Tag Archives: strength

The River Flows On

Big River closed last Sunday. While a major production like that is never easy, it was a joy and a challenge which I welcomed.

full cast

 

All through high school I was in a theater group called Guerilla Theater. The group was all high school students but our directors were grad students from the theater department at Carnegie Mellon University. They were very good: young, creative, energetic. In my first production with Guerilla, I played a sacrificial virgin in Dracula. For the opening scene, I lay down over Dracula’s casket looking at the audience backward and upside down, then someone cut my throat with a fake knife and fake blood dripped down the side of my face. One night, a piece of makeup fell into my eye, and being dead and all, I wasn’t supposed to blink. But the makeup hurt and after a few seconds, a tear fell out of my eye and slid down my cascading hair. A friend was sitting in the front row; I saw her eyes go wide and her face turn pale. Now that’s good theater.

We did a lot of productions. I once played a character named The Richest Girl in the World. We also did an acted-out radio show and some Moliere farces. Cool stuff. The group was vibrant and the productions challenging. But by my senior year, the community center that hosted us suddenly veered toward the conservative and chose some kid’s mother as our director. Most of us quit when she announced that the next play would be You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

I did a little acting and a lot of costuming in college and always enjoyed the camaraderie of the costume shop, but once I left the States, I never went back to the theater. All these years, I had imagined the Tokyo International Players were a group of bored expat housewives with nothing better to do; thoughts of them evoked frightening visions of Charlie Brown inside my head. But then a friend was in their production of Avenue Q. I went to see it and was astonished. I’ve seen several other productions since and they’ve all been really excellent. Not a bored housewife in sight, these are dedicated, talented professionals who do these productions not for money but for love of the stage and everything that goes into bringing a play to life.

Theater people tend to be a tad kooky, but usually in the best sense. I loved interacting with the actors and crew, our hearty laughter and quick moments of reaching out, the gentle companionship of fellow costumers stitching away under the stage as we listened to the singing and dancing going on above us.

Hannah and Lensei

This is our director, the lovely and talented Hannah Grace, with her charming husband who shall remain nameless and faceless because he’s secretly a member of AKB48 or something like that; I didn’t really understand the explanation of that. I didn’t understand the explanation of the pink jackets, either, but Hannah is the reason I got involved with the production in the first place and I hope she knows how grateful I am.

All in all, it was a great experience. I managed to connect with a lot of wonderful people. I reconnected with parts of myself I had nearly forgotten about and found strength I didn’t know I had. I was reminded that there’s more to life than work and getting paid. And, as icing on the cake, I got to see how cute my monkey looks when he’s wearing a mop cap.

Monkey Mop Cap

 

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Two Years, Baby

It was exactly two years ago today that the last wisp of smoke sailed past my lips and snaked its poisonous path down my throat and into my undeserving lungs. Two years since I finally admitted what a dope I was being. Two years since I found the wisdom to forgive myself and start to move on.

The path to recovery has been long and difficult. Maybe the hardest part, but also the most fulfilling, was discovering that I wasn’t giving anything up. Instead I was finally earning my freedom, taking control of my life, finding strength I wasn’t sure I had.

Now the Nicodemon only rarely appears. When he does I quickly toss a muddy boot at his evil head. I can get through my work without getting twitchy. I wash my hair less often. Food is starting to taste better. I walk past designated smoking areas and see lost souls hunched over filthy ashtrays and almost feel sorry for them.

At long last, I am no longer a smoker who isn’t smoking. I am a non-smoker. I am free.

lady tree

Supermouse

Speak softly and carry a big fish.
                                        Speak softly and carry a big fish.

“Faster than a speeding bullet train! More powerful than a shinkansen locomotive! Able to leap Tokyo Tower at a single bound!”

“Look! Up in the sky!”
“It’s a bat!”
“It’s a rodent!”
“It’s Supermouse!”

“Yes, it’s Supermouse – strange visitor from another continent who came to Asia with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal mice. Supermouse – defender of law and order, champion of equal rights, valiant, courageous fighter against the forces of hate and prejudice, who, disguised as Eda, slightly prickly editor for a large edutainment corporation, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice and grilled cheese sandwiches.”

A variation of those words first hit the airwaves back in 1941 and they connect to a lot that has been going through my head as I attempt to cope with middle age and get some perspective on my life and my place in the universe.

Last week’s supreme court decision was a glimmering ray of hope from an America I am increasingly ashamed of, although it should surprise nobody that a conservative backlash is already growing. Why is it that people feel entitled to judge other people’s lifestyles? Why can’t they be satisfied with their own choices and accept what those choices bring?

