A writer friend of mine has long contended that blogs are a mechanism for receiving instant gratification, “It’s navel gazing. You can’t improve because it’s done with a bunch of people poised to fawn over each word that you type.” Not exactly the kind of thing that makes you feel lifted, and while I don’t entirely disagree with elements of his opinion, I think it undersells us as a community. Yes, there are lesser writers and yes, they often soar to the top for reasons seeming to stem from something other than the quality of their writing. I’ll also concede that there are plenty of sweet comments posted, but I think there is great encouragement, challenging and collaboration.

I have watched friendships and alliances grow from shared experiences communicated though conversations in posts and comments, I have seen causes and the people living them achieve staggering attention and participation. I’ve found friends, confidantes, and people that make me smile.

This July I’ll head to Blogher ’08 and meet people like her and her. Hopefully I’ll have this up and running by then!

Back to the title: Confession born from compliments.

I posted some belly shots the other day. I think it would be safe to say that every single person that commented did so with a generous heart, raving about my glow. It was wonderful, but left me thinking, “Hmm, maybe I should post the shots that make me feel like my head, and specifically my cheeks, have exploded achieving Mr. Potato Head like proportions?” Or write something about how irrational I can be when the I’m-so-tired-and-ready-to-be-done-being-pregnant moments hit. But then I thought of something else, something more along the lines of what makes the blogging community a place where you can find refuge, solace and understanding.

And so, my confession: I was a smoker.

I used to smoke. I smoked a lot. I was 17 when I started, 18 when I was truly hooked and about 27 when I quit. I’ll be 35 this July. Even at my heaviest smoking, well over half a pack a day, people didn’t believe I was a smoker, something about how it just “doesn’t seem like you, Amanda.” Well, I did. And lately, I have read posts about quitting and trying to quit. Often I don’t think about how I used to smoke, too busy with the business of the day, whether it’s work, the girls or just trying to make sure the laundry, dishes and dog hair don’t overpower us. Then there are the times when I am walking down the street and I catch a whiff of cigarette smoke, both the smoker and the cigarette are long since gone, but seductive wisps of the forbidden linger. I have ambled nonchalantly out of my way to get one little sniff.

I am not immune to it. I know with every fiber of my being that the more than seven years it’s been since my last smoke are a blessing. I know that one day I will wish that I could have back the time I stole from myself, the moments I will not have with my girls and Sean for the choice I made all those years ago. Yet it is still recent enough that I remember that no threat of mortality, no derisive commentary on smell or expense could convince me to change. I still look at people smoking and have two reactions, “You poor son of a bitch,” and “You lucky fuck.”

It is an incredibly powerful addiction, all the while you loathe yourself for walking into the convenient store, your last five spot burning a hole in your pocket, you want nothing to come between you and that first drag. I’d sooner have let a call go to voice mail than delay the sensation of the smoke filling my lungs. I don’t ever want to go back to smoking and have reminded myself many times of how when you return to smoking it takes a while, you have to overcome the guilt, the revolt and the trepidation and then it happens, you are hooked again and the hopelessness towers over you, clouding everything but the inevitability of your next smoke.

I may not look like a smoker or a reformed smoker, but I am, and if you ever need an encouraging word or a shoulder or anything, I am here. I admire every person out there who is trying to quit and I feel for those who haven’t. And for as hard as it is, I can also say that it can be done.

Good luck and thanks.