Celebrating small victories

sunflower_on_blue_sky_by_stock_by_kaiI’m hard on myself when it comes to my accomplishments. It’s good to have high expectations for yourself, but not to a degree that makes you dismiss your small victories. My friends and family tell me I never give myself enough credit for anything I do, and they’re right. In my mind, many things that I’ve achieved have simply been “not enough”… in comparison to the bigger picture of what I hope to accomplish.

I have a hard time celebrating my small victories because I am a person who always strives to keep her mind on the bigger picture—and usually that is a good thing. Keeping an eye on the bigger picture is calming to me, most of the time. The bigger picture offers perspective, reminds me that in the grander scheme of things, I will be okay. All will be okay. The bigger picture helps me align my priorities. It keeps me in check.

But I’m slowly realizing that my bigger picture is also casting a shadow on my small victories. The bigger picture can be overwhelming. Like the sun, it can sting you if you look at it for too long. It can make you lose sight of the smaller pieces that you’ve put together that ultimately… make up that bigger picture.

There are so many things I want to do—dreams I want to see to fruition. And in this context, the bigger picture of all that I hope to accomplish ends up paralyzing me instead of motivating me. It all becomes so overwhelming. There’s just too much to do!

So I retreat.

I camp outside my mountain of dreams because the mountain hovers too high. I can’t imagine where on earth I would begin my climb, or how I would even survive such a climb.

Well, needless to say, that approach has gotten me nowhere.

I woke up one day and realized that my small victories had gathered like dust in the corners of my room. And instead of using them as building blocks, instead of seeing them as reminders that I’m on the right track, that I’m doing something and there’s still more to do, I left them there to dry… to blur into the background of my life.

Celebrate your small victories! Make a big deal out of them. (Maybe not to the extent of throwing a party and inviting all your friends, but…) In your mind, they should always represent a check point on your road to your bigger picture, your vision of your success. Small victories are evidence of growth and progress. Evidence that you are an active member of life.

And realize that you should always have a vision of your success—there should always be something you’re chasing, something that will push you and inspire you to do better and be better. There’s no such thing as “arriving” at your success. People who “arrive” at their successes and decide to kick their feet up only get passed up by the rest of us who don’t stop moving forward. And I don’t mean to say that life is a race and that we should compare our successes to other people’s—no. What I mean is that once you lift from your mind this idea that success is a destination, you will be able to relax to a degree and appreciate your small victories.

And it’s not easy. We see our goals, our hopes, our dreams… we see them as shimmering palaces in the far distance, and we become weary wondering if we’ll ever find our way there. But life is not a prize to covet, it’s an experience, and so it is with success and accomplishment. Small victories, like memories we accumulate over the years, are a part of your bigger picture, a part of your experience, a part of your success, a part of your story. They are significant.

So celebrate your small victories; don’t just keep your eyes on the prize, on the big mountain of your dreams. Without your small victories, there would be no mountain… and your dreams would just be wishes in the wind.



Fear is a monster that whispers in your ear at night. He is ancient, pungent, and very busy. He stalks you as you go about your day, dropping shards of hurtful words into your world, hoping they will get caught in your hair, in your skin, in your eyes. He thrives in self-doubt, wears a cape made of coal. His goal is to blacken your world and capture your heart.

He collects your insecurities and worries as you toss them to the wind. He collects them and strings them together, making chains out of them. He polishes the chains to make them look attractive; he holds them out in front of you. He says they’ll look good on you.

Your heart knows this monster well. Your mind can be fooled, but your heart, never. Your heart’s muscles are stronger than your mind will ever know. Thoughts are slippery, sporadic, unreliable. But your heart is an evergreen garden of love, strength, courage, wisdom, truth. Your heart knows your truth—knows you. Reminds you everyday: You’re alive, and there’s much to do.

This puts the monster in a rage. He hears your heart’s whispers and tries to whisper louder. He thrashes for attention, desperate. But the monster is condemned to existing outside of you, and your heart knows this. Your heart knows your true power. Your heart knows what you must do.