I feel the same way about abortion. While it may be a religious issue for many, it isn’t for me, and you do not have a right to tell me what to believe. This should never have become a political issue in the first place. When does a fetus become a sentient being? This is a question that cannot be answered in court. Women must answer it for ourselves, and be prepared to live with our decisions. And it is none of anybody else’s business. Period.

The right to gun ownership raises similar flags. Under the constitution, you have a right to own a gun, but you do not have a right to scare me. And just how many coyotes are you and your machine gun expecting defend yourself from while shopping at Walmart? I’d be more frightened of your gun than the coyotes.

We all have the right to believe what we want to believe. But we do not have the right to tell others what to believe. At the same time, there are certain fundamentals I think most of us would accept. Without some common acceptance of the rules those rights and wrongs dictate, we’re left with chaos and anarchy.

It is commonly accepted that murder is wrong, but what about the woman who is systematically abused, both mentally and physically, and finally bashes in the asshole’s head with his bowling ball? Is that wrong?

Another grey area: lying is wrong, but little white lies (What a cute baby! It’s so nice to see you again!) don’t hurt anyone and can even do some good. Big black smelly lies, on the other hand (Nuclear power is safe! Smoking is cool!) can cause harm on a scale that is difficult to fathom.

So where do we draw the line? Just how much should government have to do with morality? I thought that two fundamental premises of the US government were religious freedom and separation of church and state, and yet that state tells us who we can marry and whether or not we will have children while it allows large corporations to poison our air and our water and our bodies.

And this body is now faced with yet another birthday. It’s been a better one than some of the past. The mind and body seem to be drawing great benefits from both yoga and meditation; the desire to smoke is gone, hopefully for good; I am finding strengths in myself I didn’t know I had. These are all good things. I think I’m finally understanding that old prayer about serenity and strength and wisdom. I will make an effort to carry those things with me into the future.

Gratitude 2015

I'm the one in the orange sheet.
I’m the one in the orange sheet.

We made it through our first smoke free holiday season, and I find myself profoundly grateful for a lot of things.

I’m grateful for the wonderful new people who have come into my life. I’m grateful for Kelly, who is not only teaching me to trust my body but also to look inside myself to try to understand my place in this universe and my attitude toward it.  I’m grateful for Rob, who can keep me both thoughtful and laughing for hours on end.  I’m grateful for all my quit sisters, particularly Jan, Leanne and Susan. Our cyber-hand holds and hugs have helped to make this journey bearable in ways I can’t begin to explain.

I’m grateful for Twitchy, for the irony of being given a chance to share my home with something more beautiful than the greatest masterpiece of classical art yet more evil than the darkest specter of hell. I’m grateful for understanding that the world is often as out of focus as she is.

I’m grateful for whatever it was that at long last helped us find the strength we needed to stop smoking. Working through the whys and wherefores of all that continues to be one of the greatest challenges of my life, and the most fulfilling.

I’m grateful to the Dalai Lama for helping me understand what happiness really is. I’m grateful for the Christmas dinner we finally had time for last night. I’m grateful for the people who shared it with us. I’m grateful for being able to care about people. I’m grateful for the interwebs and the air in my lungs and sunlight and kerosene and smiles from strangers and oatmeal cookies and shoelaces.

dessertI’m grateful for being given another year to stumble through. I’m grateful for whatever gifts and challenges it will present. I’m grateful for knowing I have the strength to handle whatever those things will be, and for having the sense to know just how great a gift that is.

Drawing by Renaissance Man Rodger Sono. Used with permission.
Drawing by Renaissance Man Rodger Sono. Used with permission.

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.

The Tale of the Little Green Monster

I’ve never met most of the people who read this blog, so you can’t know this about me, but I was a heavy smoker for more than thirty years, Rochi even longer, both of us for our entire adult lives. I’ve always been careful not to mention smoking here, fearing people would think less of me because of it. (Yes, I’m that much of a weenie.) Add that to the lengthy list of reasons to quit.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAAnd quit we did, just over a month ago. I have a lot to say about that but it may take some time before I’m ready. The little green monster who lives behind my left ear still jabs my brain with his pointy pitchfork every now and then, giving me a “Ka-Pow!” moment. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and send out thoughts of gratitude for dopamine replacement therapy.

Wish me luck. Or better yet, wish me strength.

Grief

Grief is a wondrous thing.
You’re thinking, “Yeah. I’m all right. I can handle this.”
And then grief leaps out at you from behind a bus stop or under a bush,
teeth barred, claws bared,
and takes a vicious swipe at your heart.

And for a moment the world closes in on you
and you can’t think or move or even breathe.

And then it passes.

They say time heals all wounds but they’re wrong.
Some wounds remain, you just learn to live with them.

And hope that somehow makes you stronger.