Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day.

13 May



About eighteen years ago I quit smoking, and I haven’t had a cigarette since.  To be clear, I didn’t quit cold turkey.  The whole process took about three years…three difficult, challenging years.  I quit.  I started again. I tried hypnosis.  I cut back to smoking one or two a day.  Over time I replaced my addiction to cigarettes with other addictions (gum, cookies, etc.,) and finally I quit altogether…sort of….  It still took about six more months after quitting the actual act of smoking to give up my dependence on nicotine gum—which gave me all the pleasure of a nicotine rush while still allowing me enough wind to walk up a flight of stairs.  Still, eventually I did quit, and I haven’t had a cigarette or any nicotine products for some eighteen years.  I say all of this not to brag about my non-smoker status, but rather as a reminder to myself that Rome was not built in a day—nor was any other large metropolitan area for that matter—and that the act of personal reformation takes time…to say nothing of urban infrastructure development in South Central Italy.

We are fast approaching the nine month mark since I was first told that I did not have cancer (which as you know was then followed by claims that I did have cancer, only to be disproved sometime later by exploratory surgery).  As those of you who read this blog may recall, shortly after I learned the good news, I posted a piece in which I dedicated myself to trying to reform my life—to eat better, exercise more, be more calm, and to regularly pray with meaning.  And for a good three months after that I was unstoppable.  I eliminated red meat and processed sugar from my diet.  I exercised four times a week and went to Tai Chi class once a week.  I meditated twice daily, and was, generally speaking, feeling great.  Then came the questioning of my previous diagnosis, the call for exploratory surgery, and a weeks-long downward spiral into self-pity and fear, all of which were accompanied by a brutal cold.  I exercised less, meditated less, ate a little less good, and felt a whole lot crappier.

 Since that time I have tried to get my efforts at reformation back up to speed.  I’ve been at the gym for about a month now.  I got back into Tai Chi class as quickly as possible.  And perhaps 50% of the time I’ve gotten back on my anti-inflammatory diet (no red meat or soda for me, but cookies and other sugary treats have exerted a powerful pull on my psyche….and my stomach).  But things haven’t been easy.  I have found that since surgery, my recovery time after exercise has grown considerably.  I get achier. I’ve come down with a wicked case of carpal tunnel syndrome, which at times can really hurt, and I seem unable to walk past a tray of baked goods (which are frequently present in my workplace) without grabbing something.  Friends have told me that surgery, no matter where in your body, can have a lengthy systemic effect with aches and pains that last long after the actual event and can happen anywhere in your body.  They tell me I shouldn’t worry so much and that things will be fine.  Also, over a beer the other day, a colleague of mine, a pretty fit guy, confessed that he too suffers aches and pains and that we are all growing older.  In short, everyone has told me to relax (which is more difficult than it used to be, too), that what I’m going through is normal, typical really, and that everything will be alright. As always I appreciate everyone’s good thoughts and advice, and yet I still can’t help but feel that I am backsliding.  That I’ve become complacent, and that I’ll never get back to the discipline I had in November and December of last year.  If nothing else, I am stalled, stuck in some kind of mental mud, my wheels hopelessly spinning and getting me nowhere. 

It’s at times like this, though, that I need to remind myself of my experience quitting smoking.  It took me three years to quit smoking.  Nothing about that process was quick, easy, or direct.  It was a lengthy and circuitous course filled with great advances, disheartening failures, ridiculous justifications about my inability to succeed, and powerful denial about the problems I faced.  Ultimately, though, I succeeded.  I did so because it mattered to me greatly, because my health and life depended upon it.   Now, too, I believe that my life and health depend a great deal on my ability to sustain an exercise and meditation regimen, to maintain a healthier diet, and to learn to relax a little bit.  And so I suspect that over time, I will succeed.  The process won’t be quick or easy, but I’m pretty sure I’ll get it done.  Still, the backsliding can be terribly frustrating, and so I need to remember what the urban historians tell us, that Rome wasn’t built in a day…Naples, perhaps, but Rome….never.  

As always…stay tuned.


One Response to “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day.”

  1. Victoria Nicole May 13, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

    Congratulations, it is a very big accomplishment to say that you quit smoking! If you can overcome that, you can overcome anything 🙂

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