Real Talk: I Smile Because I Want To

This post has been in the drafts folder for a while. It’s an awkward subject to broach, but here goes:

I’m happy. I’m really really happy. There’s an abundance of blessings and luck and warm fuzzies in my life, yo. It’s true. And I have a lot of extra love. Unless I’m fully acting in a play or something I cannot will not poker face…unless I’m actually playing poker…which I’m not good at. You can tell what’s on my mind. And it’s pretty damn positive. Mama Sunshine says I was born with this affliction. And, you know, I just have to take it one day at a time.

If you’ve traveled through Seattle you may’ve heard of a little something called the Seattle Chill, meaning that people here are apparently all bottled up inside and don’t talk or greet each other. Further that it can be hard to make friends or create meaningful relationships.

Bollocks, says Sunshine. In fact, I find quite the opposite to be true. People are so friendly and open up so readily almost everywhere I go. Some might then say that the Chill exists and is merely counteracted by my southern hospitality. Yeah, maybe, but that only proves the Chill can be overcome. So there.

Dark Side of the Sun

In general, being a smiley happy-go-lucky sort of lady works out however every once in a while I’ll notice that some people will be less honest with me when they don’t have something cheerful to say. It’s as though they don’t want to bring me down, but it’s only by sharing our joy and pain that we can lift each other up.

I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, to make eye contact with everyone you pass for a solid day week and see if you don’t feel like smiling, too.

Love & Light,

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Real Talk 02: I Quit

[This post was initially written January 6th, but has lingered in the Drafts folder for one reason or another.]

My cessation plan begins with really wanting to quit. That’s the foundation.

That’s also the hardest part because I love smoke in general and acknowledging that love is important. So when we—Honeybee and I, decided that quitting was officially on the radar in August/September of 2015, we had a vague timeframe of “January” but it wasn’t necessarily associated with New Years initially. Proceed with caution on New Year’s Resolutions. Actually, the plan was to get one of those larger vaporizer pens with nicotine juice and just step down that way, but when I visited the vape shop, the whole set up was gonna cost me $70 plus juices. That amount is not too expensive compared to buying cigarettes for the rest of my life, but from that moment I decided to strive for a life without having to pay that $. Because if there’s one thing I love more than smoke, it’s making deals, discounts and saving money.

Again, back in August, September, October and the first week of November I enjoyed all the smoky treats I wanted, with emphasis on excess. I also invested in extra incense, candles and the like. Embrace all the smoke! The more I smoked without restriction, the more I realized it was really only a few choice smokes I enjoyed most throughout the day, otherwise just having ambient smoke in the room was enough. (This is where I say this plan may not work for everyone cause I was never one of those smokers who got up and had to have a smoke first thing in the morning. I enjoyed that on the occasional early day with coffee, but it didn’t have to be the first thing I did and there’s a major smoker distinction there. Matt, is definitely a first thing smoker and he’s much more comfortable using the gradual juice method, so $70 was a worthy investment for him, I digress…)

Once mid-November hit I smoked every cigarette with the very clear thought, “enjoy this, time is running out.” This step was crucial for me. I didn’t want to arrive at quitting day and feel like I still had more smoking to do, if that makes sense. It initially made me smoke more, but it evened out again. To give you perspective, 6-7 a day was a lot for me, it would even out to about 4-5. From mid-November I set my Google calendar with an even amount of days (until January, my general target) of stepping down from 5 a day to 1. From there I just did what the Google machine said until a funny thing happened. By the end of December I realized that it was more frustrating keeping track of how many smokes I could have (and watching myself sometimes negotiate more into the plan) or when I would have that ONE. I had Marlboro Lights and Camel Lights stashed away, I would only pull out so many for the day which I kept in my cigarette case, separate. I grew (more) fond of my cigarette case and built that into the ritual. So when it was time to just finally be done with tobacco, it happened to be New Year’s Eve. I bought like 10 pre-rolled joints (the big, 1 gram ones) from the recreational shop as well as hand-rolling my own tiny joints, too. For the whole weekend I was allowed to smoke all the weed I wanted. It really helps that I did this during off work/off school time, not that I operate any heavy machinery or anything, but I definitely needed the time to just be. Anytime I wanted to reach for a cigarette I had this pre-rolled tiny cigarette-like thing there for me, in that same cigarette case. And that’s pretty much that.

