Have you ever been reluctant to end or leave something* because you were convinced the minute you did would be the same moment that things finally turned that corner of which you never could catch more than a glimpse? You believed you should stick with it, especially when you reminded yourself of your tendency, in pre-Waze days, to not reach a destination because you were convinced you had somehow missed it, when in fact you hadn’t yet gone far enough. You’re no quitter, are you?
Back in those days, you were that rare combination of optimistic, trusting and honest. Now, you know you’ll never surrender as completely to those same instincts ever again. Not in this lifetime at least.
That knowledge leaves you feeling equal parts sad and relieved.
Walking away from a situation that isn’t working should be easier. We all have free will, right? Not being happy or respected or rewarded for giving our best, should make the decision to move on a simple one, yet, that has not been my experience. In fact, it’s been the one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.
I remember when I quit smoking cigarettes. I was tired of being a smoker. It was gross and unhealthy and I didn’t like the taste in my mouth. I wanted to take up running after struggling to run a mile in a P.E. conditioning class I was taking as an undergrad. I wanted to feel better and not get bronchitis. Yes, there were distinct moments when I did enjoy a cigarette – with a drink, after a meal, late at night, but those occasions were fleeting.
Trading my health for those moments wasn’t a good exchange. I needed to quit.
It wasn’t easy, but I relished my improved senses of smell and taste. I could run longer distances without gasping. I felt lighter in a way not at all related to weight.
Life was better without cigarettes.
My dreams, though, were filled with cigarettes. I wasn’t smoking in my dreams but, I was exposed to cigarettes and the dreams always ended as I was considering lighting one for myself. I would wake up wishing that I could have had just one drag, how I knew that would have satisfied my craving and I could have moved on. Let go.
This cycle of dreams and waking yearning continued for quite some time, maybe years. The last time this dream paid a visit, it was different. I made it to the end and watched myself smoke an entire cigarette – and I looked so happy. I saw myself inhaling and thought about how nauseous I would be if I ingested all of those chemicals and nicotine into my lungs. I knew dream Silvia had made the wrong choice and I was so disappointed with her.
I woke up crying.
My takeaway – It’s better to eliminate what only brings limited pleasure in favor of choosing what brings a more consistent and positive happiness. Even if the craving remains strong, giving in ultimately brings more sadness than joy. It isn’t worth it.
But, I am.
So are you.
PS. I haven’t had the dream since.
*a job, situation, relationship, etc
2 thoughts on “All you can(t) leave behind”
Did you quit cold turkey?
Yes, completely. In a cliche, I quit for New Year’s Eve. I flew to Ireland for a three week stay a day or two later and stayed with nonsmoking family. As the days passed and my sense of smell returned, I was appalled at how awful my clothing all smelled. That made it easier for sure!