2011 was an amazing year. It may be too soon to declare, but I suspect it will go down as one of the most formative of my life. The crescendo built like an ocean wave, peaked in November, and by December, it all came crashing down, leaving me drenched and confused in a pool of standing water littered with the fractured pieces of what I had come to call my "self."
But the deluge that swept my life clean, though it may have left me battered, has been the greatest blessing. The sudden lightness, the liberation, of having so much burden so violently ripped away is a high that I had never known, and I rode that high for a good, long while, alive with the thrill of destruction and attuned to the buzz of rebirth beneath the fresh, new ground. But for we among the unenlightened, a high is not eternal bliss. And even at our highest, we know, one day, we must come down. The heightened senses falter, the moods begin to dip, and soon enough we're right back where we started, or if we payed attention, just the tiniest bit wiser than before.
Eventually, the wreckage settled and the debris was cleared away, but now that I have landed on solid, albeit muddy ground, the vantage has shifted to eye level and the surrounding emptiness unsettles me. A destructive pattern of behavior has emerged and I believe it to be a response to the elusive nature of my own bliss and the disturbing quiet of the clarity it affords.
This is a tantrum. I am stirring up the muck.
It is true that I live in the live music capitol of the world -- a party town to be reckoned with -- but, like any good Ashtangi, I mostly keep to myself. (Note: I am fully aware that I use my practice as a way to justify my aversion to socialization.) But once in a while, when the moon is full or the night is otherwise romantic, I do venture out.
About a month ago, a dear friend of mine took me to a great little spot. We drank for hours, ran into old friends, heard incredible music, and pretty much had a great time. Well into my fourth beer (a LOT for me), my friend pulled out a pack of smokes and HOLY LORD! They looked so good.
My friend, knowing full well that I had quit smoking some time ago, did not offer me a cigarette....
I asked for one. He obliged. And it was AMAZING. Like... Better-than-sex-oh-my-fucking-GOD AMAZING!
I felt awful the next morning, but it was nice to be able to enjoy a smoke at the time and not feel threatened by the cigarette, as if it had any sort of power over me. Weeks went by without another thought about it until, a week ago, I found myself out for beers with some work friends. Right around the time beer number one-too-many was ordered, I remembered that cigarette. I wanted one. Badly.
I bought a pack.
I had two that night, took them home and, not knowing what to do, put them in my freezer. I noticed that simply keeping them in my freezer made them so much more prevalent in my consciousness. Throughout the week, I would think of cigarettes at random.
Last night, in a post-teaching energetic slump, I took another smoke from the pack. I stood outside and gazed at the city-dim stars, burning Camel in one hand and glass of red wine in the other. I smoked slowly and swayed in the cool night as that familiar nicotine high took a firm hold of my brainstem, slid down my spine and through my limbs with the seductive patience of a confident lover.
Five minutes later, it was done.
My skin turned cold. My numb heart echoed with an artificial rhythm inside my deadened chest. I thought of all the years spent feeling just like this -- somehow used, betrayed, abused. I looked back on the many years of life lived full of poisons masquerading as emotion, years with soulless patrons masquerading as my friends.
I went inside and retrieved the pack of Camels from the freezer. Then I doused them in the sink and threw them all away. Somewhat to my own surprise, I felt no sense of loss.