MAR04_01

Life Without a Cigarette

March 4th, 2013 – my first full day without a cigarette in as many years as I can remember. I can remember those first 3 or 4 weeks pretty clearly; I won’t lie, they weren’t easy. At times they were hell. And yet, somehow here I am a year later: happier, healthier, and I haven’t had a single ‘relapse’ cigarette. Not even a drag.

This isn’t a reformed smoker rant – I hate those people, too – it’s something that I truly hope just helps ONE person go through this crappy quitting thing. That would make me happy.

Before I tell you how I made it, I think first I’ll share with you who I was. I was the ultimate smoker. I’m sure every smoker says that, but I truly was. I believed I would die smoking. Quitting was way too hard – I had tried countless times – I enjoyed smoking so much, I had convinced myself dying from some crappy smoking-related illness was worth it. I had even started mentally preparing for it… I couldn’t convince myself I was “young” any more, but I could convince myself that I had had a pretty wonderful life, and it could end tomorrow and I’d be satisfied. I smoked a pack a day at my worst, and most of a pack any other day of the year. I smoked with coffee in the morning, and sometimes while I was making the first coffee. I smoked while I walked to the train station, and while I walked from central to work. I smoked another quick one before I started. I called morning tea “smoko” because that made it okay. I smoked several at lunch, and anything after knock-off was fair game. I smoked when I was busy, and I smoked to  kill boredom. I smoked to kill hunger, and later when I’d eaten, I’d smoke because I was too full. I smoked just before bed (but never IN bed) but occasionally got up through the night to have one. Some of that is shameful – but this is the honest me, and I know it’s plenty of other smokers, too.

MAR04_02

Smoking makes you a heinous butt-breath’d chemical dependent zombie.

I don’t even know what triggered my very sudden ‘attempt’ at quitting a year ago. I had already tried so many times… the ‘cutting down’ method (that never works) – patches, purging — blah blah blah. I did the right things, but I never once thought the right things. Then, in March 2013, with no great planning, preparation or fanfare, I said a few things to myself.

I am sick of paying for cigarettes. I am sick of putting money in the pockets of rich men who keep making this shit for me. I am sick of scratching around for a few spare dollars when things are tight, only to spend them on smokes. I am sick of feeling so utterly desperate for something that I know will kill me. I am so utterly tired of remembering how fit and healthy I used to be, yet knowing in my heart I’d struggle to sprint 100 meters. I love smoking – but I’m just so utterly sick of needing it, wanting it, knowing I’ll die for it. I’ve had enough.

There were no grand plans or schemes this time. No promises, no goals, no pressure. I was done and that was that. That doesn’t mean it was easy; it was hell. The cravings came… but they went, too. They came hard and fast, but they went away, too. They left me sweating and swearing and raving and desperate – then suddenly they were gone. Ebbs and flows – those first three or four weeks weren’t easy, but that’s all it was. 28 days, and my body was free. Now I had to get that shit out of my head.

Well, I can honestly say 365 days later: I’m still not 100% there. Every 4 or 5 weeks I get a bit of a pang. I’ll walk past someone smoking in the street and my nostrils flare & my fingers twitch . And the loveliest thing about that is – I don’t want one. I still love the idea of smoking and I still don’t hate the smell of it (people are telling me I will – and I still don’t believe them!) – but I don’t physically want one, and there’s no way in hell I’d put one in my mouth. Like an alcoholic – I’ll be a smoker until the day I die – I just won’t smoke.

A year later and a few days shy of my thirty-seventh birthday – I am so damn proud of this achievement; because I alone know how hard the battle was for me. Now I’m running every morning, and I’m out in the ocean at least a few times a week. I’ve saved every dollar I would have spent smoking in a separate account, and let me tell you, it is absolutely vile how quickly that money adds up. I went to London and back on that money. I met the love of my life, and now she lives with me here in Australia, and with a little luck, I’ll live to have her beside me when I’m 102.

Quitting is shit – it’s among the hardest things I’ve ever had to do – but it’s not impossible.

If it helps, visit/call QuitNow in Australia 13 78 48 – personally, I ended up discovering that I had to do it by myself, for myself. All the support & encouragement in the world didn’t help until I realised how much I wanted it out of me for myself. All I want to say to you (or someone you know) is – it is possible, you can do it – I know this, because I made it.

So: go on, try again to get that shit out of your life. I’d say “don’t give up” – but I really want you to.

If you want to talk about it with me, or ask me for tips or how you can help a friend – leave a comment and I’d love to know I’ve reached someone, somewhere!

