An Alternate Way to Start the Day


When I was in Iraq, if I was awake, I probably had a dip of Skoal in my mouth. When the convoy stopped, I’d light up a cigarette (unless it was night, “cherries” draw fire from snipers). I didn’t spit out the chew. I just smoked on top of it. How crazy it is that I would put mainline stimulants into my body when I was already on fire with anxiety? I find myself at war once again. Once again, the Marine has a cigarette hanging from his lip. And once again, the Marine is on fire with anxiety.

My breath is my connection to Life. Smoking interrupts that connection. All the “suicide” talk notwithstanding, it’s clear I have a very powerful force within in me that wants to live. It is also clear that there is a powerful force inside me fighting in the other direction. I won’t retype the “Cherokee Wolf Parable” here. You’ve all heard it by now. It comes to mind now because I know the wolf that wins the fight is the one that I will feed. The blog is part of my attempt to feed the wolf that wants to protect me and not the one who wants to eat me.

I don’t have pleasant dreams. Or if I do, I don’t remember them. My dreams are usually scenarios of war although I never dream of being in Iraq. (I think that is part of my brain’s way of protecting me.) The scenarios of danger and betrayal are usually lifted and put on stories involving Adam (my ex). They began while we were still married and have continued since the split. When I wake in the morning, I am not confused about the dreams; I know they were dreams. But the emotional residue lingers. I remain in a state of trauma.

For several years now, I have done “morning pages,” the only thing I continue from a couple of failed attempts to go through The Artist’s Way. I’m happy that I’ve kept it up because I now have a suitcase full of filled Moleskin journals. If I ever ended up in a situation where I didn’t have anything to write about (I can’t image such a time, I have more stories in me than I could ever commit to paper), all I would have to do is crack one of them open, dip in, and soon my fingers are flying along doing what they love to do the most. There’s much more “gold” to be found in those journals than just seeds for writing. I’ll return to talk about them again in the coming year with regard to other things they’ve revealed.

But here’s the drawback to the morning pages: I write stream-of-consciousness, without regard to spelling or content– knowing that the unedited version of the journals need not be “cleaned up” for public consumption. They are not scripts or poems in their present form but presently may become them with a little attention. But they are mostly written in the state of consciousness I described when I come out of a night of terror. Much of that darkness bleeds onto the page. In fact, the word “blood” probably gets written as often as any other. I value the journals and I don’t want to stop the practice but I also wonder if it doesn’t help to set the tone for the day. I think the first waking moments and indeed the first hour of my day are very important. I also believe there is great power in the writing. I worry that as the black blood flows from my pen to permanently mark the page, I am making it become real. My writing brings visions into reality. On the other hand, I have used the justification that to “bleed” myself in this way, gets it all on the outside rather than allowing it to stay within me to fester and to grow. I don’t know what the answer is. I hate to think of surrendering the process of morning pages. If nothing else, it has kept me “writing” all this time and at many, many points along the way it has been the only writing I was doing. One of the most piteous things to draw breath is a writer who is not writing.

I do know one thing for sure, to start my day by crawling out of bed (literally, since I have some physical issues that preclude anything that could be considered “walking” for about the first five minutes), pounding a couple of cups of coffee, smoking a couple of cigarettes, and writing thirty minutes of scariness in my journal is about the worst way to start a day. I would say that I would try to do only one thing differently tomorrow but I know from much experience that the way not to start my day with coffee and cigarettes (god, I can’t believe I’m even typing that shit after such very long time without even thinking about them) is to start my day with healthier choices. What would the perfect start to a day look like for me?

I’m about a mile up the canyon from a trailhead where I used to take Sydney and Willie when we lived here. (heavy heart pain just now) Today, I’ll go buy a no-sugar-added bottle of juice (Sugar is just another drug for me.) Instead of drinking coffee and smoking tomorrow morning, I’m going to drive down to that trailhead and head up the mountain. (pronounced “mou’ain” in Utah) I could pile on several other things too but again, past experience has taught me that I can overwhelm myself so much that I fail on a couple of items and get a great case of the “fuckits.” Then it’s, “pass the cigarettes and coffee, it’s gonna be a shitty day.”

I’ll stop there for now and add a coda before posting this blog tomorrow. Most of the blogs are written on the previous afternoon.

Okay I did it. I started my day with a hike and juice. There were actually some pretty nice moments and it’s a much preferable to coffee and cigarettes as a way to start the day. I’ll repeat it again tomorrow. Right now, at eight minutes past noon. I would love nothing more than to rip someone apart with my bare hands.

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