One of the biggest lessons life has taught me so far is to never allow Fear to make your decisions. Fear cripples, bullies, and crushes you. Stand up for yourself always, always, no matter what the cost. Be brave enough to face what your mind can’t bear, for that is what your heart is built for.

There is Nothing to Writing

I sit at my desk, typing then backspacing, typing then backspacing. Highlighting paragraphs. Deleting, undoing, rewriting. What’s wrong with me? I look at my dog who looks up at me helplessly. What? You want to go for a walk? I’m busy writing, okay?

Well, not really…

I get up to make coffee.

I think of Hemingway’s words: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

And of John Gardner’s words: “The dream must be vivid and continuous…”

And of Anne Lamott’s words: “Perfection is the voice of the oppressor…”

Why would anyone want to be a writer?

I’m hard on myself when it comes to my writing (in case you couldn’t tell). It’s healthy to be self-critical of your work, necessary to hone an objective eye, but not to a degree that makes you lose confidence. I want my writing to be perfect. Perfect! But this yearning for perfection has only gotten in the way of my writing. The quest for perfection is nonsense. It’s distracting, and not the point of writing at all.

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say the most valuable of traits is persistence.” Octavia Butler

You know what else is distracting? Comparing yourself to other writers. They cannot write your stories just as you cannot write theirs. So focus on your own work.

I have my coffee now. I look down at my page and think of Hemingway’s words again, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Well that’s great. I suppose I should whip out the band aids. (Or does he mean internal bleeding? Probably both.)

But I love this quote so much because it gives me hope. It reaffirms that I’m not crazy. That the path to the most coveted words “The End” is supposed to be thorny, is supposed to draw blood. That I feel the way I do about my writing because I am a writer. All writers have their insecurities, moments of self-doubt and agony. But real writers write their way out of these emotional trenches. Real writers don’t stop writing.

Because writing is a passion. We don’t write for money or recognition (and certainly not for physical well-being). We write because we have an aching in our hearts, a story to tell. A story that occupies our daydreams and keeps us awake at night. A story that we need to set free into the world so we can finally set ourselves free.

A story worth telling and a story only we can tell.

There is nothing to writing. So I sip my coffee, roll up my sleeves metaphorically, pet my dog because she calms my nerves, and get to writing.

I have this ache in my heart for a reason.


Writing is Hard (and other writerly problems)


Writing is hard.

It’s the process of extracting with tweezers the intangibles (thoughts, dreams, ideas, images, emotions) from your mind and heart, and molding them into beautiful tangibles (inked words on paper) that not only have to make sense to another mind, but must provide a certain level of enjoyment, deemed worthy of a reader’s time.

Forget inspiring your reader to revelations, evoking thoughts and epiphanies. That will grow on its own time… later.

You just want to write.

You just want to create the conditions by which your reader will keep reading beyond the first few lines… keep reading the words that you poured so much of your blood into… so much of your blood… that you’re now lying dizzy and dehydrated, hallucinating slightly… and not water, not love, not fresh air, not a child’s hug or a cat’s purr can bring you back… because what you really need are more words… more words from your churning imagination.

Perfect words.

Writing is hard.

It’s excruciating, and feels near impossible sometimes.

It can drive you to madness… to doubting yourself (am I even a writer? Why am I doing this to myself?!)… to talking to or about your characters as though they were real human beings… to laughing out loud when your characters say something funny, only to realize… that you’re alone on your couch with your dog, and your laptop is burning your lap, and you’ve been holding your bladder for hours and you haven’t eaten since morning and you’re somehow sitting in darkness and your neighbors can see through your window, and they’re waving at you.

Writing is hard.

It’s walking through a dark room, hands along the wall, and each word you find is a light switch that makes the room a bit brighter, so that you can finally see the window on the other side, and make your way to it; the window that will show you the world from an angle that makes sense… so that you can finally understand… something… a little better.

Writing is hard.

It’s a thrill. To see your mind’s fruits BECOME. To CREATE… and then cast that creation into the world. 

