Sunday, October 26, 2008

Smoke-free (Dona)

These days, I feel like Claire Bennet on Heroes. As Ava and C.I. would say, "We'll get to it."

But first, thank yous and apologies. Starting with the readers. Last week's edition ("10/19 - 10/26") resulted in a number of e-mails that fell into three camps: "We hate the edition and blame you"; "A bad edition, but we're there for you" and "An okay edition and we're there for you." For the latter two groups, thank you. For the first group, my apologies.

Two Saturdays ago, I quit smoking. There was no grand plan. If there had been, I would have bought something over the counter or maybe sought out a prescription.

Smokers who e-mailed got replies from me. I am not about to become a Smoke Nazi and start insisting the world be smoke free. I am not going to be 'down' on smokers. I do not think my attempt to quit makes me a better person or a worse person.

I just decided to stop, for a number of reasons. Obviously, C.I.'s own circumstances weighed in on my decision. I was probably thinking about it for a few weeks without realizing it and, when it surfaced, it just surfaced. The night before I quit, I had smoked an entire pack and it was the last one in my carton. Jim noticed that and asked if I wanted him to run to the store for some more smokes?

That's the kind of smoker I was. If I ran out at night, I really needed to go out and get another pack because I couldn't sleep knowing I didn't have a back up. Which explains why Jim looked at me strangely when I told him to forget about going on a smoke run and that we could go to bed.

When I woke up the next morning, my thought was, "I don't want to smoke anymore."

Obviously, that thought had been lurking or I would've sent Jim out for cigarettes the night prior. Why did I decide to stop?

Cancer fears, obviously. Irritation at the lack of public areas in which a person can smoke. I'm sure there are many additional reasons. But it's not like I made a list beforehand or gave it a great deal of thought.

I just felt ready to stop smoking and I did.

I may smoke again. A) A huge number of ex-smokers 'slip.' B) I made decide I want to smoke again.

I am not a poster girl for quitting smoking.

The first Saturday was very difficult. And it only got more difficult that night when we started working on the edition. It was so difficult that I was honestly highly nervous about this weekend.

My input last weekend was minimal. I'd made it through the day okay -- largely by staying busy -- but, when it was time to start writing, I was very aware that I had just stopped smoking and it was very difficult. I was craving and, when I wasn't craving, I was convinced that if I just had a lit cigarette in my hand -- even if I didn't smoke it! -- I'd have a ton of ideas, suggestions, etc. It was more difficult to write cold turkey than anything else.

I think everyone who participated last week but I really need to single a few people out.

First up, Elaine. She asked early on (when she was on the phone) if I wanted to stop and, upon hearing me say 'yes,' she made it very clear to everyone (including Jim) that her primary interest during the writing edition was me. Several times, we broke from the conference call to speak one-on-one on our cells. Elaine really helped me in more ways than I can say. She listened, she offered input and, mainly, she repeatedly called out anyone (even Jim) if a comment could be construed to suggest that any difficulty in the writing was my fault. It was my fault, I will own that, but I greatly appreciated Elaine's defending me and also her repeated statements about how my quitting smoking was more important than any edition.

Second, Betty. Mid-way through the edition, I ended up going to bed. I was just too jittery, craving too badly and wasn't accomplishing anything. One of the few moments during the writing of a piece that was enjoyable came via Betty who made a joke I don't even remember now but I do remember laughing so hard and then realizing I was actually laughing leading me to conclude that I might make it smoke-free. It was shortly after that when I took Elaine's suggestion to take a long, hot bath and go on to sleep.

Third, Ava and C.I. With Jess, the two of them had to attend a party. This was very much a 'had to.' Due to that and other factors, Jim, Ty and I had told Ava and C.I. that they would only need to write their TV commentary and should enjoy themselves. Stay out late, we said. Drink as much as you want. They took our advice. However, when they joined us, they found out that things had changed. Ava and C.I. did contribute their TV commentary ("TV: The fakes") but they also ended up writing the editorial ("The Do-as-I-say-not-as-I-whore movement (Ava & C.I.)") and working on various drafts that made it up here (including an intensive editing job -- according to Mike -- on "Remember New Hampshire!" and "We chose our side and we're sticking"). I'm very sorry they (and Jess) didn't get their weekend semi-off (Ava and C.I. are the only ones who can claim to have worked on every edition of Third, they have not missed a weekend writing session since the site started in January 2005).

Fourth, Ty. Ty has a sweet tooth. Ty purchases his writing edition snacks ahead of time. He only eats sugary treats during the writing editions. Because I was giving up smoking, Ty gave up his sugary snacks. I appreciated that. I know he felt as odd as I did. Nothing seemed to add up for either of us. Jim noted, "Ava and C.I. (who showed up late) walked in to say it was like being trapped in the episode of Kate & Allie." They were referring to when Susan St. James character quits smoking for the new year and Jane Curtain's character gives up sweets. Neither Ty or I knew that episode but Ava got a copy of it for us and we did laugh watching it Thursday. Thank you to Ty.

