The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.
~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
I quit smoking a little over sixteen years ago. I quit with the help of a (now defunct) online group. We wrote posts, left comments, and didn’t call it blogging at the time, but that’s pretty much what it was except that our main focus was quitting smoking. Not that our posts and comments and topics were limited to that. During the early days of quitting an addiction, one’s focus naturally stays on the addiction, the quitting, the recovery. Even so, life is life and such a huge part of addiction that of course we would write about our lives as well.
It was a large group. I don’t recall how many passed through during the time I was there, but I’d venture to guess it was more than a thousand. Maybe someone who used to follow me there is following here and they might remember the numbers. What I do remember most about the site, in addition to the lifetime friendships I formed, is that we had the camaraderie and commonality of the struggle of getting past the quitting itself so we could resume normal life — a new normal — and we had differences in how we approached that struggle.
For some, the best approach was to demonize cigarettes and to think of themselves as warriors in the great crusade to quit smoking. Demonizing the substance (in this case, cigarettes) works pretty well, and some, as warriors, went full anger on the demon, the tobacco companies, and the addiction. Every single day they got up and fought the good fight.
Others were not able to quit through the use of anger and going to war with their demons. Those folks, and I’m one of them, learned that anger would not propel them forward towards change. The approach had to be one of love. Not love of the cigarette, of course, but love of self or life or something. It had to be quieter, gentler, and from the heart-space rather than from the head-space. In my experience, and now I am only speaking for myself rather than telling you what I observed in others, anger beget anger and I could not sustain that sort of thing for a long period of time. It was too exhausting, it made me a grumpy old bear to live with, and long-term anger is bad for my health.
Yesterday I read Carrie’s recent blog post, look for the helpers. You might be wondering what that has to do with quitting smoking. Nothing, really. And everything. Go read the post. It’s not that long. I’ll wait for you.
I have loved words for as long as I can remember, and that love of words has also meant that I believe the words we choose to use are important. Carrie’s post put into words things I have been thinking but had not yet formed into words of my own. Just as I felt that anger beget anger when I quit smoking, I believe Carrie is right about resistance meeting resistance.
I have no answers to any of the small or great questions about life, politics, or resistance. What I do know, and this is in regards to me, is that I cannot sustain four years of shock, outrage, and resistance to every single thing I disagree with and/or dislike. I do know that I have to detach. I do know I have to find a new normal. I’m not saying I need or want to normalize what is happening in our country or in the world. I am saying that I have to normalize my own life, particularly my inner life, by chopping wood, carrying water, spending time with family and friends, loving, writing, meditating, walking, experimenting with my art, communing with nature, and living in the present. That does not exclude contacting my representatives or any of the other things we’re being asked to do to try to protect what is important to us. But it all has to come from a place of love rather than from a place of hate or anger. Love of life, love of my fellow humans, love of nature, love of earth, love of country, love of something.
One or two more notes before I go: I’m thinking out loud here, exploring my thoughts, my actions, my path ahead. In case you are curious and you don’t have time to follow the links in the last paragraph, the first leads to a 2012 blog post at Zen Revolution that I think is relevant (I especially love the Call to Action at the end), and the second is a link to Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness meditation challenge which began today. Registration will remain open until February 6 if you want to join.
If you made it through this long post, thank you so much for visiting and for reading my ramblings. I will try not to make this habit, but with all that is happening in the world lately, I can’t make any promises in regards to things of a political nature. I will, however, try to stay away from specifics.
Be good, be kind, be loving. Just Be. 🙂
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 106) Having my shaggy hair cut. 107) Lunch with M at a local restaurant. 108) The way the gray clouds are streaked with various shades of gray and blue. 109) The warmth of fleece. 110) Settling and centering.