“A pipe is to the troubled soul what caresses of a mother are for her suffering child.”
Most people I know would probably tell you that I’m someone that doesn’t handle stress all that well. Heck, I’d tell you that before they’d have a chance to answer the question. Then I’d probably lock myself in my room and stare up at the ceiling, wondering why you would ask that question. Stress and I have a long, storied relationship, but I’d hesitate to call us friends.
When I was younger, I didn’t know how to handle stress. I never saw people I knew deal with stress in a healthy way, or give me tips on how to best overcome it in my own life. I’d run into a situation that would trigger my anxiety, and I’d have my entire day (or days) ruined as my mind screamed at me about how I failed, or how I’m such a screw up.
See, my mind is always going; always thinking, always bringing back moments from my past that it knows will rattle me to my core. Sometimes, I’d have to stop in my tracks and tell my mind out loud to SHUT UP. This will stop the thoughts, but not forever, and soon they weasel themselves back in my head.
Now, I did have ways to deal with this stress in a healthy manner. I go to counseling, and I spend time in prayer, and both of these things have helped me when nothing else will. In fact, if you suffer from depression and anxiety, I heartily recommend seeking these avenues, as they’ve brought me peace in times of storms.
Yet, there’s another way I’ve found that can calm my mind; and since this is a pipe blog, I’m sure you’ve already guessed this was going to show up somewhere here. Aye, you are correct.
I didn’t start smoking a pipe to deal with my stress. As I mentioned earlier, pipe smoking was something I already wanted to do. A few months after I started smoking a pipe, I recall a night where my anxiety was getting the best of me. I had packed a pipe earlier in the evening, so instead of pacing around and thinking about the situation, I grabbed my pipe and went outside. After getting the pipe going, I sat out on my front steps and stared out at the landscape around me. As the tobacco crackled and burned into smoke, I let my mind wander and drift away from my cares. My stomach stopped turning in knots, and those nagging voices went away. All that I worried about at that moment was tamping down the ashes in my pipe. Somehow, in the midst of a crisis, all that was there at that moment was my pipe.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think we should always run to our pipe because of our problems. The pipe shouldn’t act as our crutch, but rather as a tool in our arsenal for dealing with stress. The pipe shouldn’t be an addiction, and if it is, then maybe its time to put it down for a bit so you can deal with your stress in a better way. However, I do think pipe smoking can help us in a time of need, like the above proverb states.
I can’t provide raw data backing up my claim, but I honestly feel that pipe smoking has helped me in my depression. I find that my depression tends to strike more when the weather is too cold or warm to smoke my pipe. I’ll often sit around in one of my moods, unable to even enjoy mindless activities such as video games or reading.
When the weather cooperates, and my depression rears its head, off I’ll go to the garage with my laptop or a book, with a few pipes in tow. After spending some time with my devotions, I’ll light my pipe and puff away as my worries burn to wisps of smoke. Soon, all my cares have faded into the pipe haze as I read or write away.
It’s no coincidence that many great thinkers and writers in the past were pipe smokers. All the fiddling around of packing, lighting, and tamping a pipe keep the hands busy and gives the mind something to focus on while working out tough problems. Even now as I tamp my Peterson, I’m thinking of how to word this sentence and forming it out before I write it. Yes, it takes up time, but I’d rather that than just staring at my computer screen waiting for inspiration to come.
So as we trudge through the bleak nights of February, I hope your pipe brings you comfort and rest to your weary mind. After all, our pipes don’t judge us, except when we puff too hard or pack the wrong tobacco in the chamber. Until next time friends, happy puffing.