Are cigarettes good for you?

Of course not. They’ll do less for your health, in fact, than most hideous car crashes.   But that’s not the point, is it?  We already know that they’re unhealthy.  This has been drilled into our minds for what may as well be eons and yet 19% of the US smokes.

But whatever.  These are boring statistics that really aren’t what you’d call “unpublished”.  What I’m more interested in are the aspects of the “tobacco entity” that allow this habit to continue.  Why?

Because I smoke.  It’s expensive, has turned what used to be swimmer’s lungs into the biological equivalent of a tired old leaf blower, and in my circles smoking is more deadly to your social status than it is to your mortality.  But I do it anyway, because (here’s the good part)…

Hot or not?

Hot or not?

I enjoy it.  Genuine enjoyment and pleasure happens when I spark one up.  Turkish Royals, pink BIC, hell yeah.  I love it while driving, while eating, after sex, while at work, while hiking, or after I leave the gym (yes, you read that right).  Pretty much any activity I do, besides sleeping, is made better with a cigarette.

I’m addicted, hopelessly.  I say this with a tiny dash of shame, or much less salt than Emeril uses.  I’ve been smoking my entire adult life, for 12 years.  I’m 24 (hello?!).  Before you count years on your fingers I’ll go ahead and tell you that I was 12 the first time I took a puff – a beautiful, blue, billowing…never mind.  Anyway, this despite being brought up in a good family, in an excellent school (where I did well), and in an affluent area of town.

My next point, and this is the big one, is that I don’t know what life is like without cigarettes.  I have never actually lived adult life without them and the thought of not having tobacco at arm’s reach is downright scary.  How could it not be?

I don’t do drugs, I exercise, and I’m very conscious of what I eat.  The juxtapose of cigarettes in my life is nearly laughable.  I know I can’t smoke forever, but for now I shall.  So if you’ll excuse me, I have something to take care of…outside.

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Dating and Mozzarella Cheese Sticks – One In the Same?

 

No.  One is delicious but short-lived and bad for you, while the other is just a snack.

Standing next to the stove, I stared at a cookie sheet with what appeared to be the remnants of a small explosion on it.  You see, they’d started life as mozzarella sticks and ended life, mostly, on the insides of the oven.  Alas, another potential meal had fallen victim to my culinary shortcomings.  Staring at them though, I had a revelation…

I’m not patient.  I just hate waiting.  I want my various tasks, projects, and aspirations to be perfect, right from the start.  This is the truth for my (apparently futile) culinary endeavors, as well as my relationships.  The sad truth is that they won’t be.  I realize this now.

This is probably why I like foods that can be prepared in the microwave.  Nearly instant, more-or-less done well, and guilt-free are how I like things.  This posed a question – As I jumped from one hopeless romance to another, was I searching for something that didn’t exist…a microwavable boyfriend?

It was then that I realized a crucial piece of a successful relationship that I was lacking – patience.  Not with a potential romantic partner, but with myself.  As always with my (perhaps silly) revelations, it came from something seemingly mundane – a terrible-for-you snack food that should probably be avoided (they’re brilliant at White Castle, by the way).

So I’ve made a decision to turn down the heat, be patient, and leave it in the oven.  As for feeding myself, there’s always Qdoba.

What I keep in my closet…

I love my closet.  Just as an action-movie hero has their secret compartment filled with guns, I have my closet.  It is, after all, nearly the same thing if you dress to kill.

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The source of my powers… The bigger, the better.

I was going through some old clothes recently and came upon an interesting flanel shirt.  It matches literally nothing else in my wardrobe, but I keep it around anyway.

My little brother, Max, has always looked out for me.  Whenever I need him, he’s there.  One night, when I was 18, I was hideously manic.  I was that kind of no-longer-in-control manic episodes.  It was just a la-dee-da, “do whatever comes to mind” type of night.  It was spring, but it was still a cold night, and the rain made it feel even colder.  This next part’s where the mania comes in.

Buzzing high up in mania, I decided that I wanted to walk through the woods behind my parent’s house, just to feel the rain against my skin.  Needless to say, I was soaked and freezing before long.

