This Is My Brain on Nicotine.

After seven nonsmoking years, last week I fell off the wagon. Never mind why. It was a bad week. The point is, I bought a pack of cigarettes and smoked them slowly, at a rate of two or three a day.

Now that I am out of cigarettes, I am the proud owner of a pack of Nicorette gum. Here is what I have learned from my experiment:

1. After one or two puffs -- almost nothing-- smoking feels wonderful. I feel calm, alert, steady, confident, and energetic. The psychic ache with which I am usually afflicted -- we all have our crosses to bear, as my mother would say -- is gone. Poof. Nada. I barely remember it. Provided there are no new assaults to my psychic equilibrium, which is never a safe assumption, the effect will last up to eight hours.

2. Halfway through the cigarette, I feel distinctly nauseated. I know from experience that if I continue to smoke, the nausea will recede. However, I also know that stubbing out the cigarette at the point of nausea, which I what I did last week, will make breaking the habit easier later on. Nausea is my friend.

3. My lungs feel cruddy when I smoke. My skin is dry and will get worse. I'm chillier, no doubt due to worsening circulation. After one week, I have already developed a minor, but irritating cough that will only get worse in time. All of which reminds me of how much I really do dislike smoking.

4. Nicorette tastes awful. However, after about two seconds in my mouth, I get the same feeling as in #1. Some minutes later, the nausea arrives so I spit out the gum, for the same reason given in #2. The last thing I need is an addiction to Nicorette.

5. Years ago, I was on Wellbutrin for depression, which had an interesting side effect: I stopped smoking cold turkey after two weeks on the drug and stayed quit for almost two years. This isn't surprising because Wellbutrin is the same as Zyban, the stop-smoking pill. After two weeks on Wellbutrin, I was free of the need for nicotine; I don't recall if the psychic ache was also gone, but I think it was.

This makes me think I now have three ways to deal with that ache: cigarettes, Nicorette, and Wellbutrin.

Cigarettes have too many side effects -- painful death from cancer among them -- to be really useful in the long term. Wellbutrin might be good, except that it, too, has side effects that include dependency on a medical professional, and health insurance to pay said professional, for supply. Nicorette is available OTC, with a reasonable side effect profile and a clear mechanism of action. And I can control the dose very precisely, by only taking it when I need it and spitting it out as soon as the nausea hits.


The Great Diminution, Part 3

After a long interval of work on other books, I return to my project of trimming my novel to 115,000 words.


6/30/08 137,000 words
7/31/08 129,947
9/24/08 125,847
3/19/09 124,562
3/24/09 124,282
3/26/09 123,989
4/2/09 123,410

The goal may be too ambitious. I'll be pleased if I can get within striking distance of 120,000.


My Life

I had just read this line from Rilke

Earth invisible! What is your urgent command, if not transformation?

when the dog farted.



A day of intrusions and interruptions, time managed or not managed or managed badly, phones and calendars and schedules and the usual demoralizing effort to find a stretch of usable time while engulfed by chaos.

The time, even if found, is not always fruitful; so much depends on what goes before. A hard morning can obliterate a perfectly free afternoon, making it useless for anything but errands and busywork.

Knowing I am unlikely to have the opportunity to complete a thought, I struggle to begin. There's always the knock at the door, the doorbell ringing, the phone, perfectly reasonable requests for this or that.

At the same time, Jane is learning, again, where she ends and I begin. On her own, she goes further now than she did at two or four, on trips that require more complex supplies. Her development is relentless. As it should be. I fail to adapt quickly enough, which I know is also fine, and inevitable. Still, the guilt.

Outside, the sky is densely white, holding back a foot of snow.