Independence Day

“I’m dying!” I yelled at Sherry in a moment of utter thoughtless withdrawal a few weeks ago.

“No you’re not,” she shot right back.

Actually, I was. Just not in the way to which I was alluding. That night, 23 days ago, I smoked my last cigarettes back-to-back.

Nancy the smoker died on January 9, 2008. Nancy the non-smoker was reborn the next morning, full of phlegm and an insanely sore throat. I know that there’s a high relapse rate. I also know that I can never, ever have a single cigarette or a single puff of one or I will relapse. Because that’s the way I’m wired, for better or worse. The only way I’ll start smoking again is if I indulge in a behavior that I don’t want to do in the first place.

And despite the passing twinges, that’s exactly how it should be.

It took me over a year of really, really trying to quit to get to this point.

In about three months, I will be 34 years and one week old as I walk across the stage to get my pseudo-bachelor’s degree. I was thinking about that today and realized that I was close to hating myself for LITERALLY half my life for something that wasn’t even my fault.

And moving from that place where I was too afraid to leave my house, too afraid to drive, too afraid to do anything, to this place, a place in which I quit smoking, a place in which I’m about to graduate with a degree in something I’m passionate about, a place in which I’m willing to look at myself honestly and lovingly, a place in which I’m willing to take risks, as small as they may be, is a phenomenal movement for me.

And my life isn’t about one big epiphany-laden moment but rather a series of epiphanies, of les petits morts** and small rebirths that have been occurring over and over for the past five years.

And I am absolutely overwhelmed by the beauty I’ve met in the past five years. From EQ players to church friends, from internet strangers and fellow bloggers to strangers at the Pet Centers and coffee shops, quirky professors to song-spewing Mac-heads, I am grateful for your presence in my life, no matter how transient.

You move me, and so many of you have become part of my movement. Part of my quilt, if you will. And I do not have words to express how important you are or how much you’ve touched me.

And I am grateful.

And while I am moving toward a life where the significance of February 1st won’t be as strong, I hope that I never, ever lose the sense of beauty and gratitude that I’ve managed to acquire since then.

Because it’s taken me a long, long time to get to this point. And losing that gratitude would be worse for me than smoking again for the rest of my life.

** Do you really have to ask?

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