love · Musings

Up in Smoke.

smoking teens

My friend, you have smoked cigarettes for as long as I can remember.

And I have hated it for just as long.

I hope you will believe me when I tell you that this is not intended as judgement. It’s not about preaching “right” from “wrong” to you. It’s your body and you have every right to do exactly with it as you wish, just as I do with mine.

As it happens, I have never smoked and so I will never truly know the way this particular addiction holds you in its unrelenting grasp. I can’t comprehend the blissful release it brings you with that first morning mouthful. I’ve seen it on your face though. Watched your stresses melt away and your hands stop shaking through a curling halo of white smoke.

Sometimes I even envy your sigh of ecstasy as you exhale all of your worries.

I have been addicted in other ways of course, mostly to people. Maybe it’s my own addiction to you that makes me value your health so intensely. It’s selfish of me really. I love you to the end of the earth and I want to keep you around for as long as I possibly can.

I’m afraid of losing you.

I’m not going to ask you to quit here, not unless you want to. You won’t stick with it unless the longing burns fiercely within you anyway. All of the pleading and nagging in the world is no substitute for your own desire for change.

As such, I can only tell you how I experience you as a smoker and ask that you reflect on what it means to those who adore you the next time you light up.

You remember that last puff you scrounged off a friend outside the bar?

You were huddled up against the cold, like naughty school kids united in mischief; a pair of comrades against the big bad world. That puff meant that as we ran together through tranquil woodland paths, you didn’t hear the satisfying crunch of crisp leaves beneath our feet as you wheezed by. Your jagged breathing and hacking cough replaced the serenade of blackbirds overhead, nature’s symphony drowned out by your protesting lungs.

You were doubled over, hands on hips, struggling to catch your breath in the bright morning light. You looked down at the ground, gasping and spluttering, instead of up into the glorious cobalt sky where the winter sun was waiting to kiss your face. You didn’t notice the way that the frost gently dusted the hedgerows, nor the shimmering brook that babbled on quietly nearby.

I was sad that the fresh country air failed to nourish and energize you as I hoped it would.

The cigarette you mashed into the ashtray just now?

That one meant that when I nuzzled my face into your hair when I hugged you, I couldn’t find the beautiful scent that you naturally radiate. Your incense that ignites a thousand memories in one glorious inhale. Instead, a stale festering impostor crept in and stole that comforting sense of you from my waiting nose.

I was choked by you; forced to turn my face away. I felt robbed of you.

That last packet you emptied, incredulous that twenty could be gone already?

It meant that when you stroked my face with your usual bright affection, you traced my skin with a yellow tar stained finger, a permanent reminder of the choice that you make again and again. I wonder if you can still feel my softness beneath that tacky layer and whether there will always be this barricade between our touching skin.

The cheap carton you brought at duty free?

You were so pleased with your bargain, grinning with delirious glee. Yet, It cost you so more than you ever realized; more than money.

It cost you your smile, your most beautiful feature, capable of transforming your face into a picture of heaven. Already your laughter is tainted by stained brown teeth and puckered wrinkles around once luscious lips. Did no one tell you that no matter how beautiful you are, receding gums and ashtray breath will never be sexy?

The price will always feel far too high for me.

I long to free you from the prison of smoking that holds you, the reliance you have on something to get you through your day. I know that It’s not my battle to fight. I see in your eyes, the constant planning of when you will next get to indulge your craving, rather than being present in the moment to focus on what you are doing or who you are with.

To be beholden to anything in this world makes me cagey in my own quest for freedom and I want more for you.

What saddens me the most is that smoking pretends to be about rebellion. Yet from where I stand, it looks an awful lot like desperation. Desperation to fit in. To be part of the “in crowd,” to fill an emptiness inside, to de-stress. A lot of my friends have told me that they started smoking young for these exact reasons and have regretted it ever since.

I wish I could have told them, and you, that the person who follows the crowd gets no further than where the crowd are going. You can follow your own path and make your own choices, even now.

