Oh, great. Another blog post where Vanessa just talks about herself. Bleh.
Shut up. You love me. I’m awesome.
Wow. I wrote that little hypothetical argument with the theoretical “you,” but it totally sounds like the inside of my head. That’s tremendously unsettling.
Sorry. I’m all scatterbrained and out of sorts. I’m trying to quit smoking. I know this may not be a blogworthy subject, but it’s bringing up all kinds of interesting questions. Introspection. Self-analysis. Icky things like that.
This started because I had a really weird moment the other day. I was driving down the road and I thought to myself, “If I get to live to be an old lady, that means that I’ll have time to do a lot of cool things. I could learn to speak Chinese. I could rebuild a classic car. I could walk across the country.” This is a weird moment because I don’t usually think that far ahead. Like, old lady far ahead. I can think maybe someday future kids or maybe someday future bookstore, but that’s about where it all gets fuzzy for me. I’m very comfortable with my own mortality. It’s inevitable, and death can just show up on your doorstep uninvited whenever he wants. It’s why I’ve written my own eulogy many times and keep a current will. But I had this unexpected little string of extra-long-term thoughts and I got a butterfly flutter in my gut, like you do when you’re excited about something. I don’t get excited like that, physically, very often. I get nervous a lot, but that feels different. I’m much more familiar with being nervous. Anyway, point is, if I want to live that long, I should probably not beat up my body quite so much. I’ve only got the one, you know. Such as it is. And the grossest thing that I do to it is smoking.
Ugh. It’s so fucking gross. My teeth are all jacked up. I smell like an ashtray. My fingernails are yellow. And it’s completely unfulfilling. The only thing one gets out of smoking cigarettes is the enjoyment of smoking cigarettes. That’s it. There’s no bonus. There’s no upside. It’s not like smoking weed where you get the extra added benefit of being high at the end. There’s no reward system to smoking except you get to keep wanting to smoke. Seems fallacious. In retrospect. Oh! And it’s ridiculously expensive. Let’s do the math. I pay $7.50 per pack for cigarettes, now, in California. When I started smoking I paid about $3.50 per pack, in the 90s, in Virginia (the holy land of smoking). I smoke half a pack a day now, but at my worst I smoked about a pack and a half. So let’s call that an even pack a day at $5.50 per pack, just taking the median numbers because I suck at math. Over sixteen years that’s $32,142. That’s almost half my college education. That’s three used cars. That’s a down payment on a house. That’s a good chunk of the therapy my children will certainly need. That’s money that I pretty much just set on fire. And as much as I love watching things burn, that figure hurts to look at.
That’s a little off-track. Money is good motivation because I seem to be consistently broke, but this should really be more about my health. I’m not a terribly self-aware person, in a physical sense. I’m extremely clumsy. I don’t give a shit about clothes. I tend to think that I’m invisible in social situations (which is either an unhealthy delusion or a superpower, I haven’t decided yet). I ignore my body most of the time and pay way more attention to my brain. And if I’m being brutally honest, both of them need (and deserve) work. That’s the crossroads where I find myself, hoping to reconcile these two concepts. Because I just turned thirty, right? Physically it’s all downhill from here. So I’m trying to train myself to think of my brain as just another organ in a bigger system (which is really hard) and to think of my body as being a healthy vehicle to carry my brain around in (which is actually more difficult than the other thing). It can’t be one or the other, it has to be both. Neither is more or less important. Although every time my brain goes to shit, my body follows. Oddly, having always had a less-than-healthy body, I never thought of it as also being directly related the other way around. But it is. Obviously. And I’m not talking about how I look, by the way. Let’s just clear that up ahead of time. I have allergies and asthma and a weird heart thing, as well as depression and anxiety which affect the body more than most people think. One of my legs is shorter than the other. I’ve got a fun inventory of exciting skin conditions. I have freaky tiny hands. Not a great combination of factors. So I’m just not really “connected to my body,” or whatever enlightened thing I’m supposed to say. I think of it more like driving a car. Or that lifting robot thing from the third Alien movie.
My mother was a champion bodybuilder in the 80s. There’s a long list of awesome things she’s done, but I think that’s the weirdest. She’s a total badass, my mom. But her being a wicked hot health nut made it very difficult to be an awkward little fat kid with glasses and braces and asthma, right? “Hey, sweetpea, let’s go lift weights! Let’s go to an aerobics class! Let’s go for a run!” Sounds like fun to her, torture to me. I wanted to be an athletic kid so I could hang out with her, do things that she would think were a good way to spend one’s time, and make her proud of me. As opposed to sitting under a tree, reading books, eating my secret stash of Oreos, which sounds like little Vanessa’s perfect day. I’m not good at all that sporty stuff, though, and I don’t like doing things that I’m not good at. I really tried, I swear, but I couldn’t help hating it. I tried to play softball (and got cut from the team three years in a row). I tried to play volleyball (and broke my nose twice). I even tried cheerleading (they did not appreciate sarcasm or eye-rolling from the goth girl). See the problem? I’m physically much more suited to playing games like chess, Magic, and what-can-we-turn-into-a-bong?.
So on top of all that hating-my-body-because-it-doesn’t-work-properly bullshit, I’ve been smoking since high school. Half my life. My dad was a heavy smoker. As are most of the friends that I’ve had since childhood. And my sister, until last summer. And my husband. Not that being surrounded by a thing is any reason to not quit that thing. That would be a cop out. I’m just saying that it’s not the easiest environment to work in. Peer pressure is a bitch, and always has been. Maybe that’s why I smoke in the first place. If I’m going to hang out with smokers, I think it’s important to tell myself that I don’t have to be totalitarian or dictatorial about quitting. I don’t have to pick a cigarette and say “this is the last one ever ever ever,” because that’s just setting myself up to fail, right? Moderation is an easier goal than abstinence. And one every once in a while is worlds better for me than the half a pack a day I go through now. Which isn’t that much to begin with, relatively speaking. In college I would smoke a pack and a half a day, easy, and more if I was drinking heavily. How did I survive college? Seriously? I should probably not be alive.
Now that I’ve spent a thousand words talking how gross and broke and broken and weird I am, I’d like to follow that up by saying that I’m fucking charming as hell. I’m smart and funny and a blast to hang out with. Let me assure you that none of us wants me to die over something as stupid as smoking. It’s a dumbshit way to kill myself. It’s slow and painful and just not dramatic enough, frankly. It’s the most boring kind of suicide ever. And I’d like to think that if I go through this process now, tough as it may be, one day I’ll get to be that fun old lady who speaks Chinese and drives a little sports car she restored herself and has stories about walking across the country. And more. More than I can even imagine now, from where I’m sitting. If I kill myself, I kill her, and that’s not fair. I should give her a fighting chance. Wish us luck.