Nicotine no longer fits

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I present this photo of me as a 17-year-old premature smoker (though smoking at 17 was legal in North Carolina at the time) in observance of the fact that I quit smoking thirteen years ago today.

I don’t miss it. That’s interesting, because a lot of people do.I guess I’m just one of the lucky ones; the thought of smoking a cigarette now is actually pretty repulsive to me, and I can’t even stand to be around other people when they smoke.

My strategy was as follows:

  1. Stop smoking inside the house. This cut down my consumption pretty drastically and forced me to think about every cigarette I smoked.
  2. Choose a specific “quit date” and observe it.
  3. Use a little of the nicotine gum (though I only remember buying two or three boxes).

After a few months of unpleasantness, everything was fine. I lived through it.

You can too. It may be harder for you. It may be easier. Either way, it will be worth it.

Two weeks from today might be a good choice.

No fair

It’s been six years now since the chain of events that led to the collapse of my nine years of coupled bliss. It was an astoundingly difficult period, but I’m largely over it now and I’m pretty danged happy with my life as I’m now living it. I’ve let go of most of the little frustrations and resentments, I don’t hate my ex, and I have some perspective on the while thing, although I’m the first to admit that this perspective is a bit skewed in my own favor. But I’m pretty well past it.

There’s one nagging thing I can’t let go of, though. He ruined the fucking fair for me.

I always loved going to the the fair. It was one of the things I was most excited about when we moved back to North Carolina. The fairs here are in October, which is the only correct time of year for them. It’s cool out, and I always used to go at night, just like my family did when I was a kid. I loved it all, from the Methodist barbecue tent to the giant pumpkins to the midway to the weird booth-size dioramas in the exhibit hall. It was always my night to feel like a kid again.

I haven’t been to the fair since 2010. The ex and I were already confronting some big problems at that point and were trying to negotiate some compromises. Unfortunately, the ex chose “fair night” to do something that made me very sad in general, and also revealed to me that even though I was trying to make some compromises, a few of the lines I’d drawn were going to be crossed whether I liked it or not. It made me feel like my wants and requests were not really being acknowledged at all, which in turn made me suspect for the first time that our relationship was doomed.

This was something that probably needed to happen. I just wish it hadn’t happened at the fair, thus pretty much casting a pall on something I’ve always really kind of loved and making me associate it with one of the saddest nights of my life. It’s  like asking your spouse for a divorce on his birthday, or running over his puppy on Christmas morning. It sucks and I’ve never quite been able to forgive him this one thing. The whole night bothered me so much that I even deleted all my photos and videos of it so I wouldn’t run across them by accident…which is something that I just don’t do.

It’s funny the little sad things you hang on to even as you manage to eliminate most of them from your life: a song that reminds you of a failed romance when you were twenty, a note from your dad apologizing for something that both of you still remember vividly though you don’t want to admit it, your last photo of a friend before a fatal argument, etc. That this should be the one heartbreaking thing I take away from a failed long-term relationship is both surprising and completely appropriate. As a couple, we both felt and acted like big kids. This was the night that pretty much ended for me.

Happy anniversary to me (another one)

It may seem an odd thing to celebrate, but as of today, I have been single again for five years.

Today in 2011, I was in a pretty rotten place. I’d pretty much known where things were headed for several months; deciding that we weren’t going to live together anymore (or even live in the same time zone) was a pretty unmistakeable sign. But I was still unprepared for how hard it hit me on that Wednesday night when I realized that it was really over after nine very happy years and six really shitty months.

Being “coupled” has never been my natural state, even though there were some times that I really wanted it to be…and even though there was one time where it really did feel right. By the time I met Mark in 2001, I was pretty comfortable–hell, even enthusiastic–about the prospect of remaining a confirmed bachelor for life. One very serious case of love changed all that and I do not for a minute regret that it happened. All in all, it was a very happy time in my life and I was very sad when it ended.

The fact that it ended at a time when there were a lot of other things going on in my life made it much harder, and the fact that I didn’t feel entirely comfortable talking about most of it even with close friends made it even harder.In the end, I was not prepared to make one really big compromise that might have (at best) delayed the end, but would have done so at the expense of my sanity and my emotional health–which looks in retrospect like the very moment I started my recovery. It didn’t seem like it at the time but ultimately, I realized there was a bigger problem in my life/brain/body chemistry/whatever and I began working on that. Pretty successfully, I think.