[Keep in mind, this solution is not viable for everyone. I live in Washington State where recreational cannabis is legal and I’m so thankful it is because it helped me get rid of a more dangerous habit. And, yes, I can imagine you may be thinking this is just replacing one bad habit with another, but marijuana is not addictive in the same way tobacco is so I’m able to quench the smoke craving without inhaling those same chemicals. The difference is huge. After that weekend, I immediately stepped down in the amount of herb enjoyed, no cessation plan necessary. It just feels natural.]

Somewhere along the way, I learned that it takes 3 days for the main effect of nicotine addiction to leave the blood and after that you’re just fighting your habit. (And this may or may not be super scientifically accurate, I think it is, but I also may’ve forgotten and I’m not making an effort to find out otherwise because my 3-day-buffer-mantra made this happen for me. Just make it to the 3rd day, then you’re home free! I kept telling myself and that shit works!)
Nicotine is usually detectable in a blood test for 1-3 days after the consumption of a tobacco product.* However, the length of time that nicotine stays in your system may vary based on how much or how often you smoke, and may also be affected by your age and general health. Google - Mar 23, 2015
Find a way to make the first 3 days bearable, check. Then making sure I either rebuilt old habits (ciga-joints in the old, familiar cigarette case) or fashioned new ones (anytime I wanted a smoke January 1-3 I, instead did a 30 second plank, so the abs are getting stronger / sexier, too!) became the necessity, but sometimes that backfired because I definitely used to love a cigarette after working out, but again, ciga-joints to the rescue! Obviously, I can’t smoke that much weed all the time, but it’s weed, so there’s only so much you even can smoke anyway and, again, its only those choice moments of the day when I really enjoy it. I have a cheap nicotine vape that cost me like $5 for emergencies, but I haven’t had to use it yet. For me, it’s easy to be smoke free at work / school, a non-smoking campus. There is a smoking area near where I work, but it’s also winter time, so it’s really easy to let myself be distracted with work. At home is where my struggle is, but I got the hardest part out of the way first, by doing all the “hard quitting” while I was home for the holidays.
So, yeah, it’s a combination of things beginning with really wanting to quit at its very root. Oh, I also borrowed a book and I can say it helped a little too. For real, I literally opened it up to a random page wherein the author discusses how there’s nothing—no satisfaction—that comes from cigarettes. The only relief you get is from the initial discomfort that was caused by the first cigarettes themselves. He obviously explained it better than I did, but -seriously- in those, like, 3 pages I was like yup, okay. Woot. And I haven’t picked up the book since, but that did help.
It can be tough, but you can do it! It’s all about wanting to! But another factor that helps me is this whole natural hair journey. I equate getting fed up in those last few days of smoking to that time when I couldn’t take the two different hair types anymore. I did the mini big chop and (even though my hair was shorter than it had ever been I) felt so much better. I think I’m at 23 months of relaxer-free curl glory. It took 20 months to just begin to unleash its cuteness. Smoking a cigarette now would be like getting a relaxer and straightening my hair. No way I’m going back. Can I say this is a foolproof plan? No. It has a lot of caveats and took a long time to get comfortable with. Today is January 6, March 14th and we’re 3 ½ months cigarette free! And I don’t even want one. It’s odd that the previous sentence makes me proud and yet I can look back on smoking fondly. It was a time in my life and that time has come and gone.
Are you thinking of quitting, too? Quit before? Quitting again? You can do it and I believe in you. Tell me your story in the comments! Need more inspiration? Find out What Happens When You Quit Smoking. And thanks for sticking with me in the Real Talk series. If you missed it, check out Real Talk 01: Conquering Anxiety. Yes, this blog is about sunshine, but you can’t have sunshine without rain. You can’t have victory without something to defeat.
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Real Talk 01: Conquering Anxiety

Yes, this blog is a rough fieldguide to a bright life. The majority of content you’ll find here is sunshine and rainbows, fun projects and yummy recipes, but life isn’t always like that.

