The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

............................................ ............................................ A blog devoted to the ramblings of a small town, middle aged college professor as he experiences life and all its strange variances.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Food for Thought

Pat McDowell wrote in my comments section asking several very valuable ideas I have been contemplating.  Below, I attempt to answer:

Statement 1:  Did your father or father-in-law ever come to the point at which they regretted their pipe-smoking? If so, then perhaps you could frame your choice to quit as your way of letting them live vicariously through you. They didn't quit, but they will be with you in spirit as your well-wishers as you abstain.

Neither my father nor my father-in-law regretted their pipe smoking in any sense that I was aware.  Both individuals passed away from issues not related to their pipe smoking.  In a spiritual sense, I believe both would be well-wishers for me to do what I feel is my path.  Both my father and father-in-law have been and continue to be individuals whom I look up to as wise, gentle men from whom I have learned a great deal in terms of how to "be" in life.

The "be" part is perhaps interesting to consider from my perspective.  I cannot say really what is "normal" in terms of feelings and emotions, but for me it seems that much of my life has been guided by the ideas of a) trying to find my "place" in life, b) trying to be a person who does what is right or good (aka the Don Quixote mindset), and c) trying to be capable and focused on doing something noteworthy or valuable or significant in life.

The reality of what I feel inside is that I rarely feel "comfortable" if that is the right word.  I always have in the back of my mind this gnawing sense that I am not working, or living, or loving, or doing enough in life and that I am on a constant trajectory toward "failure" if I do not watch myself carefully and consistently.  Since I really cannot fully know what is going on in anyone else's mind other than my own, I do not know if those feelings are just par for the course and everyone feels that way.  But, from the surface, I have always felt that my father and my father-in-law  were quite "comfortable" in their own skin. And their pipes and pipe smoking were always a part of them from the entirety of time I knew them.  In some ways, when I would visit them, it was always associated with a sense of quiet and camaraderie. 

In a significant way, I view my relationships with both of them as great friendships that felt easy, comfortable, and good.  I have a few collegue type friends of this sort as well, but they (as is frequent in academia) are flung to far distant areas of the nation and our friendships were developed in graduate school.  On the occasions where we go to the same research meeting, it is a great experience in much the same way only without the family connection as well.

* * * 

Statement 2:  On the other hand, if your father and father-in-law remained content to the end as pipe-smokers, I suspect you would need to make an impossible emotional break with them in order to persist without your pipes. You sometimes judge yourself rather harshly for smoking your pipes, but are you prepared to judge your father and father-in-law with equal harshness? If you can judge them so harshly, you have some hope of quitting; if not, you truly are a pipe-smoker and should just relax into the habit/hobby. 

I think it is interesting to think about the statement you made about an "emotional break".  In some ways, I feel that this "break" of sorts is something that has been foisted upon me simply by their respective deaths.  I have the loss of their companionship.  Perhaps I am working through realizing this break HAS occurred and their is not a damn thing I can do about it, except perhaps try to keep the tenuous spiritual links present in my thoughts.

You are correct that a part of my continuing to smoke my pipe for all these many decades is due to memories of my father (who passed away over 25 years ago).  But, the pipe also has symbolized more for me as well.  It has been something that I have always enjoyed.  It has, over the many decades been somewhat of  a definition of who I am, at least externally,  to many folks.

* * *  

Statement 3:  Perhaps, once you give up the idea of quitting, you can then give yourself permission to moderate and adjust this treasured hobby that connects you with your loved ones. With your father and father-in-law gone, surely some of your old "rituals" are also gone. Maybe you can establish new rituals that will connect you with the departed, satisfy your physical cravings, and also fit in with the practicalities of your current life.

Giving up the idea of quitting is a very pleasant idea.  Yet, at the same time, I do also know that in this day-and-age, and probably to an extent because of my own personality... I doubt I would ever be able to simply accept in a comfortable way just living life as a pipe smoker.  I would very likely retain the doubts about my decision (even as I enjoy that decision), would still have fears and worries about smoking a pipe (even as I enjoy smoking a pipe), and would likely berate myself for the choice (even as I would enjoy the choice).

But, in the same way, I believe just as realistically that if I did jump into quitting "for life" that I would have doubts about the decision (as I regret not smoking a pipe), would worry that I was missing what I consider a simple pleasure (as I refrain), and would regularly regret the loss of a part of "me" (as I work to become the different, non-pipe smoking me). 

* * *

So.... damn... I have been awfully wordy here.... without accomplishing much.  But, the above does represent how my mind has been thinking through a lot of this.  Pat, I do thank you for your help and advice.  It does help me to more carefully examine my thoughts.



Blogger Liz Hinds said...

"The reality of what I feel inside is that I rarely feel "comfortable" if that is the right word. I always have in the back of my mind this gnawing sense that I am not working, or living, or loving, or doing enough in life and that I am on a constant trajectory toward "failure" if I do not watch myself carefully and consistently. "

I could have written those words. Identically. I'm sure it's not true for either of us but it's very hard to believe that. Whatever I'm doing i think i should be doing something else, or faster, or better, or more.

Big sigh.

Saturday, 17 March, 2018  

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