Lord of the Flies

When we returned home from the Midwest, the first thing I did was drag my sorry self upstairs to crash out in bed. After nearly 15 hours in the car, it was all I could do. But the first thing my husband did, being the amazing soul he is, was go through the entire house to make sure everything was just as we’d left it. And everything was fine. Save for the flies.

When we left John says he noticed one lone fly bzzzzing round an upstairs room. No big deal. He figured it’d be dead by the time the weekend was over.


Remember Cutie? My daughter’s runaway hamster?? Yes, I know I haven’t written about him in weeks. But that’s b/c we thought he was still on vacation. Well… he is, except it’s that reeeeeeeaaaalllly long vacation that never ends. Ugh. we can now state w/ fair certainty that Cutie has become banquet to 50,000 flies. So we’ve spent the better part of two days shooing, swatting and otherwise casting out these winged creatures from our happy home. And in tackling this new and vexing challenge, I have noticed something truly profound.

When a fly gets trapped inside, they follow a particular pattern. First, They zoom from room to room looking for an exit. Second, they find a window. They fly back and forth past the window, assessing the possibility of escape. In a last-ditch effort, they begin to fly into the window, over and over, as though their feeble crashes will at last force the glass and they will be free. Eventually, the exhausted fly succumbs to the inevitable, either crawling up into a ball and breathing its last, OR conversely, overcoming its initial aversion and fear and FINALLY allowing me to gently scoop it up and release it out into the world.

Having watched this scenario play out OH SO MANY times over the past couple days, I have been struck by the similarity between humans and flies. These flies leave you wondering. WHAT THE HELL??!! ARE YOU REALLY SO DAMN STUPID?? I AM HERE – ARE YOU BLIND?! MY HAND! It is GUIDING YOU OUT – SEE THERE!! THE OPEN WINDOW!!!! IT’S RIGHT THEEERRRRRREEE!! I AM TRYING TO SAVE YOU, YOU MORON!!!

When a human becomes trapped – and here I am speaking rather metaphorically – so by this I could mean a myriad of things. But when a human becomes similarly “trapped” w/ no hope of escape, their response is very much like the fly. We are stubborn. We are STUPID. We do not want Help. We don’t NEED HELP. Instead we rush round looking for a means of escape. OH! And there it is. But it’s not, not really. No, it’s an impenetrable hurdle. So we bang out heads against the proverbial glass, frustrating ourselves and every conceivable attempt at freedom. And when that *Great Hand from the Sky* reaches down to help, what do we do?? We fail to see it. Or if we do, we RUN THE HELL AWAY.

Sometimes life presents you w/ a metaphor that you just can’t help but notice. I do not profess to be any more in tune w/ the great Cosmos than the next guy, but I can tell you this whole FLY THING has gotten my attention. The past several days have been pretty hard for me. I do not like vertigo. Yes, it is BAD. Having to steady myself constantly against the rotational force of the planet, whilst everyone else goes about their daily business blissfully unencumbered SUCKS. Feeling shitty always puts me in a slightly philosophical frame of mind. SO. Feeling this way, I would just like to say HEY. HEY BIG GUY. If you are up there, pitying me or watching me with amusement, FEEL FREE TO HELP. I am here, just smacking my head against the glass, so You just FEEL FREE to stick that big ol’ mitt out for me already. As long as you’re not going to smash me dead, I_am_YOURS.

Smokers: the butt of the joke.

I’ve never been one for making New Years Resolutions. I find them helpful, at least in theory, but I think too many people use them half-heartedly. To quit smoking. To lose weight. Exercise. Save money. You catch my drift. All excellent ideas in theory, but once placed in the realm of reality they fizzle out like a campfire in the rain. A resolution requires a whole lot of dedication. TOTAL dedication, in fact, in order for it to succeed. I don’t care what you think, I know. Half-assed attempts are doomed to fail.

I read this cartoon first thing this morning and have reprinted it below. The last panel gets cut off due to spacial constraints – click and you will see it in full. It is worth clicking.

