The Halfway House

halfway houseAs part of the quit smoking odyssey, I joined an online support forum. It offers tons of information, but most importantly, you can join a group of others who quit around the same time as you. Through it, I have “met” some wonderful people who I believe will remain my friends for years to come.

One of the features of the site is a quit meter. You input your quit date down to the hour, the number of cigs you used to smoke every day and the cost of those cigs. When I checked my quit meter this morning, it said 6 months, 5 hours and 14 minutes, which means I have reached the Halfway House. At one year, we enter the Clubhouse.

I will not reveal the humiliating number of cigs I have not smoked, nor the exorbitant amount of money I’ve saved. Let’s just say that between the two of us, two months’ rent have not gone up in smoke. Literally.

I should be turning handsprings and chanting ditties about rainbow-colored lollipops. They say, “You did it! You quit smoking! Now you feel so much better and have so much more energy!”

Unfortunately, it turns out that is poppycock. It’s absolute, utter nonsense. It belongs with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. It’s the kind of stories people tell small children to make them behave. I feel horrible most of the time. I am moody and cannot trust my emotions. The problem is that only now, finally, my brain is getting adjusted to normal dopamine levels. It will be another six months before my metabolism returns to normal.

The glimmer of hope is talking to people who have been quit longer than me who assure me it will get better. At this point, I honestly only rarely want to smoke. My triggers seem to be limited to anger and frustration and if I can take a moment to close my eyes and breathe deeply, the urge passes. The thing is, once an addict, always an addict. I will have to remain vigilant for the rest of my life. But from the top of my head to the soles of my feet and deep inside my heart and soul, I know it is worth the battle.

I read a wonderful quote on the quit smoking site:

I’d rather be a non-smoker who has an occasional desire to smoke than a smoker who has a constant desire to quit.

*Twitchy sat on my lap for a few minutes this morning, another first. I think it was her halfway gift to me.

Twitchy News

The latest development in Twitchville:

She dances figure eights around my ankles yelling, “Twitchy up! Twitchy up!” So I pick her up. She presses her warm, soft body against my chest, sometimes rubs the back of her head on my neck or turns to look at me and we touch noses. All the while she purrs.

Then instinct kicks in and she starts to squirm. She yells, “Twitchy down! Twitchy down!” So I put her down. Moments later, she starts doing the ankle dance again.

Twitchy down!
Twitchy down! Twitchy down!

Done!

deadline demonI did it. I beat the deadline demon. I got the Writing Project from Hell done, a day early no less, and now feel free to gloat about my magnificentness. I had a two hour yoga lesson to celebrate. (Thank you Kelly. You may share in my magnificentness.) Now I have to go to an audition. I’m not trying out; I sit in judgement behind the table and help decide who gets the part. I once vetoed a kid because I didn’t like his mother’s fingernails. Bwahahahaha. I am drunk with power and my own magnificentness. Three cheers for me!

Baby Steps

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA As of yesterday, I am five months smoke free. (Pause for applause. “Thank you, thank you very much,” she says in her best Elvis voice.) And I’ve finally got some time off from work, so I have devoted this week to exercise. On Monday, I did Pilates and a step class at the gym. On Tuesday, I started a 30 day squat challenge. On Wednesday, I had my first yoga lesson with Kelly, who is a wonderful person, teacher and addition to my life. On Thursday, I did boxing and kicking classes at the dojo.

When I woke up this morning, I could barely move. My sore muscles have sore muscles, but I feel wonderful. One of the side effects of detox is sometimes crippling depression. This is normal and people quit longer than me keep saying it will pass in time, I just need to stay strong, take deep breaths, wait it out.

I hadn’t been to kicking class, and consequently hadn’t seen Sensei, for a couple of months. Part way through class, he looked at me and said, “Eda-san, you’re different. You’ve changed, and not in a bad way.” I just smiled, but I knew what he meant. As I work my way out of my nicotine-addled funk, I am discovering a whole other Eda I had forgotten about. She’s smarter, funnier, prettier because she smiles more. She’s gentler, kinder, more at peace.

The battle isn’t over yet, probably never will be. The nicodemon still lurks in dark corners and leaps out at me, much the way Twitchy attacks my toes at unexpected moments, but I can swat him away the same way I do her. The depression monster still wraps himself around my throat and squeezes, but it’s happening less often. Instead, in recent days, I have unexpected moments of happiness. I can’t think of anything to call it besides joy. I am finally free of that wretched addiction and can start to make my way down the path toward discovering myself and who I am without the chemicals.

It’s a journey that requires no suitcases, taxis, passports, visas, or plane tickets and all of the travel takes place inside my own head, but the destination is worth every iota of effort and pain it takes to get there.

Death by Noise

140916_1511~01A few months ago, the Powers That Be tore down two old houses next to mine, subdivided the land into three small plots, and construction has begun on two of them.

This is how I’m going to die.

They, or rather, one guy with a staple gun, started a few weeks ago on the furthest away. It’s the most gawd awful cheap construction, nothing but a pile of plywood boxes held together with staples. They built some like that near where I used to live and there were cracks in the outside walls before the owners had even moved in. Most likely this house will fall down long before the owners can finish paying for it. I guess you get what you pay for, but still, I feel bad for them.

Work started on the closest plot a few days ago, two guys this time, with the obligatory staple gun, plus a nail gun. Everything is being done with power tools. Gone is the sound of a hammer hitting a nail. Instead of Dueling Banjos, we have dueling staple guns, a fast forward kacha-kacha-kacha attack on the senses, not unlike a woodpecker attacking a tree, without any of the charm.

