ed_rex: (Default)

I'm sick. 2nd degree hacking cough and a head full of mucus.

The cold came on fast Friday afternoon and evening, during what turned out to be an 11 hour shift. Nevertheless, I hoped on my bicycle for home come about 02:15 Saturday morning, then got back on it at about 11:15 for a return trip and another 11 hour shift on Saturday. I returned home a little after midnight, having cycled about 35 kilometres since the onset of symptoms.

I say all this not to brag (or not to brag much), but to note:

Less than 10 years ago, when I caught a cold it was my practice to take to my bed, to suck down Neocitrin, and basically spend the next four to seven days in bed.

Since then, though, I stopped smoking, cut my drinking by more than half and started biking a lot more and playing soccer. And — fancy that! — now when I catch a cold, I function. I doubt I get over it any faster, but I don't take to my bed like some upper-class Victorian lady with The Vapours, I just carry on. (And, probably, spread my illness around to my passengers, but what the hell; I'm pretty sure one of them gave it to me in the first place.)

And speaking of that cycling, I've long maintained that my bicycle is my primary mode of transportation; now I have proof.

After I bought a new machine some time back in August, I decided to splurge on an odometer. Which turned out to be an unreliable piece of junk, which I was fortunately able to return. At which point I took Raven's advice and tried out a GPS-based cellphone app called Strava — which works like a charm (so long as I remember to enable my location services). I started recording my rides on August 23rd. I've missed a few and will manually enter the information later, so the image below does not include all the miles (kilometres) I've cycled since then, but it's not too far off.

1,290 km in less that three months, damn it! And you know what? I'm proud!

1200 km cycled in less than 3 months!

ed_rex: (Default)

Down three goals at the end of the first half, playing short-handed the entire game and forced to accept a sub from the opposing team when their captain — and only girl playing — went down with a knee injury, the @UOttawa-A's of the Ottawa Footy Sevens Recreational Soccer League faced inevitable defeat with heroic defiance.

Early in the second half, they found the back of the Zinedine Shenanigans' net, then found it again. The Shenanigans struck back to re-gain a two-goal lead, but by the time the clock showed less than five minutes to go, Young Geoffrey answered the call for a sub at forward, despite spending most of his career on the back end of the pitch.

Young Geoffrey, the oldest player on the pitch, saw the ball land four metres in front of the opposition net and drove towards the orb. Eye on the net, he pivoted on his left leg and left fly with his right. The ball curved towards the far corner, even as a team-mate's foot lashed out and caught his ankle with a might blow. Young Geoffrey went down like some ancient oak crashing through the underbrush, yet he kept his eye on the ball and gloried in the sight of the netting billowing outwards.

GOALLL!

His team-mate went down as if in sympathy. "Jesus!" said Greg, "I'm sorry! Are you okay?

Young Geoffrey was already getting to his feet, even as the referee and players from both teams began to gather round like hyenas sensing blood concerned recreational players.

"I'm fine, I'm fine," said Young Geoffrey as he rotated his ankle to verify his words. "We scored, you know."

"You scored," said Greg, "that was yours!

The final four minutes saw the Shenanigans push for the trying goal with all their might, but despite their extra player, the uOttawa - A's held on for a victory well-earned.

* * *

I get mocked for my braggadocio, by colleagues at work and even by ostensible Best Friends, but fuck it. I was a fat(ish) kid as a youth and, though I loved to play pick-up hockey at the local (outdoor) rink, and soccer at recess in grade school, I was never under any delusion I was an athlete. I only once played an organized sport — soccer, the summer after grade five or six.

My sainted mother remembers me as a plucky little boy who "trundled bravely down the field". Thanks, mom; you make me sound like a dancing dog, as if it were a miracle I could play at all.

Anyway ...

Anyway, outdoor shinny gave way, in my teens, to indoor drinking and smoking and I kept up those virtues until well into my 40s.

So you know what? That at the age of 50 I find myself playing with and against "kids" who are mostly in their 20s and 30s is at least partly due to having had the wisdom to choose a robust set of ancestors, the truth is, I am proud of myself, as well as grateful.