As a former smoker – 10 years, a pack a day – let me tell you, if I hadn’t damn well WANTED to quit when I had, I’d still be smoking today. Why? B/c I enjoyed it. I Liked Smoking. The ritual of smoking. The custom. The timing. I liked it ALL. I had an infinite array of excuses for when and why and where to smoke. Most of them self-prescribed. Many of them social. and all very fun. Meet a friend outside. Stop & smoke. Finish a sandwich. Light up. Drive someplace. Pass the time. Go out drinking. Smoke, smoke, SMOKE!

Unfortunately I never liked the add-ons you get with smoking. The expense. The stench. The staining. The little burnt holes in my [YOU NAME IT]. I was a prisoner to my addiction. Smoking is a vile disgusting habit, let no one persuade you otherwise. Back in the day it was at least a cheaper vice, but nowadays it’s unbelievably expensive. And you will be poorer for it in oh so many ways. Your health, for instance. Yes, you can convince yourself it’s *only smoking*, no big deal, but have you ever known someone with emphysema? My father-in-law has it and it is BAD. He still smokes. He will likely be one of those patients smoking outside a hospital out of their neck hole. If cancer doesn’t claim him first.

Use all the breath mints and perfume you want, you will still smell like an ashtray. This may account for why smokers gravitate toward each other. Not just for commonality, sociality and safety, but for the most practical reason. Would YOU want to kiss that if you didn’t already reek yourself? BLLEECH. Not me. I am forever thankful that I quit smoking when I did, b/c my husband would never have gone out with me had I not. John abhors smoking. Understandable. since he’s had to deal with second-hand smoke since before birth. And lost his mother to cancer while still a child.

He points it out to me, wherever we go. Parents or grandparents smoking with their children. Walking down the street, playing in the park, doing everyday things with their kids WHILE SMOKING. And yes, it does look weird seeing a mom push her kid on the swing while puffing away. I guess I just hadn’t thought much about it. The worst is when we’re driving and John spots a parent in the car next to us smoking with their child/ren. And even worse is when the parent/s is smoking in the car, the kids are not seat-belted AND all the windows are rolled up. I call that the 3-way whammy. If there was any way for him to direct dial Health & Human Services, I think John would have them in his Top 5. This man literally dreams of legislation making second-hand smoke at home a crime.

Everywhere across the US (save in the Big Tobacco South) smokers are no longer tolerated. They ARE the modern day pariahs. The drug-addled junkies at the Methadone clinic up the street are treated with more respect. Smokers have been banned from pretty much everywhere – except casinos. And BOY isn’t that a treat? Even given my big win weeks ago – we still all know gambling’s for chumps. SURE YOU CAN SMOKE! Just step inside, light up and hand over your wallet, schmucko. So where are the smokers, circa 2008? Why, they’re huddled outside, in every type of weather, shivering or sweating, looking hurried and harried, puffing away. It’s pathetic. And I should know, b/c that used to be me.

And now? Well I am a person who understands the plight of smokers, who has walked the line, but now I am a mother. B/c of that, my perspective on many things has changed. I watched John’s cousin smoking at our wedding years ago. It still bothers me. Not the smoking itself, but the fact that she was pregnant at the time. I guess for me, it’s one thing to ruin your own body – it’s your’s after all, but it’s really unjust to do it to someone else. I am really frank w/ my own children (no surprise there). I tell them that I used to smoke. I describe what an awful addiction it is, what it does to your body in the short term, what it can do to your body in the longer term. I tell them that one day it will be their choice to make. I am not naively waiting for their school or the government to tell them the facts. I know one day, some stupid kid is going to offer them a cigarette. Then it will be up to them.