Sexuality – the Great Uneducated lead the way

Dr. Kevin Donnelly

Dr. Kevin Donnelly

Journalist Gareth Hutchens wrote an article published today titled: “Leave sex lessons to straight teachers, writes Pyne’s reviewer“. It explores a book written in 2004 by Dr. Kevin Donnelly (and commissioned by Liberal Party-aligned Menzies Research Centre¹) where Dr. Donnelly penned:

“The union argues that gays, lesbians and transgender individuals have a right to teach sex education … and that any treatment of sexual matters should be ‘positive in its approach’ and that school curricula should ‘enhance understanding and acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people’. Forgotten is that many parents would consider the sexual practices of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals decidedly unnatural and that such groups have a greater risk in terms of transmitting STDs and AIDS.”

The article explores what seems to be his fundamental belief that ‘only heterosexual teachers have a right to teach students about sex’. As I write this, I recall the first thing I read this morning was news of the passing of  Phillip Seymour Hoffman; that news shocked me. (I’ve become belatedly aware of his fight with addiction, but his image as a hard-working actor prevailed). However, not anywhere near as shocked as I was to read this article. It is utterly appalling me that someone so charged with shaping the education of our country’s next generation could propagate such  complete and contemptible ignorance.

I understand that some members of society struggle to accept people who identify as LGBT. It can be uncomfortable & challenging to accept things we don’t understand; things that initially seem so far removed from our own personal realm of experience. I felt much the same way studying History; many elements of our past beggar belief, some more than others. However, I have the fortune to have been raised by people who have taught me the difference between enduring a new concept, and encompassing it in who I am. Yes, I did grow up knowing people who didn’t share my ideas of gender and sexuality, and knowing them was my chance to begin understanding differences in preferences, attitudes & perception on many levels.

Of course, not everyone grows up with the same influences, educators and opportunities to experience what is human uniqueness. I have always been acutely aware & grateful of the opportunities given me. So, where some miss out on such opportunities, here it falls to community leaders & educators of all kinds to assist in our understanding of our society. I feel very strongly that these leaders & educators have a responsibility to teach openly, honestly, and factually. When it isn’t over-complicated, it isn’t difficult. When my 8 year old daughter asked me recently what ‘gay & lesbian’ meant, I asked her how she felt about a particular boy she had mentioned (at length) recently. Her smile was enormous, infectious; she looked dreamily over my head and told me she thought he was pretty awesome. I asked her to imagine that she felt that way about a girl. What did she think of that, I asked?

“Ah, well I can’t imagine feeling that way about a girl.” She replied. Fair enough.

“Well, some girls do. And some boys feel that way about boys. That’s all there is to it, it’s not complicated.”

“When I grow up, do you think I will like girls?” was her long considered reply.

“I have no idea – but I will love you and be proud of you”.

And that was it. She completely accepted the premise. Her understanding of relationships and human sexuality will obviously grow, but the simple premise that we don’t choose who we love was immediately obvious to her. And that was completely okay in her books! I’ve rarely been more proud; it’s a big concept for a young mind to start taking in.

So – why is this so ‘complicated’? Why aren’t educators comfortable with using simple, clear language like this? It’s complicated in our big grown-up society because, quite frankly, historically we’ve completely fucked up the social conversation, and are still doing so today. I won’t even touch what religion is doing to the issue. Shame culture, ‘fixing’ gays – it’s appalling that such a fundamental piece of human psyche – what attracts us to each other – could or should be considered ‘adjustable’.

Most appalling of all is that an intellectual leader in our community can’t read the histories & do that math on this himself. I utterly defend your right to believe what you want when sitting under your own Hills Hoist, but any community that continues to discriminate out in the street is completely unsustainable, and this starts with education, and that starts with people like you, Dr. Donnelly. Your suggestion that ‘only a heterosexual may teach our children about sex’ is insulting in the extreme to educators. For example – an educator doesn’t teach a child the deep and personal intricacies of playing a piano. They give the child the tools they need to play, and leave the passion and the connection to emerge & flourish itself. Recognising & encouraging that passion, of course, is the mark of a good teacher – and if any teacher discouraged my daughter from loving piano in a certain way because of their own preferences… well, would you stand for that, Dr. Donnelly?

Sure – it’s a rather simple little allegory… but why over complicate it.

¹ Source: Gareth Hutchens, WAToday.com.au article

Ol' Neptune Barnett

Shameful Shark Cull in Western Australia

All hail Colin “Neptune” Barnett

“WA Premier Colin Barnett has said he is “pleased” to see the controversial catch-and-kill order policy begin after the first shark was killed on Sunday morning.”
» ‘WA’s baited drumlines kill first shark on Australia Day

As a keen diver, kayaker, swimmer & proud sandgroper, I am acutely aware of the inherent dangers of ocean sport. It is an environment I have enormous respect for, and am constantly learning about. I have had a couple of close encounters with sharks, one of them very sobering. I have absolute compassion for those who have lost someone to a shark in recent years – it is a terrible  tragedy. I understand the desire to make ocean sport “safe”; no-one wants to experience grief & loss.