Wandering around in between the trees in nothing but jeans and a t-shirt, I became aware of a voice calling my name.  It was my brother.  When he came up to me I was shivering violently – my lips nearly purple and my skin completely white and pale.  I began to get upset, just as much with the rain as I was with myself.

My brother, wearing the flanel shirt, took it off and put it around me.  It was soaked in seconds but the gesture seemed to calm me a bit.

These days, seeing it in my closet is a reminder of how unstable things used to be, how well things are going now, and the bond that Max and I share.  That’s why I keep the shirt.

A Mercedes tells its story…

Yesterday I pulled on the door handle on my car (pretty mundane stuff).  But instead of opening the door, the handle came off in my hand.  So today I went to a junkyard to get a new one.  While the scrapyard gentleman removed one from a carbon copy of my car, I wandered about.   A Porsche Cayenne caught my attention.  It had apparently caught fire and burnt to a German crisp.

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…to a crisp.

Weaving through the rows of cars, I came across a white Mercedes E-Class.  The view from the rear suggested that the car was only a few years old, and in great condition…or at least it was at some point.  The front, however, was a devastated hunk of contorted metal.

From inside shone the crisp, white, and nearly luminescent color of crumpled airbags.  They seemed to have come out of every nook and cranny.  In the passenger footwell was a can of Axe body spray and a pair of green and yellow Adidas gym shorts.

Behind the passenger’s seat were two cans of RedBull, one empty and one unopened.  I guessed that the driver couldn’t have been much older than me.  Coming around to the driver’s side, there were a few more items that held more of the driver’s (and the Benz’s) story.

The leather inside was a dark tan color.  Looking around the driver’s seat, I noticed many deep-red blotches.  They were the unmistakable color of blood.  In the driver’s footwell, thrown in almost as an afterthought, sat two items which revealed the story’s climax.

A CPR mask, tossed on the floor, hinted at something devastating.  The second item was barely visible, so I opened the driver’s door to get a closer look.  White with more red stains, it was a sheet.

I noticed that the seatbelt was completely reeled in, as it is when no one is wearing it.  Between the mask, the blanket, and the position of the seatbelt, it became evident that someone had taken their last drive in the car that I was peering into.

Suddenly I became dramatically aware of the brevity of a two-ton vehicle plowing down the road, and what can happen if things go wrong.  I was staggered.

Then I began to wonder.  Who was the driver?  Where were they going?  Was it something mundane?  The grocery perhaps?  Or maybe this person was on the way to the gym, ready for an ordinary workout.  While standing there, staring into that Mercedes, another question came to mind which was completely overwhelming.

What were this person’s last moments like?  Images of what may have happened seemed to rush though my mind.  Did they see it coming?  Were they scared?  Did they have any idea how serious the crash was going to be?  Did they even know what hit them?  No matter what, they certainly couldn’t have been prepared for what was about to happen to them.

Walking away from that white Mercedes, I realized a universal truth of life:  We are all, no matter how different in life, going to someday be humbled in the face of death.

To leave things on a positive note, I am pleased to report that my habit of not wearing my seatbelt has been completely kicked.

I am not bipolar, I have bipolar disorder.

Recently I came across a post by a fellow who discussed his dealings with an illness called bipolar disorder (or manic-depression, if you speak the old tongue).  I too have this illness.  Learning to effectively manage this disease is nothing less than developing a science or crafting an art form.  It’s a massive help to share your story or to hear someone else’s, so to the fellow behind bipolarblogging, I commend you.

I’m 23, and I’ve been dealing with manic depression for the bulk of my adult life (since I was 15).  The journey has been interesting, to say the least.  I’m not crazy, but I’ve done some crazy things.  The one thing that perhaps is most lacking when in the throes of this disease is clarity.  It’s clear understanding that has been my biggest tool in managing my condition.  So for those who may not be familiar with the disorder, I thought I would deliver some, in convenient bullet-point form.

  • I’m not bipolar, I have bipolar disorder. 

What this means, in a nutshell, is that I am not defined by this illness.  It’s simply a part of who I am.  It’s very easy to label someone with a mental illness as “crazy” but this is never the case.  I may have done some crazy things in years prior, but as our presidential candidates have shown us, you don’t need a mental illness to do crazy things.

