, because inside I feel like it helps keep me from getting sick.  It doesn’t but I feel like it does.  I say certain things to the animals before I leave the apartment, because I feel like it will keep them safe.  Maybe they also have a better understanding of what’s happening because they hear the same words at certain times, but while that’s a best case scenario, I mostly do it because I feel it’s like a protection spell to last until my return.  It’s not, but I feel like it is.  I try to make sure my right hand is the last one to touch them before we part, instead of my left.  I like things to be in odd numbers instead of even, from the time my clock displays when I turn off a light, to the number of seconds I count in my head when rinsing with mouthwash, to the number of treats I give Brody after a walk.

All of these things are so small, they are barely noticeable even to me.  They are not quite superstition, but their power exists in my inability to shake the certainty that something terrible will happen if I don’t do them.  And what’s worse is that the terrible thing will actually be all my fault.

On a logic level, I know that’s ludicrous.  But the feeling is so powerful that I’d honestly rather be safe than sorry.  I’d rather leave a bit late while I wait for the minute display on the clock to be an odd number than return home to find my apartment burned to the ground.  Logically I know that the odd-numbered minute does nothing to prevent or cause such a thing, but inside me, there is actual panic freezing me in place.  And while the physical manifestation of these little habits has changed over the years, the certainty that I would be to blame if something terrible happened if I didn’t do them has, I think, always been there.

Does that kind of pressure – having to remember to do all of these things in order to prevent something much worse from happening – cause much of my anxiety?  Or is it the anxiety of knowing so much of what happens in life is out of my control the reason that I started trying to invent small ways of retaining some sense of control?

Chicken or egg?  Either way, they are for certain related to one another.

For the most part, I see no reason to be concerned.  These little habits don’t hurt anyone, and so far they at least haven’t taken over my life to the point of being frozen inside of my own mind, and only able to move about the world in tiny increments.  I still live a pretty normal life from the outside. The panic has not yet crippled me.  There’s always the chance that it will, but I think – if it does – it’ll be a slow build and I will be able to see it coming.

Of course, whether or not I actually do anything to rein it back in is a different matter.

I remember as little kids, my brother and I would always get a hamburger happy meal when we went to McDonald’s.  It was a treat to go there, because there wasn’t one closer than a half hour’s drive away.  One time, our babysitters took us to what was then a new-ish drive-thru option, and we ordered hamburgers while they ordered cheeseburgers.  Naturally, the order got messed up but no one noticed until we’d pulled away.  We only got cheeseburgers.

With mild trepidation, my brother and I took a bite of the hamburger with cheese, then immediately realized the genius of having cheese included on a burger.  After that, we always ordered cheeseburgers.  Those kinds of habits are different, of course.  We just didn’t know yet how much we loved cheese.  Nothing bad was going to happen if I didn’t eat my regular hamburger, other than perhaps not loving what I ended up eating instead.  But it feels much the same inside.  There’s the same kind of uncertainty, but added to it is, like, actual fear.

Incidentally, remember how awesome happy meal toys used to be?  I’d totally go for much of that stuff even now!  They should offer retro/classic happy meals for adults, with toys from Tron and The Black Hole and the like.  I’d be all over that.  I remember getting a plastic “watch” that had a secret compartment where the watch face was. Of course, it wasn’t that secret because it was freaking huge, but still cool.  Made me feel like a spy, or something.

I took a course in, like, first or second year university- I can’t even remember what it was now – and the prof taught us the various stages of conflict that each of us must go through in order to grow as a person.  The first one happens before you are born – Trust vs Mistrust.  You have to feel safe enough to enter the world in a healthy and confident way, apparently. Something occurred to me that day, which has stayed with me and been reflected upon several times since.

On an emotional level, it’s entirely possible that I’m still inside the womb.

Edited to add:  It was9:13am when I pushed the “Publish” button on this post, but it switched to 9:14am as it was posting.  I’m going to try to be okay with that, because hitting the button was the only part within my control.