Tuesday, 7 August 2012

United Friends Challenge #258 - A Heroic Decision

Skyerider's Challenge
It's True Story time!
Tell of someone in your life who caused you to make a positive change. It can be the obvious... family member, friend, teacher, coach, co-worker...

Or it can be the not so obvious! Tell us about someone who was antagonistic towards you, or pointed out a flaw or "unkind" truth. It could be someone who challenged you, telling you "You can never do that!"

It doesn't have to be a total life course change either. Sometimes small changes are more profound than large ones!
I had to think about this. It seems that I do not do miracles, or I am not on the list for a special someone to visit me and improve my life’s quality. Even my cats are no help. They need food which can be expensive according to their tastes of the moment; they need medical care by the vet if they happen to have health problems, not to mention the annual visit for their jabs, which are not free and for three cats you can easily receive an expensive bill. They do not even say thank you. Of course, I love them, but sometimes it seems they just put up with me and Mr. Swiss as a means to lead a comfortable and care free life. If they were writing this they definitely would not include me or Mr. Swiss as bringing about a positive change in their feline spoilt lives. They would probably curl up in a corner and dream a few dreams about I, me and myself.

So I had to search to find out who was positive in my life and for what reason. I also had the possibility to discover a challenger, but I usually ignore those. I know my limits and if I am challenged to climb a mountain, ride a horse, or do a bungy jump, I just say forget it. I do not have a death wish.

Of course, I could create a sort of shrine dedicated to my life’s partner Mr. Swiss. Through him I have become an expert on all facets of the modern jazz world. I can even tell if Errol Garner is playing the piano or Oscar Peterson. I also have a perfect knowledge of Swiss German in about 10 different dialects, which is only useful if you happen to live in Switzerland and you have a Swiss husband.

Now this is leading to nowhere. I have just accepted every package in life as it arrived, undoing the strings and examining the contents. If I could use them, I kept them and if not I just put them on one side in case they might come in useful one day.

As far as my sins are concerned, if I did not have any I would not be human, so I decided to delve into the dark side of my life. I grew up in post war London, in a working class environment. We had food to eat, we had money for the necessities of life, and even things that were perhaps not necessary. My parents survived a second world war, my father serving in the army and my mother living in a part of London that was regularly bombed. It was a strain on the nerves, and they were both regular smokers. Today this is something that you almost have to be ashamed of, but there are circumstances where it helps.

I started to smoke when I was sixteen years old and mum and dad were not particularly happy, although they both smoked theirselves. As time went on I tried to stop smoking, but decided why should I, and carried on. Remember this was a little more than forty years ago and then smoking was not a problem, at least not a problem that we knew about.

Time passed, I moved to Switzerland, married Mr. Swiss and had two children. I was still smoking, but automatically stopped when I was pregnant and when I was feeding them both. Even my common sense told me that mother’s milk did not improve in quality or taste when it was flavoured with nicotine. After I had all my maternal duties behind me, I began to smoke again.

Then one day I had to go into hospital for a minor operation. No problem, I was not put to sleep completely and just had a local anesthetic. I was home after a week, still puffing. Two years later the minor operation became a more serious operation. Swiss hospitals and medical care are not too bad. The equivalent of a five star hotel, all paid for (almost all) by the illness insurance. I remember the day before the big operation – the surgeon had already told me it would take a few hours. I had a visit from the anesthetist, the person that puts you to sleep. I remember he sat on the chair next to the bed; his assistant took a second chair. He was armed with a form containing about twenty questions. I really felt quite important. They are interested in me, I thought. Then it began; the usual questions about childhood illnesses and allergies against particular medicine; then came the one about religion. Now that was food for thought. I had visions of the last sacrament being administered if I did not wake up and everyone doing the right thing concerning my last wishes. I gave him my answer which was short and sweet.

The inevitable, unavoidable question followed. “Do you smoke?” and he looked at me straight in the eyes, his assistant poised with the pen ready to note the answer. Did I note a flicker of doubt, of disappointment, perhaps even shock, when I gave a clear “Yes”, wondering why this was important, I asked the doc. He just said he has to know these things in case something happened. Perhaps he did not say it exactly like that, but that was my impression.

After he left with his assistant, I began to tick. I had already been cigarette free on that day, due to the forthcoming operation. I would mention that anesthetic always did have a negative effect on my constitution. I was one of those patients that suffered after waking from the synthetic sleep; feeling queasy, not being able to eat for at least two days after the operation and just drifting into a twilight zone of sleep most of the time. I had visions of being sent to dreamland by the doctor, waking up in another dimension, or place, or just not waking up any more. I was unsure.

Was this anesthetist my rescuer from a life of cigarettes and money being burnt in clouds of smoke. Let us just say he probably sowed the seed of a small thought. I arrived home after the operation and after a week or so, I began to smoke again and soon returned to my twenty a day, and they were not the weak sort. Somehow I did not feel comfortable with the cigarettes, now and again I did have a touch of migraine, coughed regularly in the first five minutes of being awake in the morning and to top it all, the government decided to increase the tax on a packet of cigarettes, making them almost  a luxury article. I decided to take the plunge and reduced my consummation of the coffin nails day by day. Then a Friday arrived and I thought if I survive the week-end without a cigarette, I am almost there. What made matters worse was that we had no chewing gum in the house or any other form of occupational therapy.

I did it, I actually overcame the week-end without a cigarette. This all happened approximately fifteen years ago and since I am smoke free. I participated in a third seven hour operation after the last memorable operation and this time I could proudly answer “No” when asked if I smoked. I would add that my problems with anesthetic have remained, smoker or not, but I do have a better feeling about waking up afterwards.

If you want smoke, go ahead. It’s your problem. I am not going to stop you.

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