In my dream last night I was in some situation where a bunch of people were staying in the same house and there wasn’t enough room for everyone and people had to share beds and it was stressing me out and I was trying to get people to stop telling others they could stay with us. People had to double up in beds and use couches.
I left the building and walked down a path to some public park where there was a natural pool guarded all day. I tried swimming in it but it was unsatisfyingly shallow. My friend Tracy, however, disagreed. I agreed to keep an eye on his basket with his sleeping child in it while he got changed in the abandoned-ish department store abutting the pool. I continued to watch his child while he swam out of our sight. I sat with her on the banks and was surprised when she woke and was not a baby at all but a small child. I had to find out why Tracy was gone so long and told her to stay put (I’m a terrible babysitter apparently) and walked back toward the pond only to discover there was an uprising of park workers having a protest in the middle of the pond. Most of them were older black men. Around to the back of the pond’s guard building there were a few homeless guys who I backed away from very quietly.
I finally discovered that Tracy was changing back into clothes in the department building and his child, back in her basket, was outside his changing room. I said he needed to hurry to catch the train. I needed to catch it too and so we walked together. We were walking (his girl was now walking with us) in a wildly industrial built-up urban environment with streets passing over streets and different trains and buses everywhere with little signage and we kept missing the right trains and continued walking the industrial roads and asking where to go to catch the next one.
Tracy and his daughter were gone and I was part of some complex of people and my mother was working in a deli that was actually only fronting as a deli and they took all their calls on vintage telephones and they always had tons of people waiting for food. I needed to find food for Max and was walking towards the deli to see if they had anything, checking out other diners and delis on my way down the street. I lost a little gold hoop in traffic, after picking up walnuts from the gutter, and watched three cars run over it. I didn’t want to get entangled in my mom’s deli and the stuff that was going on there. But I ended up there anyway and my mom kept trying to suggest everything on their menu to me and I was getting impatient and then someone found out I was there who shouldn’t have and so I had to do something about the phone they take orders on. But I didn’t have time to do it right there. I needed to rewire it without them knowing.
A couple of guys who were my allies took off with me on my mission and we agreed to keep an eye out for a restaurant with food I could get for Max. I wired the vintage phone into a dress while Bill Hader, one of my allies, played with some pastel colored heaps of jello while supporting my efforts and discussing with our other friend what the hell we could get to eat that wouldn’t be awful. I was trying to wire the phone into both side seams of the dress and one side seam was uneven and so I trimmed it but then realized that I didn’t have enough seam width to do the wiring. Then I realized, with relief, that I only needed the phone to be rewired on one side. Some part of my dream self also realized that the phone didn’t have to be wired into the dress at all, just to itself.
This morning: woke up with splitting headache, worried about the phone wiring job I was doing in my dream, and also, I lost 3 pounds in 5 days.
Turns out Bill Hader is just as sweet in my dreams as I imagine he is in real life. At this point I think it would send me over the edge to discover he’s an asshole in real life.
I wonder if the whole cast of SNL will eventually end up visiting me in my dreams/nightmares? I’ve already forgotten who visited me last but it was recently. (Was beer holding my memory for me?) I’d like to know why the fuck nearly every dream/nightmare I have involves either packing and moving debacles, tons of people staying in the same place in which there isn’t sufficient room, or a complicated mess of missing buses and trains. I don’t think I’ve had a dream without one of those elements in them for years now. EVERY. FUCKING. NIGHT. And the highways between all my dreams continue to grow. Dreams of the past forming connective tissue with the dreams of the present. Old characters, new places. New situations, old buildings. Same dream segments easing into new chapters. Remembering the old dreams in new ones. I don’t care how ordinary that is to anyone else, it continues to fascinate and kind of twist my brain around.
So I haven’t had any alcohol in five days. Today is day six. Here’s something I’m sure of: going completely without is the right thing. Not just because, obviously, I tried drinking less before and couldn’t do it. Not just because, as I’ve admitted, it’s become a problem needing correcting. It’s the right thing because I have much to learn from this sobriety. I don’t like it, I find the evenings depressing and tedious without beer. When I used to not drink a few days a week I didn’t feel this way because I had beer or wine to look forward to come Friday. But I have this feeling that the austerity of cutting myself completely off is something my spirit needs. Not because alcohol is bad.
(FUCK YOU. ALCOHOL IS NOT BAD, PEOPLE ABUSING IT IS BAD. BEING SOBER DOESN’T MAKE YOU A BETTER OR MORE PURE PERSON.)
I have always believed that to be lost to hedonism is just as unhealthy as being ascetic. Health, real health, is in the balance of things. To have such severe self discipline that nothing passes your lips that your body doesn’t strictly need, that isn’t completely pure of toxins such as sugar or alcohol or unhealthy fats is to mistreat your body, mind, and spirit, as much as it is to overindulge in such things to a point where it makes up half of what you consume.