Here! you yell from the mountain top, wind tousling your hair. Here is a piece of me! And you rip that piece of you from your chest, and it drips. Here is my offering, my sleepless nights and daily ponderings! Here is my contribution to the endless stream of consciousness that envelopes and connects us all!

Only for your book to end up in a used-book store with a $2.00 price sticker. All that agony of pulling images from your brain and surgically manipulating them onto a page, of saying no to friends and family because “I can’t, I have to write”, all that despair of wondering if this is the right idea, the right word, the right way to frame this scene, the right pace, the right allusion, the right calling for your life…

All that, and your book ends up in a donation box somewhere, or worse— a recycling bin— or worse— an attic or basement— dusty, unknown, forgotten.

And you just want to write.

You don’t want to be forgotten.

Isn’t that what writing is, partly? A validation of sorts? A confirmation of I Am Here or I Was Here?

You need only to scroll through social media to see how much people want that validation… that desire to be heard… that platform on which to announce to the world: I AM HERE. I MATTER. THIS IS WHAT I HAVE TO SAY. DO YOU SEE ME? I AM HERE.

Writing is hard.

You just want to create an oasis in a world of chaos. You want your book to be a refuge, a parallel universe unaffected, though very much inspired, by the truths and lies and questions of life. A safe place to visit. A place of comfort and enjoyment, but also a place that stirs you.

A place that reassures you: you are not alone in this wonderful explosion of thoughts and emotions and experiences. You are not alone and you are not crazy. And if you are crazy, then by all means be crazy. Be fabulous crazy. Be brave crazy. Be you.

Writing is hard.

But when you write…

Write with all your heart and blood and soul…

Write like your blood cells are letters in every single language that ever existed, and you’re the only translator left…

Write like it’s an involuntary bodily function, like your lungs need it more than air…

Write until you fall to the floor in hopeless exhaustion, then close your eyes and let your dog sniff your face (because that’s what dogs do and you love your dog), and when your dog’s done sniffing, sink into beautiful sleep, where your imagination can play and wander in your dreams, unbridled… where your words can simmer and bubble in your mind’s subconscious.

And when you wake up, head straight to the kitchen to make coffee— strong coffee— then sit your ass back down and write some more. Because you’re a writer, dammit. It’s what you do.

Also, don’t forget to eat. (And take your dog out.) You’re only human, after all. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Finding a Place for the Past


“The past is beautiful because one never realizes an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past…. That is why we dwell on the past, I think.” Virginia Woolf

One of the things I admire and love so much about animals, and dogs in particular, is their ability to live truly and fully in the present. They have memories, I’m sure, but they don’t agonize over them the way we human beings tend to do. Our minds and emotions are so complex, it’s difficult to center ourselves and live in the place that is now – which, really, is the only place we truly exist.

There was a time that I gave the past more time of mind than a healthy person should. I would relive moments that I wished hadn’t happened. I would over-analyze decisions I’d made, wonder where I would be if I’d made them differently. I would lose sleep over people who had gone from my life, and be completely fixated on the feeling that time was constantly fleeing from me.

I was not living my life. I was sleepless, frozen – debilitated by memories. I was unable to move on because I was unable to recognize (let alone appreciate) the joy and opportunity of the present, of each day being a new canvas on which I could continue painting the story of my life. I was fixated on the past because I somehow thought that my story had ended with certain memories, that nothing could ever be new again – that I could never be new again.

But what I didn’t realize is… I become new every day.

That is why people are so overtaken by sunsets and sunrises, I believe. We never tire from their beauty, and in that way, they signify hope. They signify that we can always find beauty in the ending of one day and the beginning of another. No matter where we are in our lives, no matter what has happened in our pasts, there is always beauty. If we would only dust the past from our eyes so we can see.

My life is not a series of moments being cast into the wind. My life is the present moment where I am breathing. Each moment and each day is a stroke of paint I add to the canvas that is my life. It is my choice: I can either abandon the brush and dwell over the strokes on my canvas that I wish weren’t there, or I can pick up my brush and paint over those strokes, make them beautiful, make them new.

