“Gonna get it right this time…”

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Mark “Rent-boy” Renton: Never again, Swanney. I’m off the scag.
Swanney: Are you serious?

Mark “Rent-boy” Renton: Yeah, no more. I’m finished with that shite.
Swanney: Well, it’s up to you, man.
Mark “Rent-boy” Renton: Gonna get it right this time. Gonna get it sorted out. Gonna get off it for good.
Swanney: I’ve heard that one before.  – Trainspotting.

At one point, I simply couldn’t grasp the idea of lighting up a little white stick and inhaling the fumes. At one point I was running across the finish-line of the 5FM Energade triathlon. At one point I found myself hitting the wall just before the 39-kilometer mark during the Sun-to-Sun marathon; and somehow found the determination to walk the last 3 kilometers to the finish line. At one point I cycled to work every day; doing my 12 kilometer commute every morning, and again every afternoon. At one point I would regularly take an early-Sunday morning cycle-ride from Bloemfontein to Welkom, a distance of about 80 kilometres, just to buy a can of Coke at a filling-station, then cycle all the way back to Bloemfontein. Just for kicks. These things happened more than 10 years ago.

Fast-forward 10 years later, and I’m an underweight 35-yr old man with a killer tobacco-habit, two scars from past lung-operations, a defaulted gym-membership and fitness-levels that make me the envy of only the obese.

A lot has changed…

I have no idea why I started smoking. Most people start in their teens; I made it through my teens without a hitch,  and started smoking at age 24. I cannot remember how nor why. All in know is that I was surrounded by a close group of friends, who were all smokers, and I spent much of my night-life in smoke-filled night-clubs. Funny enough, I was always interested in some chick who was a smoker, and felt like a loser with my sober habits…

fightclub1

Before long, I was buying my own smokes and looking real cool. There’s a big difference between walking into a night-life establishment with your hands in your pockets versus strutting in with a smoke hanging from your jaw. It’s just how it is…

fightclub2

In 2009 I woke up one morning and couldn’t feel my left arm. I walked the 2 blocks to the nearest clinic, but had to stop every now and again to catch my breath. I was walking slowly; but was breathing like I had just finished a 100-metre dash. I was wheeled in to the emergency unit, and diagnosed with a spontaneous pneumothorax. In a nutshell, a hole had developed on the surface of my left lung, air had seeped into my chest cavity, creating an air-bubble that grew so big my left-lung had collapsed.

Wake-up call!

Under local anaesthetic, they inserted a tube through two ribs under my armpit, and my chest deflated like a tyre that just got shanked. PSHHHH! Hellooo pleurodesis! Two days later I was back at work. Still smoking, but feeling good again. I figured so many people smoke for 30-odd years before getting complications… it must’ve been a fluke. Maybe it would’ve happened even if I wasn’t a smoker anyways…

Astounding, the power of self-bullshitting.

Two years later I walked up a flight of stairs at work, got to the top, and was out of breath. Just finished a 100m dash – out of breath. Again. Drove to hospital, knowing exactly what the diagnosis would be: Spontaneous pneumothorax. A thoracic surgeon was called in, and I went under the knife. Full-on pleurectomy. Basically, they, cut open your rib-cage, insert a type of jack to pry the ribcage open, the surgeon then insert his hand into the chest cavity, cuts out defective surfaces of the lung (blebs), then rubs talc-powder on the surface of the lung, and against the inside of the ribcage. This forms a rough bruised surface, so the lung binds against the ribcage for the next few weeks…

Four painful months of therapy later, and I was back at work. Smoking.

I know.

Well, here I am, readers. 3 Years later and a pack-a-day smoker. If you’re a smoker, and an honest one too, you might understand. The power of addiction. It’s not just a chemical thing. The nicotine-dependency is just a part of the addiction. The other part is mental. The small part of your brain that’s so good at reasoning and justifying all the good reasons why “only one more smoke” wouldn’t be as bad…

My maternal grandfather died of throat-cancer. He was a smoker. My Uncle David  died of emphysema. We buried him about 4 years ago. My Uncle Toepie died of stomach cancer. He was a smoker. We buried him about 7 months ago.

If you still don’t understand the power of addiction, consider that whenever I went to visit uncle David, I’d chat to him in his lounge, then take regular smoke-breaks outside, while he sat there with his oxygen-tank and mask over his face. At uncle Toepies funeral we stood at the graveyard,  smoking while hobnobbing with the family.

It’s insane!

I’ve tried quitting using patches, gum, etc. I’m still a smoker. My colleague (an ex-smoker) once told me that the only reason why I couldn’t quit was because I hadn’t REALLY resolved to quit. Half-assed quitting will give you just that: half assed quitting, he said.

