Monday, August 26, 2013

I drink.

Galatians 5:1-13

At about the age of ten, I counted it up on my fingers and realized that every one of my adult relatives was an alcoholic or had been married to one.  At the time, I thought my mother fell into the 'married to one' category (my long-gone biological father had a well-known drinking problem) but as I got older I realized that her on-again, off-again relationship with alcohol was a form of addiction.  Just because you can spend years on the wagon doesn't mean you can control your drinking if you fall off.  In fact, feeling the need to spend years on the wagon should tell you all you need to know about your relationship with alcohol, but my mother never realized, or just never admitted that she carried the family curse of alcoholism (among many other curses).  

She could either never drink, or drink all the time.  And that's an alcoholic.  When she drank all the time  (sometimes openly, sometimes secretly), she always reached a point when she looked back at her recent behavior and thought to herself (or so she told me): I have to stop this, I'm becoming an alcoholic!  And she'd stop drinking for years.  But after a time, she would think to herself again: You, know it's been a while since I drank, I've been good, I can have just one.  And the cycle would start all over again.

They get this in AA, that just because you stop drinking doesn't mean you're no longer addicted to alcohol.  You have to stop drinking because you're addicted, you have to cut yourself off from the thing that is harming you.  And abstinence is not the same as control.  Abstinence is a lack of control.  Abstinence is an inevitable admission of weakness after a proven pattern of failure.  It is a necessary evil.

Because, ideally, no one would be so damaged as to have to deny themselves any fun for a lack of control.  Abstinence may make your whole life better, but it is complicated to explain, hard to stick with, and a drag in general.  I wish no one had to do it.  I wish we all were equipped to regulate ourselves properly, to never worry that we will lose ourselves or destroy others.  I wish no one had to be afraid of pleasure and celebration.

Which is why I drink.  Because I refuse to be afraid.  I know, this sounds silly.  With my family history of alcoholism, the smart thing would be to never touch a drop, right?  In fact, if some people can't control themselves, should we not all just refrain?  Especially since it is hard to tell, before it is too late, who will be able to regulate and who will succumb.

Because sometimes, fear masquerades as smart.  And sometimes, control can be taken too far.  I have often written about my need for control, and my inability to hold myself to a routine, but I don't think I'm going to learn anything or get control of myself by hiding in fear from any and all danger.  So I drink a little.

I've never been drunk.  I've never driven after drinking.  I've never said or done anything I regret while drinking.  I like drinking things that taste nice: tequila, no.  Limoncello, yes!  I like my wine red and sweet, but refuse to learn anything more about it.  I like my beer pale and bitter, otherwise I get tired of it before I finish, unless it's Guinness.

I think that part of the reason why drinking now feels like an okay thing to do (as opposed to my twenties, when I was more hesitant) is because of my own maturity and security with myself, and the company.  Friends that I have made in the third decade of my life are now the kind that I feel able to be open with, the kind I feel safe with.  They are in control of themselves, so I don't feel the same need for vigilance around people that I used to.  And if I am by myself, a little drink is fun and relaxing.  My favorite thing is to pour a bit of Khalua on a bowl of chocolate ice cream.  Very nice after a hard night's work.

I feel like I am going to spend my entire adult life facing down my fears, and this seems to me a worthy way to live.  I refuse to be afraid of alcohol, so I cannot indulge either in drunkenness or abstinence.  Both extremes represent fear and lack of control.  So do rules, which I refuse to make for myself, since rules are another way of expressing fear and lack of control.  And this is, at the risk of sounding precious and twee, a journey.  The first few steps are feeling pretty good.  We'll see how it goes.          

Monday, August 19, 2013

I am a Skate-Free Pedestal.

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, 7:15-18

I went to an art show, my first, this past June for an artist named Jay Giroux.  I liked his deconstructionist vibe and affable, self-effacing manner.  One piece in particular, though, really spoke to me, called "Skate-Free Pedestal."  Here is a picture:
Aside from the somewhat distracting and very nice pinstriped bottom also in the picture (The show was very crowded and that's too close to crop, besides, free bottom, so why are you complaining?), I found the piece itself absolutely riveting.  For context, the pedestal is about 3-3.5 feet tall, about 1 foot long on each side, made of maple and sanded and buffed to buttery peach fuzz perfection.  You can see the silver Skate Stops are placed perfectly evenly and symmetrically on each side, and even the screws securing the Stops are precisely evenly distributed.  The piece was priced at around three thousand dollars.  And if I had that kind of walking around cash, I would have bought it.

Half of my blog posts are about my longings for order, routine, improvement, and personal perfection.  The other half are about how I like to eat ice cream for breakfast.  So half of me loves this piece because of its physical, geometric perfection.  But the geometric perfection exists only to mock those people, like me, like the people who screw Skate Stops into every public flat surface they possibly can, for being the kinds of squares who cannot tolerate any kind of spontaneous joy or chaos in their lives.  The ice-cream-for-breakfast part of me loves that.

Because who wants to skateboard on a pedestal with foot-long sides?  (Okay, as a fan of Jackass I really shouldn't have asked that.)  The Skate Stops are completely unnecessary.  But they have been rendered beautiful by care and craftsmanship.  Despite the fact that they usually stand for everything safe, mild, and tight-assed, like any object, they are neutral, and in this piece have been made to stand for everything subversive, wild, and permissive.  They point out how our obsession, my obsession, with order can get out of control and suck all the fun out of life.

Skate-Free Pedestal has two levels, two meanings, if you will: the structure celebrates order, the context celebrates chaos.  I have two faces, two sides to my personality: I want both inviolable routine and hedonistic pleasure in equal measure.

Yes, this is contradictory, but is it evil, or even hypocritical?  Not at all.  We all know someone who cannot deal with change, or who cannot, as in the cinematic master piece Hot Fuzz: "switch off."  And they are no fun to be around.  Life is an alternating current of the expected and the unexpected, you almost have to be both Jekyll and Hyde just to deal day to day.

I like that I am coming to grips with these two sides of myself.  I like Skate-Free Pedestal for helping me see myself so clearly.  I like that Jay Giroux made this piece with such care and vision.  I like how, if you look carefully, that very nice and distracting pinstriped bottom in the picture just goes to help prove my point about how chaos and order exist cheek-by-jowl in everyday life, and therefore, in every one of us.