That path might still involve a cigarette, but then again, it might not.

Musings · Spiritual

Opening up about Habitual Patterns: Letting go of Impatience.

János Balázs/Flickr

“A warrior of the light is never in a hurry. Time works in his favour; he learns to master his impatience and avoids acting without thinking.” ~ Paulo Coelho.

My life long secret habit is impatience.

My fiancé would probably argue that this is the world’s worst kept ‘secret’, but then our loved ones often see the darkness that we try to hide from the rest of the world.

They say that good things come to those who wait, but what do they know? I don’t have time to waste. I want it all, and I want it yesterday.

In a world of instant gratification, I need my best-selling novel to be written already. I don’t want to wait to travel the world; adventure waits for no woman after all. I want enough time to have passed to ease the sharp sting of my grief. I even demand the text message I just sent to be answered instantly. I know that you have read it. My inner child wants to know what could possibly be more important than replying to me. She’s stomping her feet.

This is the part of myself that I despise the most; the part that I would change if I could.

I long to be the girl who nods politely at the long-winded bore, the one that queues for hours with a sweet smile. The one who fails at something new, and tries again and again until she is good at it. In an ideal world I wouldn’t stress about traffic, or being late for a meeting. I would be the girl that goes with the flow, and rises above the stress.

Ironically, I want to be that girl right now.

For the moment, I bury the frustration deep, taking long calming breaths when I feel the irritation rising inside me. I try to remember to be present in the moment and to understand that if something is meant to be, it will happen when it is supposed to.

I learn to love the gifts that impatience brings. For all it’s faults, it is a motivator. I know for a fact that I can get sh*t done. I won’t wait. I am painfully aware that life is too short, and when I want something, I get out there and chase it.

Patience is a valuable quality and I’ll get there eventually. Luckily, I have many other virtues.  ; )

Photo: János Balázs

Originally posted on Elephant Journal here.

Musings

The race that stopped a nation and ended two lives

Horse Racing

Fascinators flutter in the breeze, like butterflies dancing over bright flowers.

The glamorous masses prance, and shriek and laugh, placing bets and downing bubbles. Spirits are high. The fillies stamp and snort in their holding pens and a hush falls upon the crowd as the main race lines up to start.

I can understand fully the appeal of the day: the glitz and glamour, the pomp and ceremony. We all admire the unbridled power of a muscular stallion as he thunders towards the finish line, black glossy coat shining under the Australian sun. He seems to move in slow motion, the handsome jockey skillfully guiding him to a glorious triumph.

Most of us could agree that this spectacle moves us. The intensity of one of nature’s most graceful creatures, coupled with the thrill of the race, the striking spectators, the festivity of winning.

And yet today at the Melbourne Cup, as at so many horse races, tragedy raises its solemn head. Admire Rakti, a Japanese racehorse, pulled up distressed after the cup race, and collapsed, dying in his stall.

Later this evening, Araldo, unable to be saved after breaking his leg, was also put down. The race that stops a nation turned out to be the race that ended their lives. My heart aches for their owners and carers, for whom this would be such a very personal loss.

This isn’t a one off occurrence, of course. Last year French runner Verema was also euthanized after breaking her leg in the same race.

There comes a point then, where we have to ask ourselves how long we can justify the party. An animal rights group called The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses recently launched a new campaign striking out against the industry, calling out not just the issues that accompany racing, but also the treatment of these racers at the end of their careers.

The industry has hit back, arguing that welfare is at the forefront of their minds. Yet one could reasonably argue there is still a fair way for them to go in order to learn from the deaths of these fallen beauties. Animals Australia is calling for a retirement plan for all racehorses, the abolishment of whipping and jumps racing. I for one would support this wholeheartedly.

Though there will always be a risk in racing—just as there is for any human sport— horse racing doesn’t always have to mean pain and a bleak future for our four-legged friends.