But I’ve also spent the past five years learning how once again to be that single person I used to love. I think I’ve been pretty successful at that, too. Frankly, I like myself better as a single person. I think most of my friends like me better that way, too. I’m more adventurous, I generally have more fun, and I don’t have to have anyone else along for the ride when I travel (which in itself is justification enough). And the introvert in me has more time for my friends now that most of the limited time I’m willing to allot to other people is not dedicated to just one other person.

I’m also more independent. In retrospect, I gave up a lot of that when I was coupled, just because it was easy to do so, and he was willing to take over a lot of things and make a lot of decisions. And, of course, that really wasn’t fair to either of us. It took me a long time to get back in the habit of taking care of things on my own. I’m still working on it. I think the task of building a very successful and satisfying new career while I was pretty much in “the depths” is what saved me. In fact, I didn’t even miss one day of work, which either means that I really loved my job or that I was scared to stay home the next day. Or both.

Again, I don’t regret having spent nine-plus years in this relationship. Not for a second. I do have some regrets about the end and the aftermath, but that’s to be expected.

Five years later, though, I also don’t regret where I am today. I’m happy, I like my life, and I finally gave the goddamned chair to Habitat.

I think that’s worth celebrating.

Otherstream at 20: The anniversary

So yeah, twenty years ago tonight, I logged onto my dialup connection and used Fetch (which I still use on occasion) to upload the original set of HTML and JPEG files that became the first version of Planet SOMA (now Otherstream). A lot has changed since then–the fact that the site no longer runs on static HTML and I no longer have a dialup connection, for example–but it’s still here after twenty years, even if far fewer people care nowadays, so I guess that’s saying something.

Maintaining this space since 1996 has done some really good things for me. It’s how I met some of my closest friends and it also led pretty directly to a midlife career change for me. It’s gotten me laid several times, and it got me married once…even if not till death did us part. It’s given me a record of an interesting period in my life and helped me frame the way I thought about that period, and it’s resulted in no small number of adventures.

In recent years, the traffic and the content have been diminishing, which is to be expected because the personal website/blog is not the cutting-edge medium it once was, because social media has taken over many of the roles a site like this used to play, and frankly because my content has become less interesting to a wider audience. The proportion of posts that mainly involve me babbling about me has increased, which is not really a good thing.

But I don’t care all that much, really. While I’d be lying if I said that reaching other people is not important–otherwise this would be a diary rather than a public website–it’s always been more about amusing myself than amusing anyone else. And it will probably continue to be that way until I decide it’s time to stop. Until that time, I hope you’ll keep coming by, either here or here or here or even here. And many, many thanks to those of you who already do, and especially to those of you who have been doing so for a long time. I appreciate it.

Back to the fun…

Guns in the house

This article pretty much sums up one of the major reasons I don’t want guns in my house. I speak from experience here, because this almost happened to me once when I was about twenty years old. I was working late, but I came home earlier than my dad expected that night. I got to my room and closed the door, but I had to use the bathroom. When I opened the door, my dad was standing there with a gun pointed at me.

A few of my cousins couldn’t quite understand how willing I was to get rid of my father’s guns when he died. They thought I might like to save them as mementos. Frankly, though, I didn’t really want to remember my dad holding a lethal weapon that was aimed at me. I loved him way too much to hold on to anything that reminded me of that particular incident.

Otherstream at 20: 2015

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It’s kind of hard to curate posts that are less than a year old, but I tried. This is the final year to be covered in my “twenty years” retrospective. I may talk about the actual anniversary tomorrow and try to draw some broad conclusions. Or I may not. You’ll have to check back by to see which it is.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Otherstream at 20: 2013

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Despite an incredibly depressing start, 2013 turned out to be a really good year for me. I relocated to the house where I grew up, traveled a lot, and started having the slightest hint a social life again (which is about all I’ve ever really been able to stand anyway). And then there were the antidepressants–both the pills (which helped a LOT) and the cat with whom I had a brief relationship (which helped more than I might have thought as well). Music was a big help too.

The web stuff was maybe not some of my best ever, but that’s OK. Feeling like a human being again was nice.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Otherstream at 20: 2012

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Let’s just say I visited some very dark places in 2012. I’d love to say I handled it with my usual good humor, but that might be a stretch. Maybe the best thing to say is that I lived through it. And lost weight. What i really hate is that the big entries on the site stopped being about anything other than me. The big anniversary comes on Wednesday.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December