Saturday, October 29, 2011

Break Your Brain: the shift from manual to automatic

The hardest part of accomplishing anything, whether exercise, communication, eating, or whatever it is that involves obtaining something, is the shift from a relaxed, non-eventful state of mind to one that must give out effort.  That's hard because it literally requires mental and caloric muscle to be moved, and that means we feel some sort of struggle.

Sure, moving sucks.  But, not moving will eventually suck, too.  And I'm betting that not moving is so good right now because we just moved, and we need a break.  The point is that we can condition ourselves to do things, and that those things require rules for a little while until they become automatic.  Because, and here's the deal, you're already automatically (non-eventfully) going down a course of events, but you've been acclimated to them, so you don't notice as much.  Eating a sundae every night for dinner, or drinking a six pack, is easier because it is the norm.  We have a bias for what's here and now.  Any change isn't threatening so much as it requires some effort, and it doesn't make sense to expend energy until we have the knowledge that the expenditure of that energy will yield benefits--but to get that knowledge we have to experience it somehow, or ask someone who we trust has similar judgments and tastes.

Anyway, the point is that a lot of personal growth and insight and the core essential stuff of life, such as it is, comes not from having a lot of money, or from getting the best car or most prestigious job, but from the desire to obtain those things, and the effort we put forth to get them.   To be clear: from not drinking when drinking is easy, from not cheating when cheating is easy, from not eating cake when eating cake is easy, and from not stealing shit when it is available, not out of a need to be involved in a community (though that matters too), but because restriction begets insight, and insight allows us to realize that restriction is important, and eventually, once these two folks get into bed together, well, the genes are right for a well balanced kid, I think, so long as s/he isn't spoiled.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Year and Four Months

I've been sober for a year and four months straight, no chaser.    I've found a new job, bought an apartment, and gotten married (at city hall), in that time, so, along with getting sober, a lot of other things have changed too.  Maybe the most marked personality change is my profound understanding of my own limitations--that is, my lack of expertise in almost every area imaginable.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  More like a life thing.  Like a recognizing how small we are type of thing. 

Alcohol fuels some levels of self-bias.  It also, unfortunately, helps me to relax, at least in the short term (and without thinking of any long term costs).  So however painful that may be, since my preference is to reduce bias in the longer term, I have to deal with some levels of increased anxiety now.  That's not bad, it just is "who I am" and I'm learning my limitations on a daily basis.  Suffice it to say that I'm not considering going back to drinking anytime soon--so the idea of quitting for a year is nice, but insufficient.

I am not foolish enough to believe that my life is a mirror of sheer will.  I'm also not among those who think that we have no control over our own direction, either.  It may be that we only control 3.59% of the direction of our lives--but I want to be conscious of that aspect, however small, and make informed decisions.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Self-Doubt is healthy.  The problem arises only when it paralyzes.  One of the paradoxical ways out of this paralysis to realize our utter, incomprehensible lack of importance.  I think it helps to do this for two reasons.

1) The quick emotional reaction to self-doubt is often, whether internal or the result of a conversation with friend(s), assurance.  Assurances that we're already where we should be might take away the motivating factor that some self-doubt can provide.

2)If we're not important, then doing something perfectly--that is, trying, failing, learning, and trying again, isn't put on a pedestal (given an audience), and we might actually create something--be involved in some project--without first thinking about how it will be received, or whether we're doing it right.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Alcohol Is Safety.

Not because it is easy, because it often isn't, or because it is simple.  Again, no.  But because it is predictable.

It also allows, I think, a convenient way to face death, in whatever machination you want to chose (not necessarily easy, again, but possible).

Sterile dry full fledged non-alcoholic life is almost unbearable, and there's no telling where the fuck it will go, even as it is, from moment to moment, touchable, palpable.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hardest Things: Guitar and Marriages

Two related thoughts (I assure you): it is hard to realize that you must learn to play the guitar by learning an immense amount of patterns that, if broken, sound bad.

It is also hard to realize that the ideal so often romanticized, that we have a true and singular "meant to be" significant other, is not true.  We don't.  We can't just pick up the guitar and make up the rules, just like we'd like to but can't copy a foreign language without learning it first (and by the way, once you learn it, you lose that damn cool essential foreign aspect, because you know--almost all of a sudden--what people are saying, so it goes from tremendously romantic to tremendously mundane, although still intractably special in a different sense (and I have a lot left to learn, no doubt)).  Every guitar solo follows a pattern.   And every relationship is hard work--worthy hard work, that is, to turn someone into a special someone, although less like a drug, and also hard work to open oneself to that other person.

And even though I haven't changed my guitar strings in years, I was only a little out of tune just now, when I picked the old instrument out of the case and strummed it into merriment and balanced [idiosyncratic] bliss/== my own.

Seeing Is Not Changing

No matter how clear we can see a personality trait, social problem, or relationship dynamic, whether in ourselves or in other people, actually changing it in some meaningful positive way is much more difficult.  Unfortunately, it is really tempting to think that comprehension is equivalent to conclusion.  It isn't.  And it is frustrating to see a problem clearly and be able to do precisely nothing to stop it. 

Simultaneously, somehow, we need to be careful that we're not deluding ourselves into the trap of clarity, and note that we only see a fraction of any reality in front of us.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mouth Full of Linen.

Holy shit am I not drinking.  I'm parched dry.  I'm so dry I have my own lift.  I'm so dry I've got a zip code of man-made weather around me.  I'm so dry I haven't even begun to register where day and night recede into each other, or where a year began, or whether it was a day, or where old and new friends faded into nostalgia.  I close my eyes and leaves from autumns of my childhood smell like chimney smoke in my nose, and favorite maroon sweaters paint my nails like tar, and my room-mate from brooklyn wishes me well on my first day of work, and law school professors bear down on damn clammy enema inducing questions, and the vividness of thoughts that I haven't even thunk in fifteen years stand out printed on a mountain side of fatigue and weariness, and I open my eyes and the world around me functions with the minutia and complexity that is startling, and boring, and vast and endless, and I take a dip in the water, and I'm on the toilet now, and the ground swells up, and the tiles break open at their natural seams and I'm gone, man, I'm gone right into the sewer.  And I've had that dream before, a thousand times.  And I can't fucking figure out why everyone is talking that way, or what that lip curl signified socially, until I realize that they're blind with booze, just full of it, and that entire industries center on their continual absorption of the chemical, straight into the lining of the stomach, the large intestine, no matter the bottle shape or the hand pouring it, all the same the next morning, and I make rules for myself these days because I know that I can't trust myself, man, I make decisions before I have to make decisions so I don't have to make decisions that I don't want to make.