I don’t want to be the fun police. I also don’t want to assume that I know what’s best for these horses. Perhaps they are given access to the best care, and vets and luxuries that they wouldn’t otherwise receive in a far off paddock somewhere if not competing. Perhaps they love the thrill of the race, the feel of the track beneath their hooves and the wind in their mane. Who can say for certain? Not me.

All that I really hope for is awareness, and through that awareness, accountability.

Let us recognize that there is more to Race Day than just an afternoon of revelry, drinking with friends.

Let us remember there are real lives at stake here.

Let us understand that it is our responsibility to hold the industry responsible for the well being of these majestic beauties, to fight their fight where we are able, for they most certainly, are not.

“If not us, then who. If not now, then when?’John E. Lewis.

Originally published here on Elephant Journal

adventure · love · Musings · Spiritual

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See my original article here on elephant journal

 

The sounds of summer drift lazily over our back fence like smoke.

Children laugh and splash in paddling pools, squealing, cold water on hot skin, lawns flooded, warm mud squelching between small toes.

A lawnmower hums bee-like in the distance, and the smell of fresh cut grass hangs in the hazy air. I breathe it all in, the endless peace, the comforting familiarity of home. Sometimes, when I’m heartsick, I ache for this time, this place, these feelings. I close my eyes and let my memories bring me here, back to simpler times. They heal my soul.

My worries are bound by childhood, contained by school gates closed against the world. I agonise only over which friends to see and which games to play. The problems of the adult realm are far beyond my imagination and I’m in no hurry to reach out for them.

I recline on ancient sun-loungers with mum. They smell like sunshine and tanning oil and I feel grown up drinking tea beside her. We close our eyes and pretend that we are abroad soaking up Spanish sun.

Mum is glamorous, all curves in her bikini, brown skin glistening. I long to be beautiful someday too. I don’t hold much hope—I am awkward and skinny, all arms and legs and unremarkable. I stare at myself in the mirror sometimes and try to imagine what my grown up features will look like. I can’t see beyond the braces that imprison my smile and the unruly curls that never seem to lay straight and shiny like the popular girls at school.

In later years, I will breathe a sigh of relief as I start to fill out and my cheekbones decide to make an appearance. I will be startled when my first boyfriend notices me among my friends, an individual for the first time. I will grow into myself, a butterfly emerging from the cocoon of youth.

Charcoal barbecues, colourful picnic plates, my family talking and laughing under a bright blue sky. Dad’s radio blares summer-time anthems from the sanctuary of his shed. It is full of treasures, musty and masculine. He croons along and I smile, swept along in his happiness.

Even today, these familiar melodies transport me instantly to a brighter place.

Night never falls on those evenings. The light lingers and we stay out late exploring a neighbourhood that holds every memory of my childhood me. A close look reveals me there still—wading in clear cold rivers with fishing net in hand, collecting conkers in the shade of great oaks, and eating penny sweets on swings, flinging higher and higher, trying to fly from the frame to the wide world beyond. We race the setting sun to beat the darkness home.

I soar downhill on my bike, clothes streaming in the wind, fearless. The courage of a mind that has not yet had to comprehend pain. I get entangled with my friend’s pedals and we tumble to the ground together in a laughing heap. We are not afraid. Broken bones, blood, death—they are not for us.

We are young and wild and will go where the night takes us. There are no alarms to set, nor places to be. The only rule is curfew and even that can be overcome with pleading and promises.

We long to grow, to explore, to see the world. We yearn to cast off the tight, constricting skin of our upbringing and be so much more. So impatient are we to be released, that we don’t yet realise that these playful years, roaming free under a summer sky, are among the best we will ever know.

We are sending our roots deep into the ground, laying the foundations to hold us securely, when the storms of life howl around us. We never imagine that we will return here often during our adventures beyond, in dreams and memories, seeking exactly what our youth sought to escape—family, contentment, safety.

We don’t yet understand that whatever far off corner of the world we find ourselves, regardless of the people we meet and love along the way, our hearts will always long for the familiar laughter of someone who has grown with us and those sounds of summer, drifting over the back fence.

There’s no place like home.