I?d like to have a cigarette tonight. Just one. Ten minutes of satisfaction, of letting my guard down, of doing whatever the heck I want to do at any particular moment. A cigarette tonight, a beer right now, and maybe I won?t go jogging tomorrow. Shouldn?t be that big a crisis, right?
Except I quit smoking a month ago. For the second time in a year. And I really don?t feel like quitting smoking all over again tomorrow.
And if I have a beer right now, it might help me have more fun while I write this, but it also might make me feel tired in an hour or so, and, at any rate, it will definitely make the beers I have at the barbecue tonight seem a bit less special.
And if I don?t go jogging tomorrow, I?ll probably skip out the next day, and once my guard is down I?ll probably go back to eating nothing but cheeseburgers and pizza.
In just a few weeks I?ll be a regular smoker again, I?ll eat nothing but crap, and I?ll play a whole lot of video games. Because deep down, that?s all I really want to do. Oh, sure, I?d like to have a higher-paying job and rippling abdominal muscles. I?d like to write big-time Hollywood screenplays and cast myself as the lead actor, too.
Just not right now. Heck, I don?t even feel like writing this stuff right now.
The trouble is, when I?m sitting on the patio at my girlfriend?s place in a few hours, I?m going to want to have written a first draft of this piece. A couple of weeks from now, if it?s actually hot enough to swim, I?m going to wish that I?d been jogging every day. And if I let myself become a regular smoker again, I won?t really enjoy any of the cigarettes I smoke. Very soon after that, I?ll start feeling miserable.
Because doing what I want to do makes me miserable. But not doing the things I want to do takes so much effort.
Oh, sure, it gets easier after I?ve stuck with a regime for a while, but it never quite becomes effortless. If it did, I?d never quit the regime. But I do quit. Constantly.
A new attempt at living a ?healthier, fuller? life usually starts after a fit of depression. I?ll feel run down for a few weeks, I?ll start sleeping later and later, I?ll get less and less exercise, and I?ll start to feel hopelessly trapped for no real reason. I?ll start to hate work, I won?t care if my house is filthy, and I?ll fantasize that the only way out is to drive west and never look back.
But I carry on until finally, one day, I?ll start to cry a little bit for no reason, and I won?t really be able to move. I really, really hate feeling like that, so I slap myself around and go through the pained efforts of starting up all over.
After a few weeks of staying the course, I won?t have to think about it so much anymore. And I?ll probably start to get all proud and feel really good about myself.
And after I feel really happy, secure in my ability to stick to a regime, stoked about all the progress I?ve made, and after not smoking for eight months, I?ll be out on the town one night and say, ?Why not??
It?ll take me a few months after that before I really remember why not.
But that?s just how it is.
Reprinted from the premier issue of Two Note Solo (Fall 2002). A free magazine distributed quarterly in Austin, Texas, Two Note Solo strikes an irreverent and carefree tone on issues as diverse as slackers, taxes, and pierogies. Subscriptions: $10/yr. (4 issues) from www.twonotesolo.com or Two Note Solo, 909 C West 21st St., Austin, TX 78705.