It is fun to find myself getting better a fucking sport in my Late Youth, and watching that ball go into the net was an absolute joy, somehow made even sweeter by the fact of the kick that took me down almost in the same instant.

* * *

My god! Has it really been more than five years since I gave up that noxious master, tobacco? (It has.) A whole tenth of my life, now that I've passed the fifty year mark! The rate at which the passage of time continues to accelerate is as astonishing to me as it is appalling.

Which also means that another 5th anniversary is almost upon me: About a week from now will mark exactly five years since I reached over and draped my arm over Raven's shoulder. And, shortly thereafter, kissed her. (She made me sleep on the couch that night. But deigned to share it with me.)

We moved into our own apartment some three years ago or so, and are now about to move again. This time into a god damned town-house! Two floors. Carpets. Landlord a non-profit housing organizing, instead of rapacious slumlords (rent miraculously only $100.00 more than we're currently paying for the shoddy, mouse-infested hovel we'll call home for another two and a half weeks or so).

50 years old and a townhouse! Can it be that Young Geoffrey is not quite so young as he once was?

Hell, I dunno. All I'm sure of is, these entries would come a lot easier and more organically, if I wrote more of them.

I'll try ...

ed_rex: (1980)

  • Temperature (as of 1700 hrs, game's end): 34 C

  • Feels like: 41 C

  • UV Index: Bloody high

  • Left knee: Skinned, a little bloody

  • Right knee: Skinned, dripping blood

  • Time on field: Probably 40-45 minutes

  • Years on this Earth more than next eldest team-mate: I'd guess 15, but I'll say 10, to be safe

  • Joy felt upon leaving the field, defeated: Bloody marvellous

  • Taste of chilled beer upon return home: Like god's own ambrosia, brothers and sisters. I haven't hurt as much as I have this summer (what with the running, the tennis and the badminton on top of the sunday soccer/football matches) in many years, yet I haven't felt as good in even more.

Have I mentioned lately how pleased I am that I stopped smoking? Well, I should, because I know I wouldn't have been able to keep up if I was still sparking up those death-sticks.

I don't think my pants are any looser (more's the pity), but I sure as hell feel better than I have in a very long time, even — maybe especially — where it hurts.

ed_rex: (ace)

An ode to empty hands and an empty mouth

I knew the anniversary was coming up fast; I didn't realize I'd over-shot by nearly a fort-night, until I checked the review I posted last year — as it turns out, exactly one year ago today.

If the chronology in that piece is to be trusted, it has now been 376 days since I butted my final cigarette.

I'm really not an especially superstitious man; going strictly by my head I'm not superstitious at all. But in my gut, I have a few savage superstitions I find it difficult to shake.

One of them is predicting success for myself, lest I "jynx" my prospects, by angering the gods or whatever it is that causes Old Ma Fate to kick you in the ass.

Neither lows nor highs have changed my course — so click the cut to read on! )
ed_rex: (Default)

Smokers of the world unite!
You have nothing to lose but your jones(ing)!

Book Review:
Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking

Cover, Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking, Canadian Edition
Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking
2004, Clarity Publishing
186 pages, $19.95

At some point or another we've all heard the phrase, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and most of us have probably used it.

"Easy" ways to make money, lose weight, find love, and cetera and cetera, are forever singing their syren songs from television adds, email spam and the self-help sections of bookstores, to name just a few.

So you can imagine my scepticism when a friend gave me his copy of Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking. My friend told me he butted his final cigarette when he finished the book and he felt sure that I would do the same.

I've been smoking since I was 16 or 17 years old, very nearly as long as he and I have been friends and almost as long as he had been smoking — what did I have to lose? he asked me, and I had to agree to give it a try, no matter that I couldn't even imagine that quitting smoking could possible be "easy".

Well, it seems there's a reason the truism I mentioned at the outset includes the word, probably. Because I too butted my last cigarette at the precise moment I finished Allen Carr's remarkable book. Every once in a very long while, something that sounds too good to be true, actually is true.