No more the gentle voo-bah, voo-bah of Bill Cosby’s Noah building the ark. Instead they have electric handsaws that produce a high pitched screeching whine that is threatening to rip my brain out through my ear canals. Take the sound of a dentist’s drill, amplify by a thousand, and don’t forget the delightful way the sound goes on and on as it ricochets off the surrounding houses.

One of the guys is bronzed and muscled and had an attractive dusting of sawdust on his black tank top today. That didn’t stop me wanting to go test my kick boxing skills on him. I fantasize that they will suddenly see the light, lay down their tools, and join the peace corps. Don’t they realize I only quit smoking a few months ago? Don’t they know I’m living with a crazed feline who attacks my feet when I’m asleep and produces poo more pungent than the chicken I left in my gym bag last summer? How much patience am I expected to have?

Nowheresville

I just learned a new word: Gun-Tama-Chi-Bara-Gi. It refers to Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Ibaragi and Tochigi Prefectures, and infers that while those areas are included in the Great Kanto Plain, they are Japan’s unsophisticated outback and the people who come from there are yokels and hayseeds. The cool kids all come from Tokyo; a few from Yokohama are also acceptable.

FYI, I have lived in Tokyo for all of my many years in Japan, but of course, that goes without saying.

MapofkantoThe irony here is that when I was small, I lived in a big old farmhouse five miles from a tiny town in Pennsylvania. When I was nine, we moved to Pittsburgh, which for me was a big step up in the world. In case you don’t know, as image and reputation go, the only thing worse than Pittsburgh is New Jersey.

On top of that, I hate crowds and am slightly claustrophobic. You can’t begin to grasp the concept of crowded until you’ve ridden a Tokyo morning commuter train or attended the annual Tamagawa fireworks. And everything is smaller here, the houses, the food, the people. There’s an elevator at a studio I work in that I can’t ride because it’s only slightly larger than a pair of coffins. I’d rather climb the four flights of stairs, even when my knees are hurting.

There was an elevator that small in my hotel in Venice, where my room was on the sixth floor, but after getting crammed into it with an over-sized German couple, I took the stairs. And I nearly had a panic attack when I went into the tomb chamber in the great pyramid at Giza.  The chamber itself is big enough, but the passage to get to it is terribly narrow and one has to maneuver past over-sized tourists both coming and going.

So how did a Pennsylvania yokel end up in Tokyo? Or Italy, or Egypt? Or any of the dozens of other countries I’ve been to?  I guess I just decided to go. I think I’m part cat; I always have to see what’s around the next corner.

What really baffles me is people who don’t–and don’t want to–go anywhere.

Twitchy News

PT360001This morning, for the first time, the Twitch got into bed with me, but she didn’t want to cuddle or sleep. She wanted to twitch. Fortunately, it was cold enough for a thick blanket, so it didn’t hurt when she started attacking my legs and feet. I didn’t fight back. After about ten minutes, she got bored and left.

I am hoping this means she is starting to see the futon as a place to play rather than a place to pee. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow would be that she sees it as a place to sleep–cats don’t pee where they sleep. And tiny unicorns will tap dance on my pillow and sing jasmine scented lullabies if she decides to cuddle.

Turning her into a house cat is an involved process, much like quitting smoking. I haven’t had a single puff in more than four months, yet all day yesterday I could taste tobacco on my breath. I know it was coming from my head and not my lungs and was probably related to work stress, but that didn’t make it any less real.

I have a theory that around the time the Twitchster starts acting like a normal house cat, I’ll finally start feeling like a non-smoker.

Wish us luck. I’m pretty confident both of those things are going to happen, but we could use all the karma we can muster. I promise chocolate covered brownie points in return for any happy thoughts sent our way.

Good-bye, Testicles

We’re in the process of filming a couple of very basic English education videos for 3-4 year old kids. “Tedious” is a monstrous under-description of what that entails, and I have to be there  and conscious for every pains-taking, aching, dragging, agonizing minute. In the early days, I often went nuclear: “For Pete’s sake, it was fine the first 47 times! Why do we have to do it again?” But I’ve learned a lot over the years. There are still so many technical things that I don’t understand. There is almost always a reason why thirty or so people are standing around waiting with our thumbs up our noses. At this point, I could walk Job through Patience 101; one would not survive this kind of work otherwise.

It helps that the work is sometimes rather surreal. After all, what video would be complete without a potato salad Christmas tree?

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAAnd Kiko’s Dorothy Gale Meets Barbie the Hooker costume was hard to ignore. I may have nightmares about it. I know she does.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAOn the second day, I was sitting with Randy and Melinda. Randy is the funnyman in this series of videos, a down home Southern gentleman from Alabama and qualified circus clown. He wasn’t all that tired.

Melinda (the mother of the kid in the videos) and Skyla (the kid in the videos) had just flown in from the States, a fourteen hour flight. They’d come directly from the airport to the studio. They were tired.

I had sat through fifteen hours of filming the day before and we were coming up on the eighth hour of the second day with no end in sight, knowing we had two more interminable days ahead of us. I was tired, too.

And that’s when the sillies kicked in. I discovered a collection of truly inappropriate children’s literature

testicles…that had sent the three of us into paroxysms of giggles.  Most of the crew smiled indulgently at our antics.

Eventually, near silence once again descended. Melinda was shopping online. I was doing an online jigsaw puzzle. Randy was playing a game. It was pretty quiet.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAWithout warning, Randy (remember he has an Alabama accent) looked up and demanded to know:

Who you callin’ paranoid?

Fifteen minutes later, as we clutched our aching sides and wiped the tears from our faces, we finally pulled ourselves together. This time, most everyone ignored us.

After all, everyone knows all foreigners are nuts.

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