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GUS (Gave Up Smoking) is a community support diary for Kossacks in the midst of quitting smoking. Any supportive comments, suggestions or positive distractions are appreciated. If you are quitting or thinking of quitting (or want to support quitters), please - join us! We kindly ask that politics be left out.

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The underlying bureaucratic key is the ability to deal with boredom…To breathe, so to speak, without air. The key is the ability, whether innate or conditioned, to find the other side of the rote, the picayune, the meaningless, the repetitive, the pointlessly complex. To be, in a word, unborable…If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.
-David Foster Wallace, The Pale King
Here at GUS we talk a lot about the cause and effect relationship between stress and smoking but we rarely tackle the problem of boredom. What about those quiet stretches of time where there is no necessity, there is no emergency, there is no rushing from one place to the next? This one is a big problem for me. I am a naturally anxious person so boredom comes on very easily, even when I am surrounded by activities and people. Of course it is worse when you are alone and putting other things off, but either way boredom is one of the recovering addicts' worst enemies.
The believing we do something when we do nothing is the first illusion of tobacco. 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some of us are more prone to boredom than others, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. This could be because of our jobs or other currently unfulfilling situations, or simply because or the way our minds work. Many have argued that in a culture that is increasingly driven by the instant gratification offered by a commercially and technologically dominated society, we are all more susceptible to being entangled in Boredom's long and nefarious tentacles.

Here is a graph describing the cause and correlative effects of boredom by an Official Smart Person:


(Sorry the graph won't fit entirely. The incomplete phrases on the right are, from the top: "The Structure of Anxiety" and underneath that reads "Threatened God")  

And here is a much more concise graph of boredom made by some random person on the internet:


The first graph (Official Smart Person Graph or OSPG) was written by Thomas C. Oden, a professor of theology and ethics, from his book The Structure of Awareness. He uses God as the displaced moral center but I would substitute purpose (whatever that looks like to you). Oh, and that demonic thing? I would just replace that with negative and destructive thoughts. The second graph was created by a Random Person on the Internet (you know, one of us fabulous people), henceforth referred to as the RPotIG.

Note in the OSPG, that the loss in faith in God or a higher purpose and the correlative effect of anxious boredom is mirrored by the intensifying experience of boredom plotted in the RPotIG, and the heightening appeals to authority: "being excited to get a call from my boss" followed by "excited about going to dinner at my grandparents house". One can assume that before RPotI's boredom reached critical mass they returned to work on Monday, work being (arguably) the ultimate authority of purpose in our modern age. One can also assume that by the Thursday of that week, Chipoltle and VH1 started sounding exciting again for our RPotI (hell, it sounds exciting to me right now).  

Here is boredom distilled in an lolcat:


Boredom can be described as an intense awareness of a lack of overarching purpose, or that your present purpose isn't meaningful, or that the stick you have been chasing for so long just isn't what it was cracked up to be. When looked at this way, boredom isn't simply what my my mother told me was a lack of imagination, it was instead a confrontation with life's inherent limitations. This, as it turns out, can be very stressful! I think the experience of boredom as an adult can often be the re-experience of childhood moments of traumatic disillusionment. Or, kinda like what Freud said. Thus, all the smoking.

This instinct towards repetitive and ungratifying behaviors like being bored and smoking is an effort to take control of an early childhood trauma where we felt ourselves to be a victim and not an actor in the stories of our own lives. So here, smoking fulfills two critical functions: A) consciously we see it as a soothing activity which relieves of us of our boredom (which we are currently engaged in because we are repeating things and repetitiveness offers us the illusion of control), and B) unconsciously smoking allows us to recreate that traumatic childhood realization of our own mortality by allowing us to take artificial control over that mortality- because it is 2012, people, and who alive doesn't know that smoking will someday kill us?

So what to do, what to do. Well now that my boredom with smoking has slightly outpaced my boredom with everyday living, I have to quit or face an unparalleled existential crisis. Or simply put: I am bored to death with my own meta.  

As to the Quit, here is what I am trying, otherwise titled as,

Things which don't satisfy my Death Drive, but will otherwise occupy my hands:

1) I had a lot of friends who knit, I may give this a shot
2) That sewing machine I have been meaning to get
3) ride a darned bike
4) lots of other, as of yet unspecified, physical activity

Let's face it, we no longer live in the world of the Romantics when boredom was considered the wellspring of creativity where the mind was free to wander and to wonder. In the 21 century we are just plain bored sometimes. It seems exhausting ourselves may often be the best solution. So, as they say in AA: Keep it simple stupid.

Or you can go the route I would prefer (but don't currently have time for) and follow the advice of one of the great writers of our generation, David Foster Wallace. He has written truly inspired meditations on boredom and came to the conclusion that maybe my mom was sort of right after-all, and the solution to boredom involves a re-imagination of sorts. Perhaps boredom, being a necessary condition to modern life, wasn't meant to be avoided but endured and ultimately embraced:  

Bliss—a-second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious—lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (Tax Returns, Televised Golf) and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.
― David Foster Wallace
Apparently nirvana is waiting on the other side. In the meantime, I am going for a walk.

For those of you who read this whole thing, thanks. I know it is super long. What can I say, I was bored and needed something to do yesterday. :)

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