Memories are beautiful. They are jewels we carry with us as we travel through the years. They are gifts, precious souvenirs. They are not meant to be burdensome. Yes, some memories are painful. There’s no denying that, and sometimes there’s no escaping that either. But it’s what we do with that pain that will shape the rest of our lives. Pain is but another color of paint for our canvas. In pain we can find power to renew ourselves, we can find meaning and lessons and inspiration. We can even find our true purpose.

And so I have learned to embrace the past. It is my story, but not my complete story. The past does not live in a shadowy, mystical place beyond the stars; it is not an irretrievable realm. It is not something my heart should ache for because… the past lives in me. I own it. It does not own me. And I will always be growing more and more beautiful because of it.


The Plight of the Artist: Inspiration vs. Habit

ImageInspiration is an elusive and mysterious fellow. I imagine him to live in the tree tops where he can observe the comings and goings of mundane routine from a safe distance. (He doesn’t do too well with monotony.) At times he might find a person of interest and decide to perch himself on his or her shoulder, and linger there awhile to the very delight of said person. Other times he might remain far and aloof, on a hiatus of sorts because apparently Inspiration too needs time to rejuvenate.

That said, I don’t trust Inspiration much. I adore his company and would never ever turn him away (obviously), but I have learned to not rely on him, to not wait for him to do my work. Inspiration will always be nearby somewhere, camouflaged in the tree tops, playing outside your window, or anywhere around you really if you would only quiet your mind and pay attention. But he’s fickle. He does not like to make himself readily available. He’s shy, has his insecurities like any artist, and thus seems to reveal himself only when he’s got his best suit on. Which is why, when he does finally arrive — it’s amazing! But frankly, I don’t have time for that.

And so I discovered my sturdy friend, Habit.

Now let me tell you. Habit will get you where you need to go. He will bee-line through any mess and screech to a stop right at your feet just to pick you up. Habit, in short, makes things happen, gets things done. Inspiration lounges, kicks his feet up, stays awhile only when it pleases him. Habit moves, demands attention, calls you to action.

So much for productivity, Inspiration may mumble, a cigarette hanging from the side of his lip as he watches us from a cloud. Habit on the other hand is a bull: fierce and proud and utterly dependable, once you learn how to harness him, of course. You must earn Habit’s trust before he will work with you.

I wasted spent a good many years waiting around on whimsical Inspiration. Declaring that I cannot be creative until I’m in his magical company. But I finally realized, thanks to a professor in one of my writing workshops, that I had it all wrong…

The art of living artfully is a matter of choice, a matter of prioritizing. Not a matter of waiting for the right idea and the perfect moment. We must set up the stage for the right idea and the perfect moment. We must plow through hideous drafts and forgive ourselves instead of punish ourselves when a piece we’re working on refuses to take the shape we want it to.

Inspiration may give us vision, but Habit is what helps us bring that vision to life.

We need Inspiration. His purpose is entwined with ours. And in time, he will come. He always does. Sometimes quietly, sometimes with a bang. He may visit us in our dreams or at the doctor’s office. He lives in a single moment; he’s as essential as a match. But ultimately, forging a strong partnership with Habit is how we can set ourselves up for success.

Habit will keep us moving through the streams of our imaginations even when those streams seem low and almost dry. Habit will keep us disciplined and determined and hopeful. Inspiration is a wonderful visitor. We must cultivate patience and keep an open window in our minds so that we’re always ready to welcome him into our creative process.