"In every life you have some trouble, but when you worry, you make it double. Don't worry, be happy." Bobby McFarrin

Friday night my Honeybee said he felt weird, then keeled over. He fainted a total of three times. It all happened in a few breaths’ time and, thankfully, our roommates were home and were able to help Matt while I got changed and ready to take him to the hospital. We didn’t go, though, because he bounced back so quickly. It was as if he overheated (he was wearing pajama pants, a long sleeve shirt and a thick robe) and recovered well with rest and water. Since then he’s been okay, though, you guys. He’s overdue for a check-up and will be rectifying that Monday, which is good.

After all that, he fell to sleep relatively quickly and I watched him until about 2am when I fell asleep and dreamt of watching him sleep. Since then I’ve been experiencing fear in a way I never have before. At any given time my senses cloud over, dull, my heart pounds and I can see, in my mind’s eye, my love failing to recognize me, falling from my grasp, bouncing lifeless on the floor.

It is the worst.

In an emergency, I’m logical and quick but after the immediate danger is gone I’m lost in a sea of what if and what next. It’s entirely blinding and unreasonable. I say unreasonable because even if Matt is okay for now eventually everyone dies and that THAT is one (impossible) thing, but it’s another thing to watch. To see the light flicker from their eyes. I feel like I got a taste of what will happen more and more for the rest of our lives and me no like.

Here’s the thing, anxiety is different for everyone and you have the ultimate say in what feels right for you but here are some things that’ve helped me in the past few days:

  1. Release that shit. We have a journal that was given to us as a wedding gift by our friend, Rebecca. I haven’t used it as much as I’d liked to’ve, but putting it down in words took weight off my heart. This helps my logical side because I know that fear, that feeling is accurately recorded somewhere, so I don’t have to think about it. I don’t need to replay those images.
  2. Keep releasing. I took a shower and while listening to my playlist, Don’t Worry, Be Happy came on and I had the best, ugliest cry of my life. It’s a classic for reason, both the song and the act of crying. And it’s okay to cry. Sometimes I forget that or just forget to give myself time to process things.
  3. Appreciate quality. This one is broad for a reason. It can mean anything from appreciating the beauty of the day around you (rainy or sunny, both are beautiful) to noticing some minutia within your day-to-day that’s been there all along. Physically look around you. What do you see? Whatever it is, it’s beautiful. Even ugly is beautiful. Does that make sense? For example, looking around my room right now, there’s a tray of dirty dishes waiting to be done and I’m sitting on this bed that’s not very comfortable and moves around and just generally sucks. But those dishes were from meals shared with love (and they look cute, too). We hate this bed, but it’s just a stopgap measure until we make one that’s perfect for us. And, in that way, this shitty bed is the promise of a future I can see in my mind’s eye instead of my love falling away from me.
  4. When all else fails, and I’m feeling the lowest of the low I look for something I can control. You can’t control what life throws at you, but you can control yourself, your body, using different ways to reset. Meditation helps for me, on a physical level and mental level because I focus on breathing so I’m extra calm while also getting extra oxygen to my brain-meat, but I’d like to think gardening and crafting work, too. It could also mean taking the opportunity to make personal changes that might lead to a better outcome.
  5. Watch Bob Ross. I’m not even kidding a little bit. Especially the one-hour specials where he really gets a chance to speak with you. I could get my whole life in a Bob Ross special, I’m seriously. Yes, I’m seriously.

It can’t all be gold, y’all, and it’s almost odd to share on the internet, I guess, sort of, but not really because I think it would be inauthentic to only tell one side of our life story. If anything, I’m lucky to have had such a positive disposition all my life. 29 years without anxiety is good. And if you have any go-to mediations or methods for calming down, leave in the comments below. Thanks for having some real talk with me.

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Credits: Text, Brianna Wray. Image, Pexels.