The Sun isn’t up yet, but I am.
There is a heaviness settled over me. Could be the blues as easily as it could be the toll of my addiction now two weeks into my recovery.
Yes, the nicotine has followed Elvis and left my body, but the tune has changed from withdrawal to a new verse. Now, the challenge is psychological. I’m shadow boxing with smoke. How do I land a punch when there’s nothing there but that which exists in my mind?
Intellectually, I acknowledge I’m in process of my neurochemistry recalibrating to a life without smokes. I have gained a new appreciation of some things not being heavy because of their weight, but for the time and distance we’ve carried them.
It may be something else for you, but the cigs were always there for me. I never left the house without them. Which leads me to another run of thoughts crossing my mind more than a few times in the last several days – maybe the heaviness I’m feeling sources from watching my old ‘friend’ writhe in its death throes; a sort of mourning coupled with the knowledge I was the one who pulled the trigger to end it.
For as much as we crow about our ability to adapt, the brain isn’t necessarily an early adopter of Change. In fact, our brains lie…especially one like mine that’s been altered by smoking. But as it clears, I ask myself a question of my own. What kind of ‘friend’ would stoop so low, saying anything in order to stay lit in my hand? Who’s killing who here?
I’m exponentially overthinking this.
Yesterday afternoon, we claimed our rain-check, going downtown to hear our friends perform at the Park Grill (under the Bean) in Millennium Park.
We knew the concert time. We knew where we were going. We also knew only a few blocks further down from where we were headed on Michigan Avenue, it was Lollapalooza weekend in Grant Park.
Not being my first urban rodeo, I took the extraordinary step of going online and spending money (gasp!) to book a parking spot in advance of our arrival as to not waste precious time fighting the Lolla crowds who were sure to be mobbing the cross walks between us and the band.
READERS CUE: Rich irony between our trek and my quitting cigarettes enters our story right about now.
I’d planned my exit from smokes. I’d planned our excursion to the concert. What I had not planned for was the stuff that comes out of nowhere on our way to where we want to go. In this case? Traffic!!!
Mid-day on a Saturday and the expressways were masquerading as slow moving parking lots. Talk about going nowhere fast! But even though we eventually got downtown, that wasn’t even close to being the end of it.
Now, deep in the Loop, the faceless Google map voice I had asked to come through the phone and get us to the parking garage began “recalculating” every time we encountered a new street closure. If you add the one-way streets into the mix, we were getting new instructions about every two-minutes as the enthusiastic throngs engulfed us at each and every stop light.
Tick became Tock and we weren’t even close to reaching our parking spot (did I mention I had already paid for it?). I looked at the time and knew the performance was already well underway.
Up into the parking garage, down the elevators and a couple of blocks over, we made it. While everyone was glad to see us and there were hugs and hand-shakes all around, there was just one thing. The concert was over.
James spots us as he walks down from the stage. “You missed it! But hey, I’m so glad you made it anyway. It means a lot. Good to see you both. Let me introduce you around.” Looking at me, he went back and pulled up their set list taped to the floor in front of one of the microphones. “Here, at least you have a souvenir to show for it”. It was hard not to laugh at his gregarious effort to make us feel better. He meant it. It was good to be there.
Soon everyone was laughing as we recounted our adventures. While the stage set was being broken down behind us, it dawned on me how good life can be. It was still a beautiful Chicago afternoon and I was sitting in an amazing place. We may have missed the music a 2nd time, but in that moment, what was important was we were there, together.
Set lists are important. They remove the need for the artist to think about what’s coming next. It frees them up to do what they’re there to do. And are the rest of us any different?
We all have set lists in our heads – some helpful and others…not so much, but all constituting learned responses to stress or habit; shame, abuse or neglect. Some of us had lists being formed for us when we were really little kids. Other lists we built ourselves. We all have them. The key is to consciously choose what’s on our lists and just as importantly, choose what needs to come off. Who wants to live a life that is a worn-out recording of what used to be a favorite song? Pina Colada anyone?
Every hour in every day that passes since I quit represents a habit I’m leaving just a little further in the rear view mirror than it was before and that, my fine fellow traveler, is progress.
As yesterdays sunshine filtered through the trees, I looked around, taking stock of everything around me and found it to be collateral beauty I hadn’t counted on finding at all . In the midst of the laughter and perpetual rolling conversations around that table closest to the stage, I lifted my glass and toasted us all.
I’m truly grateful to have again been reminded that none of us are nearly as alone as we trick ourselves into thinking we are. While it’s true I may not be where I want to be just yet, I know I’m getting there and I’m going to be fine. Trust the same holds true for you this week.
Life clicks and glasses clink. Here’s to you.
I am honored to introduce and share with you the work of two really remarkable artists we call Friend.
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
Set List (Beck and Sole): Crop pic by dan4kent; Park Grill at Millennium Park [Chicago} from Michigan Avenue side: http://www.millenniumgarages.com/park-grill/; vintage mic: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/53/45/ce/5345ce7a8b64d9971c8fe386cff181a2.jpg
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