Inspiration without Habit often leads to unfinished projects and half-baked ideas. But Habit nurtures Inspiration. Habit keeps the artist going. Habit is the difference between a passive artist and an active one.



in a veil of frost

and silver,

she moves always


pulling all things,

all beings,

towards silence;

draping the skies,

softening the sun,

only as she pleases;

etching cuts and burns

on trees

and earth,

she picks the stars

and studs the land;

she is a sculptor,

a blade,

a pocket of crystals;

she transforms the rain


sits upon a carved,

see-through throne;

she is a visionary,

a minimalist;

in black and white

she dreams;

she knows

her time is temporary;

she does not aim to please.

why i write

1747_65579737872_6615_nbecause writing is


because i dream in


because i cannot stand to think

that i will not be


because i like the black

of ink;

because it hurts to not;

because i fear that if i don’t

my heart will surely


because it slices


and burns;

because i cannot sleep;

because the earth


the sea;

because the






My Past Life as a Smoker (part 2)


Everyone’s quitting journey is going to look different. I’m by no means an expert on breaking cigarette addiction, but having been through the battle, I will share in this post some insights I learned through my experience quitting cigarettes. (Just so you know; I never used nicotine patches or any other quitting-aid products.)

This post is Part 2 of 2… you can read Part 1 here.

What’s your vision?


All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another. ~Anatole France

In Part 1 I mentioned that I couldn’t picture my future-self as a smoker. I had a vision – a vision of a smoke-free Me. A Me who started her days and ended her meals without the need for a cigarette.

Try starting with a vision. Something to build towards and look forward to. In all honesty (and I know this might sound unfriendly), my vision was largely inspired by middle-aged women in my life who were smokers. What I saw in them I didn’t want to see in myself when I got to their age. I didn’t want to have that cough, that voice, that skin, those teeth, that need. I envisioned myself free… singing with a voice that didn’t crack, breathing with lungs that didn’t wheeze.

It’s gonna suck, big time

When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge. ~ Tuli Kupferberg

Accept the fact that it’s gonna suck. You’re going to suffer mentally and physically. You’re going to question why you’re trying to quit, which by the way isn’t necessarily a bad thing (reexamining your reason or vision). You’re going to bargain with yourself and say things like: “I’ll just start tomorrow” or “ok, just one more” or maybe, if you’re a female: “I’ll just quit when I’m pregnant” (my personal favorite – I used that one all the time). You’re going to be miserable and the days are going to be long. You’re going to crave cigarettes at every turn. Everything is going to make you want to smoke – even reading advice (ha, sorry). But when you accept that Agony is part of the process, you can move on to the next stage: believing there’s life after cigarettes.

“The Last Cigarette”

last one

The best way to stop smoking is just to stop… no ifs, ands, or butts. ~ Edith Zittler

It can be stressful putting so much emphasis on your “last cigarette”, so don’t pressure yourself. Don’t declare a cigarette to be your last. Just take it one day at a time and you will suddenly realize that you can’t even remember the last time you smoked.

I tried to live my quitting days as normally as I could so that in my mind, a day without a cigarette was not a big deal – not a big source of pressure or stress – it was just another day, a regular day lived the way it should be lived. Not thinking about my “last cigarette” and not thinking about whether I would actually ever smoke again relieved so much pressure… and allowed me to embrace, instead of dread, every day that I went without a cigarette.

Something new


He that has energy enough to root out a vice should go further, and try to plant a virtue in its place. ~Charles Caleb Colton

I will be honest. I managed to quit forever while I was in the midst of a huge transition in my life. My whole world had changed – I had moved to a new country – which meant my routine and surroundings had completely and utterly changed. I walked down streets I hadn’t walked down before. I had no memory of me smoking by those stairs or with those people or in that room. I had no associations to pull at my cravings.

Quitting cigarettes is as much a mental battle as a physical one, so one of the most important things to do if you’re trying to quit is to change something very definite in your daily life.

Maybe rearrange your room so that the positioning of your bedside table doesn’t remind you that you used to keep a pack in the first drawer. Maybe take a different route to work so that passing by that stop sign doesn’t remind you that you would usually be lighting a cigarette by now. Maybe buy a new purse or everyday sweatshirt so that the pocket of your old one doesn’t remind you of the pack you used to keep there.

Get rid of all your lighters. (Yes, say goodbye to your favorite lighter.) Join a gym or pottery class. Maybe start training for a 5K or half-marathon. It could be anything, even something subtle (buying a scented candle for your home or new throw pillows for your couch), but change something in your daily life. Bring something new to ease the temporary feeling that something’s missing.

