I’m not a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions. In fact, every one I’ve ever made has quickly been broken. The resolutions from my younger years usually involved quitting smoking and led to me failing miserably, probably within hours of the new year. I could never put my whole heart into doing something just because my calendar said so. As a result, my actual quit date is June 25th – a random day in 2008 when I ran out of cigarettes and said, “What the hell. Let’s give it a try.” I’m five and a half years in and still winning, but I know there are a few of you out there who are just starting. Maybe it’s your first time, maybe it’s your twenty-first time. Every time is easier than the last.
I was talking with my mother about resolutions while she and my dad were visiting from Florida this past week. She is a former smoker, too, and, like me, suffers from bouts of anxiety and panic so severe that they would drive a normal person batshit crazy. We both agree that smoking, while terribly bad for our physical health, did a great service to our mental health. My mother and I hardly ever agree on anything so the fact that we agree on this must mean we’re on to something.
Think about it: smoking requires one to breathe in deeply, followed by exhaling slowly and fully. Most of the time when I smoked, I would head off to a quiet spot to have a cigarette. Sometimes I would go off with friends, sometimes I would be alone, and other times I would make friends while smoking with fellow smokers. Toward the end of my smoking years, though, I actually had to go into hiding. I had been labeled a dirty cancer-maker by society and made to feel solely responsible for the rising costs of healthcare. It sucked, but at least I was better able to cope with the pressures of being human. How? By breathing in. Breathing out. Inhaling. Exhaling. Deeply…slowly…fully. Man, smoking was a good way for me to deep-breathe my stress away.
To this day I have “smoking” dreams. Oh, they’re fantastic and so realistic! They are so realistic, in fact, that I have woken up from EVERY SINGLE ONE of them feeling a tremendous amount of guilt. Did I feel guilty for smoking in my dream? No. I felt guilty for enjoying the hell out of ’em! I look forward to my smoking dreams the same way I look forward to my flying dreams. Y’all know what I’m talking about.
My cigarette habit was quickly replaced by a Starbucks habit. This did nothing for my pocketbook or my anxiety (which, by the way, is a genetic curse). It did, however, allow me to more easily transition away from one unhealthful habit and into one that is more socially acceptable and seemingly indicative of being a productive human. Oh, you drink Starbucks lattes a few times a day? You must be a busy person! I’m not, really, but I am rather jumpy and panicky these days. I wholly believe it’s because I have forgotten how to breathe.
All of this is why I think we really need to be more encouraging when it comes to other people’s resolutions and goals. We all have a few friends and acquaintances who are willing to try something new – some are trying to give up smoking, drinking, or even pointless snacking. Whether it’s because they are being driven by themselves of by society’s standards, I say good on them, because trying something new is downright terrifying. I am uncomfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable (physically, socially, etc.) so I’m always on the lookout for ways to calm the f*ck down. A few things have worked (deep breathing) while others have not (Starbucks lattes!). The frequency of my anxiety attacks, however, will not be the measure of my success or failure (see aforementioned comment of the genetic curse).
I am not making a resolution this year (and I haven’t for quite some time) but that doesn’t mean I’m not pulling for those of you who have. It also doesn’t mean that failing on January 2nd means you have to wait another full year to try again. If you need a break, take a break. If you want it to happen, you’ll make it happen. If you need to try again on June 25th, try again on June 25th.
Do some deep breathing. Drink some Starbucks. Regroup. Revise. Then get over it so you can try it again.