Concerning Love

066

 

I have been defeated by love.  I truly have and I don’t mind.  A good couple of weeks ago I asked someone to give me a topic to write about and I was given love.  Ha!  I thought, easy.  There’s been loads said and sung about it, there are loads of different types of love, this should be a walk in the romantic cherry blossomed park of the heart, I thought.  Two weeks later I had written a paragraph which if it was a baby I would have aborted shortly after conception and indeed I have. It is such a broad subject I did not know where to begin and once begun how would I, how could I end it?  Even if I told of my experiences of love it would go on for far too long.  But a beginning was needed and so it was suggested to me by my housemate that I should watch Rick and Morty (it’s a cartoon, watch it) for Ricks take on love.  Long story short, it’s a chemical reaction in the brain you get for a while when you meet someone who is biologically appealing to mate with and then you become strangers after copulating for some time.  Which is a pretty simplistic way of looking at it and to a certain extent true but he doesn’t even begin to explain any of the other features of love beyond the point of mating.  In fact love plays a huge part in ensuring that we survive as a species not solely through propagation but also by coding us to look after one another.  Being social animals, love commands us to look after our own offspring, it ensures the continuation of the species by enslaving us to these little people so much so that we cherish and nurture them even beyond the bounds of childhood and their developmental years.  Smart DNA.  A neat trick for a protein chain.  It does it so well that we even glom together as a species and look after one another.  We don’t want the pain that comes from losing someone so much that we even look out for strangers.  This is a keyed in behaviour, empathy, as social animals it is rooted in who we are.  We cannot escape it anymore than we can escape the colour of our skin.  Although this skirts on the edge of the nature nurture debate which is one particular rabbit hole I shall not be delving into today, or probably ever.  So is love simply a biological imperative? Thanks for the kick starter Rick and Morty but from here on in I have to do what all writers have to do and that is speak from experience.

I have loved and indeed still do love. I love things and people.  I love food and I’m sure if I had a pet I’d love an animal too.  What has that to do with biological imperatives? I certainly don’t want to mate with my bowl of cornflakes and if I did have a pet, bestiality still wouldn’t be an option, no matter how much I loved that damned goldfish.  So obviously I don’t mean love in the biblical sense, and what sense is that?  When did the bible actually say this?  That to love is to copulate? I can’t remember a single point in the bible where it describes love as the act of sexual congress although it may be in the Talmud, a part of Hebrew lore incorporated within the Torah, but even that’s tenuous.  This is the belief that you marry the person you first copulated with, unless you are David (or any other of Gods specifically favoured people) in which case you get to bed however many you want.  It says nothing of love though, in this marriage, it seems a contractual function rather than something that spontaneously happens.  I can control and choose what I love but I can’t control who I love, I really wish I could.  I have a tendency to think that I fall in and out of love easily, this isn’t true though.  I don’t get to choose who I love, who I want or who I am attracted to.  I don’t think any of us do and if you do go around choosing and being selective then I’m pretty certain that what you are in isn’t love.  Loving the wrong people generally has consequences.  No one escapes a bad relationship unscathed.  Why does this biological imperative drive us to become mentally unstable over people?  It removes sense but at the same time heightens the senses and feelings we have about that individual.  It doesn’t care, it just doesn’t.  It’s a pig like that.  What kind of biological imperatives is that?  One that makes us jealous or insanely  crazy for someone else.  That’s not a survival trait, that’s delusion.

I keep evading what I want to talk about, my experiences of love.  I was asked by someone what is love?  Have I loved?  How do I know I have loved?  I didn’t say it then but I will say it now.   If you are unsure that you love someone or something then imagine them, or it, gone from your life forever.  We have all experienced grief and loss.  That shit hurts.  A lot.  To love someone or something is to be incapable of being with out that one person or thing.  If you find yourself nonplussed about not having that special person or thing in your life then you ain’t in love.  It’s just a contract you’re making with yourself to be happy.  Another way of knowing if you are in love is of course the feeling of love.  That little nimbus glow, the flying insects in your gut, is that the feeling of love?  Or is it the visceral, blood pounding. feeling of want and lust.  The desire that drives us to do mad things, to say things we don’t mean, that drives us insane and sends our minds on flights of fancy and also weave grim, disturbing futures.  Why do we torture ourselves so with this?  Why do we search out love knowing that it will make us irrational, are we mad to want this craziness? Maybe.  There is a security in love and in being loved.  It is a feeling, when it’s right, that can’t be beaten.  A euphoria, a true delight.  It drugs and deludes us sure but my god what a kick!  However like most drugs it’s hard to keep that high, we grow a tolerance toward it.  It’s hard to love someone intensely for years, what happens to love when it becomes old and tired?  Affairs mainly, or if you are lucky you get a good strong dependable relationship, which brings people, or their object of love, so intimately together in so many ways that makes the act of love pale in comparison.  I include object as we all know, we can love things that aren’t people.  I know that the bond between a pet and it’s owner is love, a strong love, an unconditional love mainly, but as with many relationships if it’s right it’s great.  If it’s wrong it’s awful at best and tragic at worst.

