Alone With J

Butts and carrots – By J SWYGART
    As I write this, it is 2013. As you read it, it’s 2014.
    A distinction without much of a difference, perhaps. Then again, maybe so.
    Before sitting down to write today’s entry I went through my usual routine, which includes heading to the alley behind the Democrat (or under the awning in front, depending on which way the wind is blowing and other key weather considerations) to have that ever-present cigarette.
    You smokers know the one I’m talking about; the cigarette that allows you to gather your thoughts and escape the madness, the daily grind, if only briefly before diving back in to the deep end of the pool.
That’s what has me a little frightened as we enter 2014 ... which is now (for you) and two days from now for myself (as this is written).
    I’ve told myself I’m gonna give this whole “quit smoking” thing another shot. And what better time to start than on the first full day of my 60th year on this earth?
    Only time will tell how this will end, and admittedly there is a certain amount of risk in broadcasting my New Year’s resolution. But if failure or the risk of public humiliation was a deterrent in any way, shape or form, I’d have never lasted in this business for as long as I have. For those of us who make their living publishing a newspaper each day, our mistakes, plentiful as they may be, are right there for the world to see. What’s one more personal stumble? Or perhaps success!
    So now you know my plans, and you’ll be able to tell pretty quickly how successful I have or haven’t been.  If you see me hunkered in the cold out in front of the DDD office anytime soon, well ... that’s probably not a good thing.
    I’ve known for years that I need to quit smoking. But, as any smoker will tell you, there’s a tremendous difference between “knowing” it’s time to quit and “wanting” to quit.
I’ve tried to quit before, but this time I’m leaning heavily on the “carrot” approach for motivation. You know, as in the “carrot and the stick.”
    The carrots have have right there for years — from my wife’s mini-stroke some three years ago at an all-too-early age to two new grandsons (and a not-so-young one) who I want to see grow up. For a myriad of reasons, none of them good ones, I’ve chosen to ignore all those excellent reasons to kick the tobacco habit. I guess it just wasn’t my time yet.
    But now I’ve found my new carrot. It’s admittedly a selfish one but, hey ... whatever works, right?
As a guitar player of less-than-modest means, in the past 12 months or I so have been dabbling in the world of home recording. A computer, a few microphones, a couple of guitars and the patience of Job is all that’s really required. Talent, thankfully, is optional.
    I have a couple of acoustic guitars that have served me fairly well for 30 years, but now that I’m recording for posterity’s sake those instruments seem to come up a little short from a musical perspective.
I want a new guitar; one that I can pass to future generations someday, and one that will bring me joy for as long as I can continue to play. I have my eye on one right now — a Martin — but I can’t afford it.
    Then I did the math ... just as I’ve done a million times before. Using round numbers for the sake of simplicity, it goes something like this: I currently spend nearly $300 a month for cigarettes. I know, it’s crazy. But that’s how it is.
    If I can quit — and at this point that’s still a helluva big “if” — in four months I can be sitting in my den/studio playing a brand new Martin guitar. If I can’t quit ... well, let’s not go there yet.
    Will-power and self-motivation have never been among my strong suits, so perhaps it’s time to turn to my wife for some help.  Relying on nothing more than her own strength and determination, she has lost 25 pounds in the past three months by sticking to a rigid weight-loss program. I’m proud of her. Now it’s my turn to make her proud. I can do this.
    And hopefully we can make beautiful music together for many years to come.

    The writer is the opinion page editor of the Decatur Daily Democrat.