Friday, November 20, 2009


E.piph.a.ny (noun) [i piffbnee]
1. sudden realization
A sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence.
Encarta Dictionary: English (North America)

I had intended ‘Magic of the Muses’ to be a blog about my journey towards publication. Instead, it turned into a diary of my Quest to Quit smoking. I reluctantly admitted that my blog was not attracting the attention of editors, writers, agents, and publishers, but rather drawing visits and comments from scientists, from those in the throes of nicotine withdrawal, and from those professing to hold the magic solution to addiction.

As I dealt with the pangs of quitting, I doggedly pursued my efforts to find an agent--pitching my adult novel, “Noraebang.” However, my obsession with cigarettes (or lack thereof) took a toll on my creativity. My writing efforts became limited to short email queries, blog updates on my battle with the butt, and incessant chatter on Quitnet forums.

When I hit day 60 smoke-free, I began proudly offering advice to those less seasoned in their quitting efforts, despite the fact I was becoming increasingly tense about finishing the last of my Champix prescription. It was about then that a Quitnet expert advised me that if I wanted to be a successful quitter, I had to give up my belief that cigarettes were pleasurable.

I didn’t think this was a viable concept as I considered the pleasure derived from nicotine a ‘fact’, not a ‘belief’.

However, I remembered once reading that one should be wary of putting too much faith in facts. Facts change. For example, it was once a fact that man could not journey to the moon. Was the pleasure of smoking a malleable fact like man’s space-travelling abilities? Or was it an unchangeable and forever kind of fact, like 1 + 1 = 2?

During each of my three pregnancies, cigarettes (both mine and others) were obnoxious and nauseating—not really a pleasure. Perhaps there was some flexibility to the fact. Perhaps cigarettes weren’t pleasurable when I was pregnant and weren’t pleasurable to some people, but...if I were to, say, suck back a Player’s Smooth with tomorrow morning’s coffee, could I actually believe that experience would not be pleasurable?

An ad hoc poll of my ex-smoking buddies showed them evenly split between those who believed cigarettes were no longer pleasurable, and those who had no doubts that they were. If I could bring myself to believe that smoking was a disgusting, unsatisfying activity, it would certainly be a fair bit easier to give up my cravings, resist temptation, and get on with a smoke-free life—forever. But was it at all possible?

Was it even sane to convince oneself to believe something that one knows isn’t true? I worried I was doomed to be a slave to nicotine. And all the pain and panic of the past weeks would be for nought.

Then something strange happened.

I opened my eyes one morning, pushed my Pomeranian away from my face, and knew something I hadn’t known when I went to sleep. I immediately panicked.

Although it is eerie that characters visit me, dictate stories to me, boss me around, and argue and stuff, I love writing and their stories are so interesting I find it easy to ignore the freakiness.
But this was different. I simply opened my eyes and my brain had this thought, "Quitting smoking is just like 'Noraebang'".

And I go, “Yeah, like right.” The pom is again licking my face—a sure sign that he needs to go out. I toss him to the floor. Some of the characters in my novel, “Noraebang,” smoke, but as far as I know, none of them quit.

My head insists on explaining the wayward thought, "The addiction--"

"Noraebang isn't about addiction,” I argue, reluctantly pushing back the covers and setting my feet on the floor. “It's about a woman in an abusive relationship." I swing my feet in circles to keep my toes away from the puppy’s tongue.

"And how does it end?"

"Not very well," I think dourly. I shuffle to the door and escort the pup onto the balcony. "I thought the heroine finally saw the villain for what he was in reality, but the moment there's an inkling of a chance that he loves her, Allie is back grovelling at his feet..."

"What was he in reality that she didn’t see?"

"Carbon was a scum bag! He raped her; beat her; abused and used her." I glower out across the leafless treetops. The misty morning autumn air slides under my nightie. I shiver. The pond is still. A lone Canada goose swoops in for a landing.

"Does the scum bag love her?"

"I have no idea. If he does, it certainly doesn't match my definition of love." I think about the ending to the story. I hadn’t wanted that ending. I had wanted my hapless heroine to be intelligent, strong--to be guided by commonsense. I wanted her to discover real love, not remained trapped by her misplaced loyalty to an abusive man.

"Does she love him?"

"Yeah. Unfortunately..." The dog is scratching at the door to go back in.


A flock of geese floats in over the far hill. My lone goose rises to join his brethren. I follow the dog back into the bedroom.

"I don't know why she loves him. His sparkling eyes? Perhaps his deception?”

It wasn’t easy knowing why she loved him. He’d lied to her about his feelings, his motives...lied about everything. I open the bedroom door and puppy runs to find his master. I hear coffee perking. I close the door to the smell of fresh ground Arabica and shuffle to the ensuite.

“At one time,” I point out to myself, “she needed to bond with him to survive. Maybe she's scared of what life will be like without him. Maybe it gives her justification for falling for him in the first place."

"Ahh, I see. Substitute "she" in the preceding conversation with 'Eileen' and "he" with 'cigarettes' and what have you got?"

Does Eileen love cigarettes?

Yeah. Unfortunately...


I don't know why. Cigarette’s sparking eyes? Perhaps cigarette’s deception? At one time, I needed them. Cigarettes lied to me about their feelings, their motives...lied about everything. Maybe I’m scared of what life will be like without cigarettes. Maybe it gives me justification for starting to smoke in the first place....

Yes, my life surprisingly parallels that of a heroine in a novel I’d written long before I’d even considered giving up cigarettes. I hadn’t known then, hadn’t known until now that entanglement in an abusive relationship was so similar to an addiction.

I stare at my reflection in the vanity mirror. My heroine didn’t learn to ‘unlove’ her abuser as I had wanted, but perhaps I ought to quit loving nicotine and see it for the villainous, dangerous, abusive, enslaving thing that it is. I was beginning to believe it was possible, imperative. I sigh and turn from the mirror.

Now, if only Allie had come to believe Carbon was a no good rotter...

Ephiphany: A sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence.

Eileen Schuh,
Canadian writer


Cheryl Tardif said...

What an eye-opening, inspiring moment of clarity. You have clearly painted the picture of one of the evils behind cigarettes--the deception.

Yes, sometimes our characters teach us something about ourselves or show us an illusive truth. What an epiphany! I wish you continued success in ALL your journeys.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
author of Divine Intervention

Eileen Schuh: said...

Thank you, Cheryl, for visiting my blog and letting me know that my writing touched you.

Barry Moore, MNLP,CH - Toronto Quit Smoking Hypnotherapist said...

Hi Eileen, beautiful writing - of course good story telling is hypnotic, that's what puts the reader right into the story.

You've told the story smokers tell themselves for years almost like a form of self hypnosis that creates their addiction. Different story, no addiction. I've seen it many times.

Continued good luck with the quit.

Best regards... Barry

Eileen Schuh: said...

Thanks, Barry!