  • I may take medicine, but I still have feelings.  

Glance at this blog with one eye shut for two-point-five and it becomes apparent that I’m pretty gay.  As you would expect, I’ve been privy to many a gay-rights debate.  It’s a hot topic, on both sides of the field. A big part of this is prejudice and discrimination.  I have no problem with this, but at times I wish we could focus on eliminating prejudice towards other groups while we’re at it.  I have faced a bit of controversy in my own life because I’m gay, but it’s nothing compared to the mountain of prejudgment I’ve received for having bipolar disorder.  It’s even come down to a level that can only be described as name-calling.  Call me a “fairy” and I’ll probably brush it off.  But call me “crazy” and, while I may not show it, I can say based on experience that it will hurt.  Deeply. 

  • Sometimes, I hurt.

Bad things sometimes happen, and the result is negative emotion.  One key to understanding bipolar disorder is seeing that with the illness, emotions don’t always have an apparent cause.  Many years ago on a summer day, a friend picked me up and took me for a drive.  This is one of my most relaxing activities, but halfway through our middle-of-nowhere-adventure, I started to cry.  Josh didn’t understand, and asked me, “What’s wrong?”  With tears running down my face, I spoke only the words,       “I hurt.”  

A lonely road, indeed.

The reality was that my neurotransmitters, the chemicals in my brain that affect my mood, were not balanced that day.  As a result I was depressed.  Nothing bad had happened, but I was so deeply in pain.  Recognizing this is one of the most effective tools in my mental toolbox.  So, just as important when dealing with this disorder, as medicine, therapy, or activity, is education.

On living in a hospital…

First, a bit of background:  I moved to a new apartment recently with two friends.  It’s in a beautiful brick building with massive windows and a huge courtyard.  The apartments are all open to the outside, so there are no hallways or common spaces to smell of cat urine and marijuana.  It was gutted and remodeled in 2005, and our place has skylights and 12 foot ceilings.  So freakin sold, right?!

Built in 1903, the building certainly has the aura of an earlier time.  It feels of that “beauty because we can” built-to-last quality of the Victorian Era that I so absolutely adore.  Between the large courtyard and a couple outlying buildings I guessed that it was a factory of some sort.  I guessed wrong.

Totally not a factory.

It was a hospital.  As I search through old newspaper articles from the beginning of the 20th century, it becomes apparent that it had quite a history too.  A woman who was renowned for her dedicated work in the juvenile correctional facility nearby became very ill from “exhaustion” and died here in 1907.

The kicker, though, came in 1913.  A new building (my building!) was added directly to the west of the original building.  It was home to a special ward dedicated to the treatment of patients who had fallen victim to, of all things, tuberculosis.  Upon reading this, I was thrilled.  

Just kidding.  Considering how deadly the “white plague” was, there’s a good chance that someone met an ill fate in the exact spot where I sleep.  Crap.  Although I considered this a bit further and decided I didn’t mind so much, for two reasons:  1) I don’t believe in that ghost crap, and 2) Even if that stuff exists, who says that “ghosts and spirits” are always pissed and mean?  If there is one here, I plan on making friends with it.  Perhaps I’ll ask it to do dishes.

Either way, I’ll keep an eye out for anything unusual or interesting.  Needless to say, if I see anything, you all will hear about it.

But now it’s time for me to call my landlord and have him replace my thermostat.  The switch marked “heat” refuses to stay on, and at times it gets quite cold.

On parting with a great love…

I recently made the decision to part ways with one of the greatest loves of my life:  Smoking.  I decided to stop “cold-turkey”.  Then I left Fantasy Land and caught a train back to Reality.

So I’m tapering back and today (it’s 3pm) I’ve not had a single drag.  This may not be a big deal for some, but for me it’s an epic achievement worthy of a giant bronze monument downtown.

I will admit it’s had some affect on my mood.  I’m a bit…testy.  To help ease this I’ve had my iPod set on Adele and AFI for most of the day.

To adapt a statement of the great philosopher Adelus, 21st century AD, I could gaze at water and set it aflame.

Everyone wish me luck!  Lord, I’ll need it.