Essentially, you need to introduce something that didn’t exist in your life as a smoker. Something new that doesn’t remind you of cigarettes. Something new that will channel your energy and move you forward in your journey.

It doesn’t matter how many times you relapse


Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it hundreds of times. ~ Mark Twain 

Relapsing is part of the process – get over it. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Don’t let it be an excuse to put off quitting. Sadly and funnily enough, relapsing can almost feel like a rest stop. I relapsed over 100 times, maybe more. It took me years to quit. Remember that you’re on a journey. The important thing is to keep on going. Don’t revel or linger or wallow in the relapse. Relapse is a bully so skillful, you don’t even know you’re being bullied. Don’t let it play you. Don’t give up because of a relapse and don’t hide behind a relapse.

 Who’s in your circle?

In a gathering of two or more people, when a lighted cigarette is placed in an ashtray, the smoke will waft into the face of the nonsmoker.  ~Author Unknown

For some people, telling friends and family they’re trying to quit helps for accountability purposes. For me, it was nerve-wrecking. It meant people would be watching if I failed. Whichever strategy you prefer – telling people or not (I tried both) – remember that this is ultimately between you and yourself.

But also look more closely…

Who in your life do you feel might encourage or impede your efforts to quit? My significant other doesn’t smoke and that greatly influenced my success. Ironically though, most of my close friends smoke. That made things increasingly difficult for me. I didn’t eject them from my social circle (what kind of friend would I be?!), but I did make it known that my quitting meant a lot to me so that they could either not smoke around me or not offer me cigarettes anymore. (Actually, one of my close friends said I inspired her and… well, she’s also since quit! So you never know who you are inspiring!)

Also – I am a big sister. That role means the world to me. My siblings are a generation younger than me and, recognizing the significant role I play in their lives, I couldn’t envision myself being that older sister who smoked. It was important to me to be a positive role model. To not smell like smoke when I hugged or kissed or tickled them. To not have the smell of smoke remind them of me.

The truth about willpower 


Willpower can produce short-term change, but it creates constant internal stress because you haven’t dealt with the root cause. ~ Rick Warren

Quitting cigarettes, in my experience, has less to do with willpower than it has to do with the sincere desire for change. If you don’t have that sincere desire, if you don’t have that sure vision of what you want for your life, then relapse and temptation will always crush your willpower. Willpower cannot stand on its own. Willpower means denying yourself something that you want. So you have to not want to be a smoker.

You will reach a point in your quitting journey where declining a cigarette will either make you feel anxious and antsy, or make you feel confident and glad. When you reach the latter bridge, you’ll know that the worst part of your journey is over.

You’re not actually doing anything

The believing we do something when we do nothing is the first illusion of tobacco. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Smoking has a way of making you feel like you’re doing something. You know what I’m talking about. You’re waiting for a bus or phone call or for your stew to finish simmering – and you find yourself wanting to light a cigarette.

When you do something, you’re investing time and energy into a purpose. Smoking accomplishes nothing… nothing that contributes to your well-being. Nothing that moves you forward.

It’s an empty act.

The C word and… “That would never happen to me”


There was a young lady named Mae
Who smoked without stopping all day;
As pack followed pack,
Her lungs first turned black,
And eventually rotted away. ~ Edward Gorey

I’m not at all saying that health is not a legitimate reason to quit (and certainly it highly depends on one’s health situation) – I’m just saying not to put all your motivations in one basket. Holding yourself hostage with fear is not only hostile, it associates quitting with something negative instead of positive.

So don’t make fear for your health a driving force of motivation. Maybe that tactic works for some but it certainly didn’t work for me. You have to want to quit is my philosophy. Not because of fear of illness or death, but because you want to live a life without cigarettes. And what are your reasons for wanting to live that life? Reflect on them daily and let those reasons guide you. If your reasons are all wrapped up in fear, I personally don’t think that’s very effective. Why? Because of the “that would never happen to me” mentality that unconsciously plagues each and every one of us, smoker or not.