So I've owned my actions that caused turmoil and I now need to add something else. To some degree, what you got last weekend was a preview. Having read over the edition late in the week (after reading e-mails on it), I saw that to a large degree what was going on was stuff we'd talked about doing. I don't mean in terms of stories, I do mean in terms of the thrust for this site (which we consider an online magazine).

Take "Movie quotes" which Mike, Wally, Jim, Cedric and Jess worked on. We've talked about quizzes and about entertainment features for some time. Had the Democratic Party nominated an actual Democrat (or even just a candidate who really planned to end the Iraq War), this online magazine would be much different today. We'd also be very different if Panhandle Media had done their job. But instead of telling the people that Emperor Barack had no clothes on, they made fools out of themselves gushing, "The rock star is fitted!"

Take Ava and C.I.'s wonderful TV commentaries. They are writing, they have written, these amazing commentaries in 2008 that call out the things that other cannot or will not. They've charted the total corruption and collapse of Panhandle Media and much more. But that's really beyond the scope of what they ever intended to do. 2008 (and Jim!) imposed the expansion upon them.

In the summer of 2005, while working on an edition, C.I. shocked us by stating that The Common Ills would go dark in November 2008 and that the illegal war would still be going on. It was the latter point we argued with her about. It was the summer of Cindy Sheehan, it was the summer when even War Hawks like Rachel Maddow had to begin refashioning themselves for public consumption. Surely, by 2008, the illegal war would be over.

There are, what, nine or so weeks left in the year?

You see an end to the Iraq War?

Me neither.

Sites going dark? C.I. was tired and needed an end point to work to. We understood. We understood that TCI might go dark after the 2008 election. We were fine with that.

We also understood that it might continue. If it did, what would happen to this site? What would we do here? These are questions we've addressed over the last three years. One thing we were agreed upon was that we would do some lighter fare. Last week's edition probably reflects that better than anything else. Hopefully, the features would be more sharply written but that isn't really different from our plans if we continued past the November election.

And we will be continuing.

September 14th, Ava and C.I.'s "TV: The Fringes" included this: "When we shared that judgment with a writer for the show, we were asked to wait until the mid-season to review the show (changes are promised -- don't believe it). We're more than happy to wait because the fringe was what really interested us. Not the show, not the writing, the fringe. Or, as some might call it, the lunatic fringe." Ava and C.I. write two TV commentaries for El Spirito each week, they write radio commentaries for Hilda's Mix and they write here and have a ton of offline things to do (including speaking which they're back on the road doing). They included that to note that they would wait to review Fringe at the request of a friend. They agreed and didn't think anything of it. They included it and didn't think anything of it. Readers got it immediately: The site was continuing.

At least through mid-January, this site will continue. Ava and C.I. apologized and said they'd just do a weekly TV commentary after the election through mid-January but we're all fine with continuing. What's it going to be like? We don't know but we're not eager to maintain the level we've done in 2008.

That's a great deal of work and, remember, I'm the one always screaming, "Short pieces! Short pieces!" So we've talked about the sort of focus that last week's edition had. We may not end up doing that. 2009 may roll around and we may discover we need to hit even harder than in the past. Who knows?

I don't. What I do know is that I felt very little last week.

We're back to Claire on Heroes. In one episode this season, she's spoken of how she doesn't feel human because she's indestructible and can't feel pain. Two Saturdays ago was awful. When I woke up the next Sunday, it was okay. All last week, however, it was very weird. Everything seems a little different without cigarettes. There are times when I feel like my feelings are less keen. I often feel as if I'm underwater and moving in slow motion. It is an adjustment, to say the least.

Kat deserves a special thank you for the week prior, during the writing edition, lying to me and saying I'd just be like her from now on. I'd grabbed my keys and was planning to go get some smokes. Kat told me to wait and swore that, like her, I'd be able to smoke from time to time. A lie but a kind one that got me to put my keys down. If I smoke again, I'll be smoking like I was before.

I'm not Kat. She can have a cigarette every six months and leave it at that. I am a two-pack-a-day smoker. And to start back up would mean going back to that.

The thing that I feared most of all was hurting another writing edition and facing another writing edition. After nearly four years of these weekly editions with cigarette (and diet cola) in hand, it really feels weird to take part in these all night writing editions without a cigarette. Every thing's different now, as 'Til Tuesday once sang. And it feels very different.

I've singled out some for individual thanks but, along with thanking our readers, let me thank Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Ty, Jess, and Ava,

Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,

Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,

C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,

Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),

Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,

Mike of Mikey Likes It!,

Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,

Ruth of Ruth's Report,

Wally of The Daily Jot,

and Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ.
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