I love my child, truly and deeply right down to the roots of my being and even my son instils in me this craziness.  I worry and fret, I go out of my way to make him happy for little or no thanks (he’s a teenager).  I didn’t choose to love him, I just do.  I can’t choose to not love him, that’s impossible.  The same goes for my immediate family and to a certain extent my extended family.  That is my biological imperative.  I still love his mother even though we have been apart for many years now.  We are friends, I am happy to say, with a bond that goes beyond friendship.  We have a shared story and I hope that it will continue for many years to come but how I feel about her and my other friends is love.  Not “head over heels my goodness let’s take our clothes off now and jump into bed and make sweet love” love but love nonetheless.

It’s amazing what we can love.  Much like I love sleep.  Can’t get enough of it, would sleep and dream all night long if I could, and I do too.  God help anyone that came between me and sleep when I wanted sleep.  So what is love?  If it is possible to love an abstract thing such as sleep then it is not simply a biological imperative.  OK sleep is a biological imperative but I also love music, laughs, warm mornings in the sunshine.  Beer, bloody love beer.  That’s not a biological imperative for my survival and the continuation of my genes though. I have been defeated by love.  It’s too big for my mind to encompass, I can’t fully comprehend it, but it is something which I can contain within my heart, within my being.  Something I can feel and something I can give.  I would never want to be without it, to be without love I think is to be without life.  So keep loving and feeling and breathing.  Keep going crazy gaga and keep protecting and nurturing those close to you.  Keep loving that keepsake, that item that brings you joy and memories.  Keep loving that pet, rest assured it loves you too in it’s own way.  Keep loving people, we are in this together as a species, it’s hard wired into us. Too soon we are gone but the life we have lived and the love that we give lives on.  So do it right, do right by you and for those around you and don’t forget that I love you even though I’ll never know you, my DNA makes me.

And now this is finished I can turn on my games console and get on with something else that I love doing.

Advertisements

Still sticking to plan, except one slip.

So several weeks ago I decided that after two and a half decades of continuous drinking that I was going to give up drinking during the week.  I still know that I do not want to give up entirely I just want to take control of my life instead of having a liquid dictate what I spent my money on and how I live my life, during the week.  I am happy to report that everything is still on track, despite a slight step back on a bank holiday Monday.  I’m not proud or happy with myself about this.  I expected there to be times when I would stumble but with the knowledge that this may happen I was also determined that if I did fall then I would get back up and try again instead of just giving up in despair and a sense of futility.  So I got over myself, picked myself up, squared my shoulders and resolve and got back on with the show.

What I have noticed though, apart from feeling fresh in the mornings and being clear headed at night plus having a slightly fatter wallet, is people’s incredulity.  To begin with,  and I only shared my plans with close friends, there was skepticism.  You can’t do that, who do you think you’re kidding, you won’t be able to manage it, your technique is all wrong, why even try?  Only a few of people have belief in me and encouraged me and I thank these two women from the bottom of my heart, you know who you are X.

It has been now just over a month since I started on this and still when I meet with friends and conversation starts I’m either asked with skepticism if I am still managing to avoid booze during the week and when I reply in the affirmative, or when I tell them (if I haven’t seen them since I stopped) that I’ve stopped drinking there’s a look in their eyes which conveys more than words can.  It conveys a sense of disbelief, of incredulity.  As if I am incapable of making a change in my life for the best, as if I cannot aspire to be more than who I have been.  Why the hell not?  Yes it has been a long time, yes I did have a drinking habit but why is it so unbelievable that I should want to control that, that I should want to better myself from the position I put myself in.  I have known, and know people, who have made radical changes in their life for the best.  That have not accepted the hand that fate has dealt them and therefore have instituted changes to better their lot, why is it so inconceivable that I should fall within this group of aspirers?