There are many advantages to “that would never happen to me” – for one, it helps us sleep at night. Horrors happen every day… but usually in that infamous “somewhere or to someone else” place. That thought helps us feel safe and keeps us from living life constantly paranoid and afraid.

Simply put, dwelling on the long-term consequences of a thing that provides you with instant gratification is not very effective. So forget fear tactics and get to the point. Do you want to quit or not?



He who endures with patience is a conqueror. ~ Latin Proverb

Part of what makes quitting so difficult is that you have to remold many aspects of your life. Quitting means no more cigarette-breaks at work or gathering with smoker friends on sidewalks or porches. You will no longer pair cigarettes with your morning coffee or share a cigarette with that one friend. You are reshaping routine, familiarity, attitude, identity. You will feel weary and wonder what to do with that five minute gap you usually spent with a cigarette. You might feel left out if your friends step outside for a smoke.

So be patient with yourself. Be forgiving. Be encouraging. Recognize that there is a lot you are unhooking yourself from as you remove cigarettes from your life. You are in a process of transformation. You are recovering. You are learning a new way of life. Quitting is going to take time… lots of time… and with time comes the requirement of patience.

Truly appreciating your body


Health is not everything, but without health, everything is nothing. ~ Anonymous

The body is an amazing beast. It’s perfect and imperfect all at once. It’s a miracle. It’s beautiful. And it’s only ours for a short time. To be quite honest, a new-found appreciation for my body was one of my biggest motivators to quit.

I suddenly became very aware of how blessed and privileged I was to be in good health… to be young and to be in good health. The way I perceived cigarettes began to slowly change…

Smoking became, for me, an act of ungratefulness. Smoking, in essence, is deliberately inhaling toxic, poisonous fumes into your body… a body not meant to process those fumes. Our lung’s tissues are pink… and smoking blackens and paralyzes them.

Smoking suddenly felt to me like pouring petroleum into a pool, like watering plants with acetone, like spitting on a wet painting. I suddenly saw smoking as tainting my body… I wanted to stop ruining a gift that was so freely given to me.

Make a decision

Your life is in your hands to make of it what you choose. ~ John Kehoe

After all that’s said and thought and done, ultimately, you have to just make a decision. Realize that it’s not about what you or they think you should do or not do; it’s about what you decide to do. You either want to quit – I mean in your heart of hearts you either truly, genuinely, truthfully, want to quit – or you don’t want to quit.

I believe there’s such a thing as being ready and not being ready to quit – and by ready I’m not referring to convenience and external circumstance, I’m referring to psychological readiness. You have to be self-aware enough to know whether you are ready to go into the battle of quitting, because it is a battle. You have to prepare your heart and mind for the undertaking. If you’re not ready, it’s okay. But don’t use “I’m not ready yet” as an excuse for years on end. Otherwise just admit to yourself that you don’t want to quit and move on.

Don’t “decide” that you want to quit when your heart is not in it. You have to own your decision, feel good about your decision – no matter your decision. Understand that you will live your decision and be your decision. We are products of decisions we make.

There may be a philosophical and medical “right” and “wrong” when it comes to smoking, but when it comes to you and your person, I don’t believe there is. I believe there is only what you choose to do and what you choose to not do… essentially, it goes back to free will.

So make a decision. Whether you want to smoke or don’t want to smoke, or just don’t know… make a decision. And no matter how long it takes… see your decision through.


Decide on the life you want to live.

(Part 2 of 2)

Another Lease, Another Roommate

Saying goodbye to a cool and compatible roommate is never easy. I’ve done it more than twice already. But the new friend I gain when the keys are handed over and the bed is hauled away is a pretty fantastic trade.

I’ve been living with Craigslist roommates for 6 years. I’ve gotten to meet so many interesting people from different walks of life that I would have otherwise never come across. I’ve learned so much about different cultures, different ways of living and eating; I’ve been introduced to different genres of books and movies and music; I’ve found insight and perspective through other people’s ways and habits that I would have never encountered if I had chosen to live at home, with relatives, alone, or with a significant other.

