askyermom

I am hearing and reading a lot of people veering into this question. As usual, I have an answer to a possibly rhetorical question. It’s okay, just see if this helps you before you brush it off.

My grandmother died in a terrible accident when she was younger than I am now. That doesn’t sound at all encouraging, I know, but bear with me.

For years I thought about the stories I had heard about her desperate attempts to quit smoking cigarettes. She may have been hypnotized, since that was fashionable and she was definitely fashionable. She likely snapped rubber bands against her wrist as she worked in her office to train herself to associate the urge for nicotine with irritation rather than satisfaction. My other grandmother regaled us with a story about Gramma sticking cigarettes up her nose during one particularly difficult bout of longing for just one smoke. I wasn’t aware of that fashion, but I don’t claim to know everything.

She never quit smoking, and you know already that cigarettes did not kill her. She died in 1974, when a secretary could still smoke her lungs out at her desk without so much as a stern glance from anyone. She could smoke everywhere except elevators and I’m sure she did anyway on occasion. Such a rebel.

So what was the point of all her suffering in trying to give up tobacco? I used to think it was wasted effort. Now, I do not believe there is such a thing at all.

Efforts matter. Always.

We don’t know if anything we try is going to succeed. We can’t know if we will be rewarded in any way. Will we learn exactly what we set out to learn? Of course not.

I also believe that we cannot determine what a true success is. We like to think we can. Finally quitting smoking myself for fifteen years feels like a success, but what if I’m wrong about that? What if the real success was the time I stuck two cigarettes up my nose and someone saw that and made something terribly meaningful out of it? I mean, that seems far-fetched, but have you ever seen how art works?

Always bother to do the right things, always expect surprises and look both ways before you step off the curb.

Love,
yermom

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