What I do not understand is this utterly senseless slaughter. Apart from the many humane & conservation objections, I’d really rather not have some fly-by-night demi-Neptune destroying a shark and bleeding it into the ocean I swim in. That attracts more sharks.

We choose to pursue adventure in the ocean; an environment that does not belong to us. As someone who regularly spends time in or on the ocean, I believe actively and constantly learning about ocean safety is my responsibility; to ensure my safety and that of those around me, and to conserve that environment.

It is not our right to actively destroy this natural threat. We have learnt to coexist with crocodiles, brown snakes, redbacks and box jellyfish; we are aware of the dangers and behave accordingly. We are Australian, with a global identity of resilience in an incredibly harsh environment. We are proud of our ability to exist here.

This shark cull is a hopelessly ignorant task and a shamefully un-Australian  endeavour. Stop playing Neptune, Mr. Barnett, and cease this stupidity.

Australia Day 2014

Australia Day and All The Things

This isn’t much of a photo really now I look at it, but if you’ve ever been to Point Peron in Western Australia on a warm day, this is heaven. This is the southern side of the peninsula, a little bay surrounded by a reef line. It is one of the most stunning places for a swim and a snorkel; the visibility is superb, the sand is clear, the water is deep, there are amazing fish to see, and it’s largely protected from the big surf when the weather chops up. Most importantly, it’s a place only the locals know about, because it’s a little off the beaten track. Perfect! Oh, and most importantly – this is where +Yoon-Mi Kim will be calling home very soon – she’s finished up her last day off work, done her celebrating (and is still sleeping it off) – and is making the enormous move from chilly London to glorious Perth early next month. It is a huge time for both of us, and we couldn’t be happier:) …and sorrier for all the poor sods stuck in the rather-more-than-cold UK!

…people like +Paul Stickland incidentally – who celebrates his Birthday today! Happy Birthday Paul! Not much of a segue, I know;) Happy Birthday anyway mate, from a place you’d most likely rather be! I hope we can catch up soon.

What else? Oh! Jack Carty is touring again & is in WA this week. In case you don’t know who he is, you’re rather behind the eight-ball because he’s so famous now that he’s got his own wiki page (true story!) – I think he’s doing Dunsborough first, then a gig in Perth on Tuesday. You can catch the info via www.JackCarty.com – he’s one of those Facebook people and you can catch the stuff & the things there. If you like message bombing people to get off facebook and explore Google+ go bomb him here: +Jack Carty and say I sent you.

And of course, Happy Australia Day to all the Aussies enjoying the glorious summer (that’s you Perth!) or the cloud and drizzle (that’s you, everyone else from what I hear!). I’m settling in to do some scribbling & enjoy the Triple J Hottest 100!

minicard series: the photography of Trillian Petrova

Featuring: The photography of Trillian Petrova

Google+ has been a wonderful platform for artists, particularly visual artists (photography, fine art, illustration etc). It is a clean, social, and largely organic way to share a portfolio and develop connections and conversations. The more I talk to artists sharing work here, I find I’m not alone in realising how important Google+ is for independent artists like myself. +scribblegraph wouldn’t exist without Google Plus or the quite humbling and often overwhelming support & encouragement I’ve personally experienced. A lot of those people are sharing their own content & creativity here as well, and this week (and maybe next!) I’d like to personally introduce you to a few of them. These are people who actively engage and/or share content prolifically on Google+ and will be great additions to your ‘Art’ circles, whatever you choose to name them. Today I’d like you to meet Trillian.

+Trillian Petrova

Trillian Petrova is a non-commercial photographer with an amazing eye for the world around her. Her high level of skill with colour, light and composition is quite evident in her portfolio, but what I find most incredible is her complete lack of constraint. She cannot be identified primarily as a skilled landscape, macro, city or portrait photographer. It is clear she experiences a moment and knows instinctively how to tell that story & capture her feeling with her camera; no element or trade-craft is unexplored. She experiments with a very broad range of ratios, colour & tone, angles and lighting, and this makes her a very exciting photographer to follow.

trillianpetrova-drumming-girl

“Drumming Girl” · Trillian Petrova · © All rights reserved

If she were to take a route many photographers choose & supply commercial ‘stock’ imagery, she would sell massive volumes I’m sure – her work adds vibrancy and life in spades. That would be complete disservice to her art and her passion for it. Trillian is expressing her life and love for it; and one day I hope she emails me to say she has been asked to exhibit in a gallery:)

The included image is a collection of ‘minicards’ featuring her photography (I was lucky enough to receive them in the mail recently). You can explore her portfolio on Flickr.