In our fast and calculated digital world, it’s not often that we make room for serendipity to spark. It seems everything nowadays always has to be planned, always has to yield some kind of predictable, familiar result. And while that’s important in many aspects of life — accepting a new job, choosing a life partner, adopting a pet —  I don’t think that approach is necessary for every aspect of life. It’s true that everyone is different; not everyone is comfortable jumping in a pool without checking the temperature of the water first, and that’s okay.

But to me — life is so much more exciting when you don’t always know what will happen next. We tend to watch movies we’ve never seen before because that element of surprise, of not knowing what the character will do or how the story will end, is what makes the movie-watching experience fun. Life has a way of singing the same song sometimes. Inviting someone new into your life brings a different kind of tune to your world.

I’ve shared with all my roommates stories, woes, meals, moments, laughs, inside jokes, recipes, and of course… the wonderful burden of bills. I’ve been challenged to think outside of myself, my ways, my habits, my preconceived notions; I’ve learned the art of managing conflict and picking your battles and laughing things off. There are so many memories and experiences I’ve gained through the adventure that is living with people you didn’t previously know.

From one roommate I got an epic, old family recipe for a Brunswick BBQ stew. This BBQ stew has become famous within my circle of friends. It’s become an annual winter tradition in my life. To think I would have never tasted the spicy, savory goodness of this fantastic BBQ stew if I hadn’t lived with that roommate! (It even inspired a short story I wrote.)

From another roommate I was introduced to graphic novels. I’m an avid reader — I love books and I love fiction — but graphic novels had never crossed my mind, or path, before I met this roommate. Because of her I read this spectacular graphic novel called Habibi by Craig Thompson, and was introduced to the striking, imaginative realm inhabited by authors like him. Also because of this roommate I tried buffalo burgers for the first time (her dad hunts buffaloes!) and let me tell you — they are amazing!

From another roommate I learned about the world of classical music. I had never really paid much attention to its rich and enduring beauty. This roommate drew that curtain for me and inspired me with her passion. She sat me down to a profound listening experience of “The Rite of Spring” by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. She gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation for the violin and the life of a musician, for she was a violinist. But mostly, she gave me the gift of true friendship, one that continued to grow and strengthen long after we were just two names on a lease.

From another roommate I learned many cooking tips and tricks and tasted delicious foods, for she was a chef. I discovered that kale, spinach, beets, crumbled cheese, and roasted walnuts, sprinkled with homemade vinaigrette dressing, equals the best-homemade-salad-ever.

And another roommate proved to be the best TV-show binge partner I’ve ever had.

I know there are a lot of roommate horror stories out there. I have friends who have lived the dark side of the roommate experience (most of them had lived with friends, though). And I too have had some not-so-brag-worthy roommate bumps, but they do make for some pretty funny stories. Overall, I must say I’ve been fortunate. You just honestly have to know what you want in a roommate (as well as know what kind of roommate you are), what to ask in the roommate interview, and how to read a person’s energy. You don’t always have to make friends with your roommates, that’s not the point or end-goal. But… when you do gain a friend by way of living with someone you didn’t previously know… well, that’s a pretty cool twist in the script.

I realize I’m in a stage of life where I’m probably better able to appreciate the living-with-roommates lifestyle. Perhaps my feelings about this might change over the next few years. Perhaps one day I’ll tell my dog Pepper to get a job so she and I can just be roommates (and so she can pay her own vet bills). But for now, I’m enjoying this adventure. This time in my life. To me it’s been a great series of memories, and memories make great stories — and to anyone who knows me, you know I love stories.

Roommates are a temporary relationship. But friends… good friends that I’ve made that I would have otherwise never met, are anything but temporary. In every stranger’s face is a potential friend. And I’m grateful I’ve been able to share and grow and live with strangers that have transformed into meaningful friends in my life. With these friends I’ll laugh and have “remember that time when we lived together” conversations… and with these friends I’ll smile when we tell inquiring, unsuspecting people: “Um… we actually met on Craigslist.”