Over the more than quarter century I've been smoking, I've quit quite a few times. All failures (up 'till now, I believe), my attempts at becoming smoke-free have lasted as long as two months (or almost — the lies a drug addict will tell himself and others are remarkable) and as briefly as five or 10 minutes. And every single one of those attempts was hard, a constant battle of Addiction versus Will (or "willpower", to use Carr's un-hyphenated term).

Whether quitting "cold turkey" (a term Carr correctly notes is inappropriately lifted from the much more physically debilitating symptoms of heroin withdrawal) or using nicotine gum or the patch, my previous tries have left me pretty miserable, and forever craving a cigarette so that, when temptation or pressure showed up, it was a relief to light up a smoke and suck that poison into my lungs.

Carr promises — and delivers! — an entirely different experience.

Early on, he promises not to flood the reader with health warnings about issues every smoker already knows, he promises that the reader will want to stop by the end of the book, and he insists that the smoker keep smoking until the end of the book.

What's not to like? And what, as Carr asks, has the smoker to lose?

Nothing but the chains of addiction, of course; and if it doesn't work, one can just keep on smoking.

I said that all my previous attempts to quit have been hard, even agonizing. This time really was easy, which is why, only nine [edit: now 10] days after butting out, I feel almost completely confident — not confident that I have "quit smoking", but confident that I am once again, for the first time in more than 25 years, a non-smoker.

The difference between a quitter and a non-smoker to my mind (to my mind now; I'm cribbing from Carr) is that the former feels as if he or she has given up smoking, that they have made some kind of sacrifice, whereas the latter (finally!) understands that he has lost nothing but his chains, that she has lost only her servitude to a drug addiction.

And smoking is a drug addiction, not a "habit" or a "choice" or anything other excuse or lie used to justify it.

But if (I hear you cry) smoking is an addiction, how can it possibly be easy to stop?

Simply put, because it's not a very serious addiction. After three days, all the nicotine is gone from the former smoker's body (half is gone within hours, which means every smoker sleeps through the worst of his or her withdrawal symptoms just about every night of their life. An addiction to nicotine is not remotely as serious as alcoholism or heroin addiction!) and, in the interim, the physical withdrawal symptoms are, in truth, very similar to the feeling one gets when one is begining to get hungry, nothing more. As Carr points out repeatedly, every smoker goes many hours at a time in "withdrawal" from nicotine day in and day out, if only while asleep. And usually doesn't even notice the craving.

Nevertheless, how does it work? Why did Carr's method enable me to quit when neither will-power, nicotine patches or nicotine gum have been of any use to me?

I think the answer lies in Carr's use of the repetition I mentioned above, of which the book contains a great deal, sometimes almost word-for-word. The effect is almost hypnotic as he repeatedly reminds us of things were already know in the abstract.

Things like it's not actually fun to hang around outside at minus-30 degrees in a howling snow-storm in order to have a smoke; nor is it a genuine pleasure to interrupt a date in order to grab a butt. Things like the fact cigarettes actually taste awful (and I am someone who, even two weeks ago, claimed that I "enjoyed" the process of smoking. I now know I was lying to myself).

Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking doesn't lecture, doesn't hector and doesn't try to scare you with horror stories about lung cancer or rotting gums. It just calmly and quietly reminds the smoker that he or she is addicted to a drug, that he or she doesn't enjoy smoking (it must be the only addictive drug that doesn't get its users high), and that their lives would be much better off without the addiction.

And after 186 pages, this former smoker is convinced that he will never light up again.

If you're a smoker, gamble the 20 bucks on a copy of the book — that's about two large packs of cigarettes. If you have a loved one who is a smoker, buy a copy, read it yourself, then pass it on to them — there's hardly a smoker alive who doesn't (if only secretly) want to stop.

Just this once, something that sounds too good to be true actually is true: if you know what you're doing, it's easy to become the non-smoker you once were.

This essay originally appeared in the October 16, 2009, edition of True North Perspective.

July 2017

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