The presence of me

I wonder where our old ways of being end up after we have let go of them?

We all have habits, attitudes, and personas that we embrace and reflect, calling these features our “personality.” Some people cling to their personality no matter what the cost even when it does not serve them well, but others of us only tolerate our ways of being until something better comes along. Life demands growth. Some of this growth is manifested in physical changes, but most of it is a remodeling of our internal structures out of experience, necessity, or enlightenment. Who we were one moment ago is suddenly awkward and out of place. We discard the facets that no longer fit.

I used to smoke cigarettes. And I wasn’t casual about it either. I was a deadly serious smoker. Two packs a day for 16 years. When I was 28, my life circumstances congealed into this mass of complication that made smoking uncomfortable, inconvenient, and unnecessary.

I was serious about quitting, too. It took me four years and all sorts of experimental new behaviors before I knew I would never pick up another cigarette. I was six months into being a nonsmoker when the realization hit me that I was finished with cigarettes. I no longer desired to inhale smoke and nicotine, nor did I miss twirling a cigarette between my fingers. I knew my withdrawal and adaption to being a nonsmoker was complete when I no longer felt as if I was going to strangle any person who looked at me crossways. At that moment, I discovered that the old wives’ tale was really true: smoking does stunt your growth. I was happy to embrace the new non-smoking me. The me who I became then has lived life in a way that the smoking-me never could have.

But I still wonder where that smoker person I used to be ended up – the one who never went anywhere without cigarettes and a Flick-your-Bic lighter. And where is her cousin . . . the one who walked around flexing her fists and making red-hot eye contact with anyone who dared speak a contrary word?

Are they waiting in some kind of life antechamber for the next unsuspecting soul who requires a method to make it through adolescence? That is why I started smoking in the first place. The high school I went to was more of a teenage zoo where the teachers and principal were sometimes worse than the students. Smoking put me inside a crowd where most of those nitwits did not want to venture. I needed to cope and smoking-me came into my life. Her cousin came along to reinforce her presence. Anytime I did not have a cigarette when I wanted one, the cousin would twitch and snarl until I fed her some nicotine.

I have no desire to ask them to come back, but their absence makes me wonder: what other ways of being am I ready to say goodbye to? And because life is ruled by the third law of Newton’s physics: to every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction, I have to believe that there are other me’s waiting for me to invite them into my life.

Okay, this blog is already too long and I have digressed in three different ways. More to explore in the days to come – I need to visit that antechamber and meet me.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

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4 Responses to “The presence of me”

  1. holessence Says:

    Barbara – I love the “bookends” you used to support this post:

    “I wonder where our old ways of being end up after have have let go of them?”

    and

    “What other ways of being am I ready to say goodbye to?”

    With a fantastic personal example in-between. And then the icing on the cake:

    I HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE OTHER ME’S WAITING FOR ME TO INVITE THEM INTO MY LIFE.

    Ahhhhhhhhhh, great post! You’ve definitely set my brain to thinking today! Have a wonderful weekend.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Laurie — I heard that Mother Teresa founded her center in Calcutta because she “found the Hitler in her.” I have to remember, for each part of myself I find wonderful and endearing, there is also a quality that is obnoxious and frightening. My power lies in choosing the quality I want to express. As always, I very much appreciate your visits.

  2. ntexas99 Says:

    Barbara – I thoroughly enjoyed this post. You may have felt it went in too many directions, but I thought it was written in just the right way. Your way.

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