Today was a lovely day filled with beauty, chaos, risk and great conversation...and the typical los angeles friday night traffic. It started with a two hour planning/hashing session of a project proposal with my best friend and ended with me doing something I hadn't done in over a year...smoking.
It's interesting how something can be the final stress that pushed you back into a familiar comfort pattern. I wonder if I wasn't on the food plan that I am on if instead of a cigarette my solace would have been in chocolate or cheese. But it wasn't it was in my smoking a quarter of a cigarette, something that for me previously was so much a part of my connection in relationships and grad school. Ever since I was in high school smoking has been one of those things that says 1. "see not the perfect little good girl" 2. let's chat. For whatever reason it became a way for me to prove my non conformist element and also create space for conversation with people. Toward the middle of college it also became that space where I could run away and have a few minutes to process life because the act of smoking is in an odd way like breathing exercises or mediation. It is a visceral and tangible thing that forces you to focus, breathe, and slow down. Often through out the course of my last graduate program when I was having trouble in a paper I would step outside and have a cigarette...it was that distance that allowed me to clear my head and think. About two years ago I started to get nauseated when I would have more than half a cigarette...and last january 2010 was the last time I smoked. By that time I had pretty much quit anyway, what had been different is that at that point I really didn't want to smoke at all.
Really I haven't had any desire to smoke over the last year until about three weeks ago where something happened and I was so emotionally over whelmed that all I could think of was "I want to smoke" but I didn't. Enter this week, between monday and wednesday I had four papers due, also a project that Shiloh and I have been working on since October became solid and real, and I was hit with relational chaos. With each new thing mounting on the next I hit the threshold this evening. As I was paying for gas I bought a pack of cigarettes. After dropping off my friend I pulled one out and light it. The first three puffs were incredible and smooth and weightless (most likely because I had gotten ultra lights)...it was like kissing a old lover. When I hit the freeway I looked down and realized that I was only a sixth of the way into the cigarette, with that realization I was reminded of smoking pre-high school. I was a very broken and depressed "good girl" who hated herself. I remember sitting in my bathroom windows open, shower running, incense burning willing myself to smoke a whole cigarette. It was like cutting or not eating for a day. Something that felt good because it was harmful and gave me the control I didn't feel I had. Plus it made me feel beautiful and dangerous and risky. I am and always have been wild and adventurous by nature but something very early made me fear and doubt that nature....instead I became practical and fearful. I constantly have had to battle those two opposite pulls.
Tonight, in part because of the sweet and beautiful curiosity of a friend, I realized that in faith and many other aspects of my life I have felt that I wasn't able to really have a choice. That lack of choice explains so many of the battles I fight in my heart and soul...why dating relationships are hard to come by and the guilt I feel about so many choices which really should be mine alone. I think it also helps me to understand the pull to smoking and the fear I have around commitments, especially commitment to God. I want freedom and it has been ingrained in me that freedom outside of a certain box is to be feared. That being said I do think that totally freedom cannot happen because we don't live in a bubble and complete freedom can easily result in harm to another. But what I am talking about is the freedom to really test belief and life and the capacity for God's love and redemption. Is it ok to fuck up and fail and make foolish choices...is redemption and grace what I give lip service to or are they the tightly bound box I am internally shoving myself into? These are the questions I am left with tonight...I am reminded of Luther's words "If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign."