Why wanting a cigarette is like believing that my ankle is on my shin

February 8, 2007

Okay, for those of you already weary of the Beth-stopping-smoking saga, I could apologize. But I won’t (I’m feeling cranky, sorry). About 36 hours without smoking, by the way. I realize that a blog truly is — to some extent — an outpouring of my day-to-day life, with hopefully some reference point or universal application for others who read. Thus, because my efforts to stop smoking absorb such a huuuuge amount of my mental energies, I find myself writing about it.

In other words, it’s all about me.

You see, the thing is? A gigantic part of me doesn’t want to quit smoking. I like smoking. I like how it makes me feel. I like how it fulfills my oral fixation without adding extra calories. Quite frankly, other than the occasional bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia (!), I find smoking pretty damn good.


The other thing? I really do want to quit smoking. I don’t want to be beholden to anything or anyone but Jesus. And as I’m suffering through the process of quitting, I realize just how much of an idol this habit has become. And I realize how much God always, always, always seeks my best. And smoking isn’t best for a whole variety of reasons that we all understand.

So the conundrum here — how to reconcile these two opposite desires. And then, in one of life’s little moments, the truth hits me.

Dan comes out of his room this morning, zipping up way-too-short jeans (which also happen to have a hole in the knee — an issue I thought might be relevant on a sub-zero day).

“Dan, honey, I think those jeans are a little short for you.”

“They’re fine, Mom,” he says, already beginning to walk away. Ah, the authority I wield.

“Um, no Dan, they’re really not fine. They’re too short. And besides, you have plenty of jeans that fit,” I add, wondering how these jeans even remained in the drawer and how far down he dug to find them.

“But Mooooooommmmm,” he whines (oh yes, my friends, he whines). “I liiiiike THESE jeans.”

Yeah, this is going well. But I have made a solemn vow to myself on behalf of my children that I will not let them dress like idiots. As a former nerd who well remembers polyester pants (and they were RED! RED, I say), I simply will not let my six year old son wear what amount to pedal pushers to school.

“Honey,” I try again in my extra calm voice, “They don’t even reach your ankle.”

“Yes they do!”

“No they don’t.”

“Yes the do!”

“No, really, they don’t.” (For those of you looking for tips on parenting, take note: the above is not a particularly productive line of conversation. Yet it can go on for HOURS if not stopped.)

“MOM!!!!” he yells at this point. “They reach my ankles,” he says, pointing to a spot below his knee, somewhere along his shin.

Silence for a moment while I absorb that my son doesn’t truly know where his ankle is. I don’t see a career ahead of him in orthopedics.

“Dan, that’s not where your ankle is,” I begin.

“Yes it is,” he says, gesturing more wildly at his shin.

“No, honey, it’s not.”

“Yes it is!”

“No, really, no.”

Okay, you get the idea. Despite the fact that I point out his ankle (bare below the hem of the jeans), Dan is not to be dissuaded from the belief that his ankle is, in fact, below his knee on his shin. Like I’ve gone through 39 years of life and broken each of my own ankles, and I have no idea as to their anatomical placement? Like I regularly lie about body parts?

But he believes, really believes that his thinking is correct in this matter. He feels like his ankle is on his shin. Someday (heavens, I hope), his false belief will be reconciled to the truth of ankle location. You see where this is going? I know, you probably thought that I had wandered astray, but this microcosm of my day actually applies to smoking.

I believe, really believe on one level that I should just keep smoking, that it will help me feel better about life, that it will do no long term damage to me. Maybe to others, but not to me. And so I want to smoke. But my beliefs, my feelings, are utterly nonsensical. They are as ass-backwards as Dan’s beliefs, though Dan does, at least, seem clear on the location of that body part.

So it’s a matter of believing truth instead of falsehood. Well, crap, doesn’t so much of life come down to this? Believing what God says instead of what I want. Denying my flesh so that my spirit can flourish. Boy, that metaphor seems apt to me right now. My task, then, is to choose to believe what I do not feel. No easy task, that.

But at least I know where my ankle is. And Dan wore longer jeans to school. Great success for me!


4 Responses to “Why wanting a cigarette is like believing that my ankle is on my shin”

  1. kjames said

    i love this post. also? feel free to keep blogging about quitting smoking. it’s good to hear what you’re thinking about/dealing with. plus, it’s your blog, and i’ll read it pretty much no matter what you write about. 🙂

  2. Erica said

    Very Nice!
    Great Success!

    Sure, smoking may be an “empty well” and a “sin of choice,” but is quoting Borat the same thing?
    I’m still pondering that.
    In the meantime, thank you for pandering to my addiction to quoting Borat.

    Come here, gypsy. Give me your tears.

    Borat aside, wow, you totally hit the nail on the head. I totally believed those cookies and that school lunch instead of the much healthier lunch I brought with me would make my life much better today, but, you know? They really haven’t. Now I just regret it. And if it weren’t for this dizzy, medicated migraine I have, I would totally have to go to the gym to make up for it.


    We CAN believe the truth. WE CAN!
    Oh God, help us, cause we can’t without you making us to do it.

  3. Deneen said

    Oh, sweetie. I’m so darn proud of you. I mean, quitting an addiction is hard, but nothing when held up against winning a “Uh-huh” “Nu-huh” match with Dan.

    You can totally do this, Beth.

    And this post? It sent me into paroxysms of laughter. Gales, I tell you. So, now, having used a fantastic bit of vocabulary, I can go to sleep happy. As soon as I have a bowl of ice cream. I’ll totally quit tomorrow.

  4. bethkoruna said

    K. — you’re sweet. I always read your stuff too.

    E. — Do you know that I haven’t actually seen Borat? I just love the phrase, “Great Success for me!” But whatever it means, you can have my tears any time. Can I call you gypsy too?

    D. — You need to get your own blog, you’re so stinking funny. But wait. Then people might read you instead of me. You know, we can’t have too many Christian twin mothers with twisted sensed of humor in the blogosphere (gosh I hate that word). And I MUST give you your due credit for the title of this post. As always, you’re my inspiration. 😀

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