Three months ago I resolved to quit at the end of 2012. That’s today. I’ve mulled over it, prepared myself mentally for it. Today is the day.

Right now I have two packs of Stuyvies, and a bottle of Vodka. Tonight I party. Tonight I say farewell to the worst year I’ve ever had. Tonight I finish my smokes, as well as my smoking-habit. Tomorrow will be shit. Holy crap, it will be shit. The next day will be worse. And the day after will be worse. Then the worst is over. From the fourth day onwards, it’s a matter of maintaining the resolution to not have another puff.

If not for me, then for these two munchkins.

Nunus

They deserve better…

Day-by-day updates to follow…

Happy-new-years everyone!!!

“… I most certainly had nothing to do with it.”

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There was no such thing as society and if even there was I most certainly had nothing to do with it.” – Mark Renton (Trainspotting)

I cannot grasp the allure of team-sports. All of them. If it involves wheels, balls, bats and nets; and depends on a collective whole to achieve its primary goal… Let’s just say I’d much rather watch flies fuck.

Soccer, for example. It’s a ball. On a manicured lawn. Overpaid men kick it around all the time. Yes, I know a goalie and a net is involved in there somewhere; but all in all, it’s a pretty droll affair. The only activities I could ever find some kind of enjoyment were solitary sports. Running, cycling, swimming, paragliding, and a few others. Having to depend on other people to enjoy my pastimes just pisses me off. And watching people politicize sports for financial gain pisses me off even more. I’m sorry, society. It’s how I roll.

The 2010 soccer-mania that gripped South Africa left me wondering what the hell is wrong with people. Face it, South Africa, the only benefits we got from the FIFA World Cup were temporary in nature. It cost us billions in revenue. We could not afford it. We have millions of South Africans living in abject poverty, and a few billion rands would have made a pretty decent dent in our rapidly deteriorating socio-economic quandary.

I once had a neighbor. Let’s call him Jeremy Dumbass. Dumbass had a wife and 2 kids. They were not financially secure. At all. So much so that my household regularly donated the odd grocery-item to help them out. But when Dumbass invited a few friends over, whisky flowed. And it pissed me off to no end, knowing that money is being spent on financially burdensome activities with temporary benefits, while the Dumbass-fridge would be empty the next morning.

Back to South Africa. The collective powers that be, let’s call them the Dumbass-Conglomerate; convened and did everything in their power to bring the FIFA Soccer World Cup to our shores. At the time, spiralling joblessness, HIV, poverty, crime and corruption was the order of the day. Miners were striking, and public hospitals were either understaffed or extremely ill-equipped. The Dumbass-Conglomerate had a choice: Spend a few billion rands on social upliftment; or spend it on a 1-month long soccer spectacle.

The choice was made.

And here we are.

My heart bleeds for children who are currently being educated under trees. I cringe at the thought of children not being adequately educated because government never managed to deliver text-books. HIV-AIDS is still rife, with no decent adult-education programs in place. Millions living in squatter-camps, while the chosen ones live in luxury.

I could go on and on; but you get the jist.

Skewed priorities + dumb public + profiteering politicians = modern-day South Africa.

It’s a farce; and if you where cheering the games, you played a part in all of it.

South Africans, you’d better wake the fuck up!

“…would I go to hell?”

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Eskimo: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”
Priest: “No, not if you did not know.”
Eskimo: “Then why did you tell me?”
– Annie Dillard, ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’

I am supposed to label my 6-year old offspring. I have a problem with labelling my 6-year old offspring. Especially when it comes to religion; this labelling thing with regards to my 6-year old offspring.

...waiting for my label...

…waiting for my label…

While completing his enrolment form for grade 1 next year, my eyes fell upon the word: “Religion”, followed by a blank space. Not a long blank space. Just short enough to write it, get it over with, without giving a sermon.

I gave a one-word sermon. “None”, I wrote.

Amazing how a single word can make said offsprings mother burst forth like Mount Doom, spewing forth her wrath and animosity toward anyone who would commit a vile crime such as this. An argument ensued, and this is how it went. Word-for-word. Sort of.

She: “What do you mean, “None”?”
Me: “I meant what I wrote”
She: ” He’s Christian”.
Me: “He is? Shit, I wasn’t aware that my son had excepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal saviour.”
She: “You’re just being difficult”.
Me: “Nope, I’m being sensible. He’s 6. What the hell does he know about life, mortality, the afterlife and wrathfull gods?”
She: “He believes in God!”
Me: ” He also believes in the Tooth Fairy. Did you pop some money in his shoe last week? He held onto that tooth for dear life, you know.”
She: “Stop changing the subject! Your son is Christian! Except it! You can’t force your beliefs onto your children”.
Me: “Uhm, speaking of forcing beliefs onto…”
She: “Just because you have issues with God doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be a Christian!”
Me: “What the fuck does he know about Christianity?”
She: “I told him about God.”
Me: “Mo’ told me about Allah that one time. Does that make me Muslim?”
She:”I don’t care.”
Me: “He’s never been in a church in his life!”
She: “He has! Last year when we were in Nelspruit, I took him with that Sunday. Plus my parents took him on his previous visit. I’m writing “Christian”. He needs a solid foundation to give him moral values.”
Me: “Morals from the book that’s all incest, war, genocide, violence, sexism, racism and stuff?”
She: “The last part is all about love”.
Me: ” Oh yes, right. Make him Christian, then.”

