Saturday, August 15, 2015

The joys of smoking

One of the cats is limping and I fear she’s hurt herself.  But when we take a closer look at the paw she protecting, there’s no sign of damage. 

I’m slow to visit the vet, given the cat appears to be pain free, despite her limp which is becoming less pronounced, and at the same time I think of my shame at not being one of those pet owners who races off to the vet the moment their beloved animal shows the slightest sign of ill health. 

I’m the same with my children – slow to respond – unless they are obviously ill and in a way that suggests a doctor’s attention is necessary. 

Does it go back to my childhood when a visit to the doctor was almost unheard of?  My mother used to go, in my memory in relation to women’s business, mostly to do with the making of and the aftermath of having babies. 

Otherwise, we stayed away from doctors, and my father attended to broken bones and the like, as when my sister fell out of a tree. 

My sister told me later, how our father had made a makeshift splint on her leg and left her to a sleepless and pain filled night before he decided this one was too much for him and she was off to the hospital for a plaster cast. 

In the back of my mind, I have thoughts of visiting both the doctor and the periodontist and neither thrills me. 

The doctor for a pap smear.  That event happens every two years and for me ever since I was 21 years old or thereabouts when I first entered into a sexual relationship. 

Forty years of pap smears, you’d think I’d get used to it.  The speculum, the cold thrust, the doctor’s gentle hands.  

I only go to women doctors these days for pap smears but in my early twenties it was only possible to see male doctors and I tried not to let it bother me. 

Until I met my husband, I did not have a regular GP but followed him into his GP’s surgery to see a Doctor John Pettit, a kind man who’d have been in his forties when I first met him. 

He smoked cigarettes in the surgery, which even then came as a surprise to me.  I was still smoking, too, as was my husband, but somehow we were on that initial wave of people who knew smoking was dangerous and needed to be abandoned if you wanted to live to a ripe old age. 

Even after my husband and I finally managed to stop smoking – more easily because I’d discovered I was pregnant and no longer craved cigarettes – though I still dreamed of smoking. 

I kept it in my mind that if something bad happened, something worse than death itself, I could always go back to smoking, and would not care. 

It became my default position, rather like my thought when I finally finished my work at the Southern Memorial Hospital’s Community Care Centre as a social worker and moved into part time private practice as a therapist after I had that first baby, I could always go back to being a social worker if all else failed.

For years, it was a comfort to me, that thought, both thoughts: that I could resume social work and take up smoking again if everything else became impossible. 

But it’s never happened, and these days I have no desire to smoke whatsoever, though sometimes I enjoy the smell of someone else’s cigarettes, unlike my husband who is one of those serious anti-smokers, despite his past. 

As for social work, I doubt I could get a job as a social worker any more. I resigned from the social work association about thirty years ago and no longer feel that way inclined. 

It occurs to me, I often have a default position in my head, a place or a person or a thing to which I can revert, when all else fails.  

Once upon a time, it included ex-lovers, the men I’d rejected, not the ones who rejected me.  And now I’ve moved beyond that. 

No more default positions for me, other than the occasional fantasy of winning Tattlslotto – not that I ever enter it – or of finding a publisher for my book. 

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