I know a number of people who are obsessed with their diet as a means of reaching extreme “health”, to live as long as possible, to be as fit as is humanly possible, to be PERFECT and thin and not age and I listen to them evangelizing their diet and their exercise like its a religion and their obsession with health strikes me as being as unbalanced as my love of alcohol and cheese. I have witnessed the dark side of extreme “health” in people for most of my life* and believe me, you can have a liver as pure as a newborn baby’s and be stripping yourself of other vital things. Sometimes it’s your brain and your spirit you are strangling. Sometimes it’s the austerity of your diet that is secretly taxing your system in ways you can’t tell until complications arise. That feeling of lightness and alertness? Might just be your body reacting to an unnatural amount of meat or raw food or lack of variety or not enough balance or not enough bulk to support your physical and mental activities.
For some people the whole point of living is to live as long as possible and as healthily as possible, and anything that gets you closer to immortality becomes a drug. I don’t care about living forever. No amount of health will make any of us live forever. If you spend your whole life in the pursuit of extra years of life you miss a whole lot of living. It takes as much energy and time and commitment to turn your body into a temple as it does to turn it into a landfill. Real health, mental/physical/spiritual, is a balance between hedonism and asceticism.
I have been dwelling in the territory of complete hedonism. A huge unhealthy imbalance. I have gone so far into that territory that it’s important to pull back with electric force. I’m seeing that I was right in thinking that the only way back for me is to be completely sober for a period of time. It’s like putting on the emergency breaks physically. I’m not going completely in the extreme because I still have my coffee (albeit, only partially caffeinated) and I can still have sugar (not a real vice for me) and I haven’t cut myself off from cheese (major vice). But the alcohol is my real joy, my real pleasure, my real indulgence and I don’t want to lose it forever because I love making liqueurs and I want to learn to ferment my own brews, and sharing such beverages has the same power as breaking bread to take down barriers between people, cross broken bridges, and warm bones in the thick of the killing winter.
I need to feel what it is to live without it so that my body has this memory to hang onto. I need to feel what it’s like to be completely dry so that when I let alcohol back in my life I will hold this feeling up every time I start getting close to the line again. I’ve been on the other side of the line for too long and my body has been lost for so long in pain, some part of me gave up on it so long ago that the feelings of health that used to keep my hedonistic pleasures within healthy limitations are too weak to guide me.
Today I’m remembering the time I felt healthiest and most balanced in my life. This is what I need to focus on because it’s my goal. I was 32 years old. I had finally had my mental illness officially diagnosed and was taking medication for it which was a life changing relief, I was drinking moderately, I was going to the gym at the Y alternating with jogging and cycling myself and Max all over the place, I was finally shedding the pregnancy weight, and I was eating really well (moderate portions and great variety and hadn’t given up cheese or other pleasures – just ate them in smaller amounts).
By the end of the year I had actually gotten below my pre-pregnancy weight and was down to 164lbs and the best part was that by that time I’d long since stopped counting calories and I was just living in a comfortable routine that felt good. People like me don’t live life (ever) without experiencing plenty of internal drama and ups and downs but, compared to my whole life before, I was doing so well. I wasn’t smoking cigarettes anymore, medication for my mental illness allowed me to enjoy my time with Max a lot more, and I was enjoying exercise because it made me feel good. I hadn’t weighed myself for a while when my neighbor Eddy commented on how great I was looking and I wondered what was different and that’s when I weighed myself and was so pleased to discover I’d exceeded my goal.
I felt so good. Mind, body, spirit. I was the happiest I’d ever felt in my life. Life dramas never stop, no matter how healthy you are, and our life had plenty of that but when you feel good in your bones, when you feel good in your mind you can take the drama in stride much more gracefully.
The funny thing is that at 164 lbs I was almost 30lbs over the suggested ideal weight for my height (5’7″ = 135lbs). Fuck that shit. Yeah, so I was chubby-ish but I had a waist and I could wear the styles of clothes I love, and I FELT GOOD IN MY BODY. I tossed the shoulds and recommendations by the medical association and asked myself what was right for me. What’s right for me isn’t to be really thin and fit enough to make an athlete proud. What’s right for me is to live a life that includes indulgences and pleasures that I couldn’t have if I wanted to be that thin. Anyway, I look too thin at 135lbs so doctors can shove their “ideal” numbers up their asses. I have always emulated women whose bodies have substantial flesh on their bones while keeping a lovely shape. Marlene Deitrich rather than Nicole Kidman. Rosiland Russel rather than Maggie Q.
What makes life worth living for me is a balance wherein exercising and drinking beer are equal parts pleasure and health. Where both contribute to my well being and my sense of a life being fully lived. I don’t want to live forever, I just want to live richly and fully.
To return to that place I have to lose 110lbs. That’s the full picture. Last monday I had 113lbs to lose. I haven’t been thinking about losing weight at all this week because I’ve been too focused on how much I dislike evenings now that they are so empty of beer.
I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I miss that sense of joy I used to feel after a long walk or a jog around the abandoned weed filled high school track after having pushed myself to do one more lap. I miss that happy anticipation of an evening with friends in which the wine and beer would flow freely and I could drink as much as I wanted without guilt because I knew I would go a few days without soon after. I miss getting up in the morning and asking myself if I feel more like a French beatnik or a repressed secretary from the 1950’s and then dressing up accordingly. I miss getting dressed and made up and then not thinking about my body or my appearance again for the whole day.
I’m doing it. This time is different than all my previous efforts for the last several years.
Because this is my new watershed.
*My mother and many other adults in my life were doing juice fasts and smoothies and raw food long before any of my peers were and I saw what that can result in.