Thank God I’m single.

“…all those long-winded ideas…”

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“We start off with high hopes, then we bottle it. We realise that we’re all going to die, without really finding out the big answers. We develop all those long-winded ideas which just interpret the reality of our lives in different ways, without really extending our body of worthwhile knowledge, about the big things, the real things. Basically, we live a short disappointing life; and then we die. We fill up our lives with shite, things like careers and relationships to delude ourselves that it isn’t all totally pointless.” – Trainspotting

What’s the point of living a long and fruitful life without leaving some kind of legacy? Something profound to last a generation or more. Something that changes convention. An invention of sorts. A simple idea that brings about profound change to the lives of millions unknown.

I’ve been racking my brain, trying to come up with an idea. Anything worthwhile, that could change lives and experiences.

So far, my best idea to date can be summarised as follows:

Edible glitter + Baby-food = Better nappy-changing experience.

You’re welcome, world. My work here is done.

“… this terrible affliction…”

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“Thank you, your honor. With God’s help I’ll conquer this terrible affliction.” Rent-boy  (Trainspotting)

It happens over and over again. Get excited about something. Get invested in it. Spend time and money on it. Then the excitement fades away. And you’re left with nothing but the gear and pathetic bragging-rights that you once did it.

It’s happened to me with the marathoning, cycling, triathlons (only 2 completed), the paragliding, the painting, the photography, the list goes on. So easy to fall in love with an activity, and just as easy to fall out of love with it again. I envy people who can stick to something great for life.

Wierdly enough, activities that are bad for you, stick like glue. Take my smoking, for example. Two lung-operations later, thousands of hard-earnt rands blown out as toxic smoke, multiple teeth-cleaning visits to the dentist, too many occasions being in public and a bit too concious of my scent (stench?), boxes of Nicorettes (any idea how much that shit costs?!?) and here I am. Still. Smoking.

I’m quitting. Yet again. “This time, for realsies!” I can’t help but smile. Friends and family, for some reason, regard me as a person with a higher-than-average intelligence; but this one is a complete stumper. All I can say is:” This addiction shit is strong, boy!”

Enough depreciating talk for today.

I’m off to my first rock-climbing lesson, courtesy of Southern Rock Climbing Centre. Will this be another activity to invest in, only to get bored someday?

Queue the Rent-boy quote…

“…then it’s gone forever…”

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trainspotting-screenshot“Well at one point you’ve got it, then you lose it, then it’s gone forever. All walks of life.” – Sick Boy (Trainspotting)

You start out with high hopes. Fantasies of imminent success. You work hard to attain your goals; and once you have them, for some reason you slack off. You suddenly find yourself accustomed to that false sense of comfort; that mediocre feeling of contentment. You pat yourself on the back. Revel in your miniscule achievements. Bask in the self-illuminated glory of the little completed hurdles, that you tend to forget to prepare for life’s next hurdle. And the next. And the next.

Before long you’re okay with things. You start choosing the path of least resistance, in every facet of your life. And at that point you start the inevitable backslide. The backslide isn’t much a result of NOT doing the right things to make progress. It’s more just not doing anything at all.

At that point the lethargy sets in. That place where you’re not being challenged in any way anymore. And being okay with it. People call it a rut. I call it a shit-hole. It’s the place you fall into, right before you hit the shit-pile at the bottom.

Sometimes, you find yourself unable to do things you were once talented at. Talent squandered away by focusing on some other activity which chiseled away at your natural-born abilities. Like the artistically inclined, who as a teenager could sketch his classmates’ faces out of memory; only to find a career in architecture: that rigid form of art, bound by do’s and don’ts, legislation, reality and critical-thinking. Only to find himself now really adept at drawings straight-lines free-hand, having forgotten the art of creating the irregular form on a flat sheet. The inspiration for limitless art long-forgotten.

And you realise; you lost it all the moment you lost your inspiration. And you decide to stand up again. But choosing the path of least resistance has become part of your psyche now. It’s going to take monumental self-control to climb out of the shithole, to bask in the sunlight of contentment once again. 

Being inspired is easy. Staying inspired; now that’s another story altogether.

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