I look at life differently now than when I was 15. Back then, I didn’t understand the bigger picture. I thought I did, and yes, I had a good foundation to build on.  But now that I am an adult, I see life for what it really is. A series of choices, trials and triumphs, shaping us into who we are. I view my body, not as I did at 15 (something to work for ME), but as a vessel I inhabit for a too-short time. Once my body falls apart, that’s it. I don’t have another, and I am done. My spirit, my soul – the part of me that is real – will no longer have a place to reside, and I will pass away. Hopefully to a far better place. Until then, I have to do my best to take care of this weary shell. b/c it’s the only one I’ve got.

My best advice to those who want to quit smoking? Quit. Just DO IT. If you do not WANT to smoke, you do not have to. No one wants you to except those in your life who still smoke, and the Tobacco companies. They are the only ones benefiting from your continued addiction. Quitting will not be easy. Nothing worth anything ever is. But it will make you stronger. Physically, psychologically, spiritually. Quitting is no fun. You will get headaches. You will feel sick. You will not feel like yourself. Good. You will know you are breaking your addiction. When I quit 10 years ago, I made a pact with God. I said God, I do not want to smoke. If you are real and you really do care about me, then damn well help me b/c I can’t do this myself. I threw out my cigarettes, I threw away my lighters, ashtrays, everything. And I stopped smoking. I avoided my friends who chain-smoked. I stopped going out late & drinking for a period of time. I knew I couldn’t do it otherwise. But it wasn’t forever. My real friends were proud of me. They understood. And a few of them tried and successful quit smoking as well. I didn’t give up going out, and I certainly didn’t give up drinking forever, but while I was still in transition, it helped eliminate additional temptation.

I quit, and I did it cold turkey. You do not have to chew gum or do the patch. You don’t need hypnosis. You don’t need to buy anything. What you do need is focus and determination. You have to want to stop smoking more than anything, or at the very least more than you want to keep smoking, and you have to remain totally committed to that decision. You have to be aware of what will bring you down – people, places, situations – and avoid them until the terrible urgency has passed. After that, you will be okay. But you have to stay strong. A year after I quit smoking I would watch a movie and see people smoking and think WOW, wouldn’t that be AWESOME right now? But I never gave in. I knew if I did – if I had just one cigarette – it would be the end of me. I’d be back where I’d started, and I didn’t want that for myself. 10 years later, I am free. It was worth it. I was worth it. And you are too.

An all-too-short weekend.

Hope you all had a fun & relaxing weekend.

Me, I got spoiled. On Saturday my husband took the ladies to a friend’s birthday party, leaving me with 3 hours of complete freedom. WOW. I walked into town. I stopped for a chocolate croissant at a little cafe – all by MYSELF. I went clothes shopping at H&M. I cannot tell you how nice it was being able to try on as many clothes as I liked – so many in fact, that I lost track – with no children beating on each other, pestering me about how bored they are or grabbing my behind. I’d almost forgotten what it was like. And it was AWESOME.

Sunday, a beloved & very brave friend took the ladies to the Camden Aquarium, leaving John & I free to go walking with our dog Max, who absolutely LIVES for these rare jaunts as only child.. We explored a local nature refuge, spending a lot of time off the beaten path.

Back in the day this land used to be a whole town. Streets with shops and homes, and people. Before the Philadelphia redevelopment authority confiscated the land and razed it all to the ground to make way for airport (and Korman Suites) expansion. A very sad story, especially since this area, known as The Meadows, was long home to my husband’s family. The whole place is very surreal. Open fireplugs sprout from the ground like metal flowers, and the ground is littered with half-buried construction debris, tires, empty beer cans and other trash. The oddest thing is how many lifeless shoes we found dotting the landscape. Dozens of them. What could have compelled all these people to not only remove, but LEAVE, their shoes like this?? I half-imagined we’d turn a corner and find a big mound of corpses. It’s a very strange place. Feel free to check out a few photos HERE.

And now it’s MONDAY. again. Back to the workweek. I tend to get a little depressed on Mondays. But sometimes I enjoy feeling maudlin, so I’ve been watching the old Boomtown Rats song on Youtube and sort of reveling in it. Another weekend gone. Oh well.