Exactly one month ago today I gave up cigarettes. I’d been meaning to for a while now, but something always seemed to bring me back to them, something more than the obvious addictive nicotine. It became a habit to have one with my coffee, to light one up along specific places on my daily route to and from work, to have one poised between my fingers as I tapped away at my keyboard. It became more about the stability of having them there than about the actual desire to have them. I suppose that’s what addiction is.
And for what felt like no particular reason, one month ago today I decided they were disgusting and I needed to move on with my life. I haven’t had one since. Nor have I really been craving them the way that I thought I would. Sure, occasionally I miss them. Long drives are difficult. Traffic’s even worse. Coffee probably won’t ever taste quite the same way again. And of course, the killer, writing sans cigarette.
Somewhere along the way smoking became a key component in my writing. We were on this journey together, nicotine and I, the smoke rising from a lit cigarette echoing my train of thought. I miss the way the tip would burn so brightly in front of the computer screen. I miss the ash hovering above the keys. I miss the way each drag seemed to signify a new depth, as though every writer in the world sat and looked and thought in this exact same way. There was something poetic about it.
And yet, one day I was just finished. That part of my life needed to come to an end, and so I said goodbye and moved on, quickly, painlessly. I find it strange that among the endless over analysis of every move I make in life, there’s still this part of me that is so incredibly impulsive. I’ve always been that way. I’m leisurely and passive (which is a nice way to say lazy, I think) and yet when I know something feels right, I just get up and do it. In retrospect, all of my life’s best decisions have been made impulsively.
My mother would probably disagree, as a lot of those decisions involved making the “wrong” choice about school. I knew I wanted to go to a small college in Michigan. I didn’t. I knew I wanted to leave and come home. I did, but not exactly. I knew I wanted to take time off for India and then more time off for work. I wanted both of those things, and I’m glad and grateful for having done them, but when does following my heart become a means of avoiding my education?
The truth is, I don’t want to be in school, but I understand how important school is. I understand how fortunate I am to have the opportunity for further education, to have a mind capable of handling the work, to have the money to pay for it, to have the whole world open to me. I understand I’m letting people down by not going and probably cutting off opportunities in the future. I understand I’m being rather selfish, but maybe right now I need to be.
The thing is, I’m happy now. I wake up each morning ready to start the day, knowing in the back of my mind that if this was class I had to go to and not my job, I’d be skipping it. I’d have too much time on my hands. I’d be depressed. I know that about myself. I’m glad I’ve made this choice, and ultimately, I have to be strong enough to defend it.
Meanwhile, I’m going through each day with a smile on my face. I’m living life. I’m breathing easier. One month down. A lifetime to go.
- "I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather my spark burn out in a brilliant blaze than be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy, permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." ~Jack London
Sunday, September 24, 2006
It takes over an hour sometimes for the final child to drift off to sleep. I make my rounds tucking them in, kissing their foreheads, rubbing their backs with gentle goodnight whispers reminding them that they’re safe. “Sleep” I tell them, “sleep.”
Within ten minutes, I miss them. I miss their voices and cries and laughter. I miss their energy and vitality. I miss them crawling all over me demanding my attention. By the time they wake up, I have fallen in love with them all over again.
All week long I look forward to Saturday morning when I can finally sleep past 6am, and by Saturday afternoon I’m already wishing to be back at circle time, singing songs, running around on the playground. It’s funny how that happens. It’s funny how I am constantly aching for where I am not, and not in a discontented manner, but in a consistent dreamlike state of what could be.
I watch my little ones and marvel at their existences. How much they have already seen, how much they already know, how much they still have yet to discover, to learn, to understand. How similar we are. I’m not at all convinced that I know more now at age 21 than they do at age 2. It’s simply a different kind of knowledge – facts and figures and responsibilities. A belief in love shattered, a faith in absolutes obscured, an innocence lost. I wonder if such a change is inevitable.
I wonder who they will become. I wonder who it was that I was supposed to be. Did my preschool teachers look at me and see this as my future? Did they sit and watch me sleep so happily, so peacefully, that they couldn’t help but be made better because of my quiet? Sometimes I think all of the secrets in the universe reveal themselves at naptime. To watch a sleeping child may be one of the most serene experiences one can know. It’s calming, it’s moving, it’s everything.
I’ve slept better in the past three weeks than I have in the past three years (excluding India). There’s something that just feels right, at peace, at ease. Yes, there are a million things to do, and the list only seems to get longer with each passing day, but I arrive home each day feeling like I used my day wisely, feeling satisfied, feeling complete. I arrive home each day knowing I made children smile and knowing that each one of them has made me smile. Spreading happiness is like no other sensation on earth. Maybe this is it for me. Maybe this is what I wanted all along.
Who knows. Life can change in an instant, a lesson I learn a thousand times a day. Still, for the present, this is right. For the present, I am here and happy and alive. For the present, I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. And I can sleep peacefully, knowing in my heart that it’s true.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Yup, it’s official. Worst updater ever. I’m so sorry, but I really appreciate all the loving and concerned emails you’ve sent. You’re all wonderful, truly. When I officially hit the 20th email this morning, I figured it was time for an update. Here goes.
He told me that he didn’t believe in fate and destiny, but that clearly I was born to have 17 children. It was quite an omen. That’s exactly how many I now have. 17 toddlers to teach and play with and love. And oh, how I love them.
For reasons that I’ll write about later (really, I promise, I will), I decided not to return to school this semester. Instead, I got a job teaching preschool and I couldn’t be happier. Each day I get to play and sing and read and laugh. Each day I get to watch my children light up with the excitement of learning something new. Each day I share in the experience of a thousand little triumphs and heartbreaks and get to hug all day long because of it. Yes, clearly I was born to do this.
It’s exhausting of course, chasing after them, solving arguments, comforting tears. Sometimes I arrive home only to realize I have no recollection of how I got here, no memory of the drive back. It can be scary, and it may be the early warning signs of my slipping sanity. Still, at the end of the day, I’m tired in that good kind of accomplished way. Today I meant something to someone. 17 little someones who count on me for everything. It’s lovely to feel so needed.
The thing about children is that you can be having an awful day, a tired-crying-fit-throwing-tantrum-taming kind of day, and yet when little Alexandra calls out “Miss Frankie!” and you walk over only to discover she wants to give you a hug, well, that day is suddenly the most beautiful day you’ve ever had.
And when at circle time, you ask Brielle to say her name and she says “Brielle. I’m an easy, breezy, beautiful cover girl,” you can’t help but laugh about it no matter what comes your way. Because children have that power, that special something that brings so much light and love and laughter into this world. I am grateful for it, for them, each day.
I have tons more to say, but for now I just wanted to update a little something. Again, I’m sorry for my absence and I promise to do better in the future. Thanks again for writing and reading, dear friends. You’re all wonderful, truly.