Despite my drinking I like to think I’m a dependable fellow, steady and solid.  Maybe this is why people find it hard to accept that I have decided to change my behaviour.  Was I really such a rock that I had become unmovable and unchangeable in peoples eyes, that I should remain the same no matter what?  This isn’t a fault of mine and I’m not even sure it is a fault.  When I ask these friends why they are so unbelieving they simply shrug their shoulders and say limply “Well, y’know”.  There is no real reason why they should think that I am incapable of this.  I have proven my resolve before when I gave up smoking, and as I came to think of it I had the same reaction off of the same people back then as I am getting now.  So this got stuck in my head, and I started wondering why, why on earth should people perceive me in this way and then it struck me, it is not how they perceive me but rather a reflection of themselves and their fears of failure that they are projecting on to me.  This theory is possibly incorrect, but hey ho it’s a theory to work on.

It’s their addictions or the things they want to change in their lives that they are denying, it is their fear of failure that they are impressing upon me.  If I can show people that change is possible, that if you make a concerted effort.  If you truly want it, then you can achieve anything, within the realms of possibility obviously, no flapping our arms to fly to the moon!  So is it possible to show these people that they are only holding themselves back, that if they want to change they can?  Sure it isn’t always easy but sometimes it is, all it takes is a deep breath, courage and the will to act and to affect change.  Problem is a lot of people don’t like change, even for the better.  They are happy in their misery or happy to rely on that crutch to help them get through what they perceive to be a bad existence, why else should anyone want to drown themselves with booze if not to blot out what they think is a harsh and uncaring world?  I know I did, I drank to hide pain, to hide from the world, to cosset myself away in the mistaken belief that the world was against me and cold.  It isn’t though, it’s what you make of it.  Sure there are influences beyond our control but how we handle those situations isn’t out of our control but it sure of hell is if you’re drunk as a skunk hiding away and denying that there’s anything wrong.

In a way I guess that I’m lucky, I was able to find the strength to stand on my own two feet again, to do away with the crutch of booze dependency and look my fate squarely in the face and change what I wasn’t happy with and decide where I want to go.  Now I’ve stepped off onto that journey, and it is a long one, and I’m a little scared but mainly excited, enthusiastic and happy.  The world is again full of wonderful possibilities instead of dull dead ends and if my friends and family care to walk this path with me then they are welcome to and if they haven’t the strength then I will support them, every step of the way.

They know nothing of the journey, they know nothing of the travails.

 

So my son and I went for a walk Saturday out at a place called Darland Banks.  We had a good wander and had encounters of the normal kind.  Dog walkers, strollers, ramblers, kids on bikes, cows on paths.  Each received a hearty hello and good morning from us and we received likewise replies from the humans and dogs, not from the cow though, which chewed the cud with us.  On the return journey, it being a hot day and a long walk, we popped into a country pub.  It wasn’t a small place and had an extensive beer garden surrounded by tall trees and which also contained a petting farm full of animals of various shapes, sizes and fluffiness.  A country, family friendly, farm pub.  Non chain, non brand name, non franchise.

We had caught the tail end of the lunch time rush and as we sat at our picnic table in the sun we observed, as people do, the others about us.  It soon became apparent that we were being observed back.  My son and I were in the midst of plump, middle to retirement age, upper middle class types.  The men sat about in their khaki and beige clothes, cardigans draped over shoulders, three quarter length trousers, short sleeved shirts taunt across beer swollen bellies with buttons bursting to fly with the first sudden sharp intake of breath, hacking cough or brash laugh and complete with sandals and white socks.  The ladies in lurid coloured summer dresses of purples and lime greens, flashy costume jewellery aplenty, their adult children were sporting bright energetic athletic clothing, garish sneakers aplenty and they were desperately scrambling about after their own kids, the khakis grandchildren, who were all dressed in their Saturday best.  Starched shirts and dresses, shiny shoes who were running around carefree or happily feeding the pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits and other assorted animals whose relatives were being consumed in the adjacent beer garden. Nice big shiny cars and SUVs stuffed into the car park.

I am sure they are all individuals with lives as complicated as your or my own, with the same vague worries, appetites and hopes and dreams that we all contain.  They seemed like happily functioning extended families, they’d all carved out their territories in the beer garden peacefully, I assumed, and there was enough English politeness going around that I wouldn’t have been surprised to find my self in some impromptu garden tea party with the queen.  A few stalwart silver backs standing erect at the borders of the beer garden, ale clutched in hand, cigarettes pinched between fingers of the other hand, casting imperious looks around their fiefdoms.

My son and I stuck out.  Hot, sweaty, sun reddened and dressed in casual jeans and t-shirts, ragged and dust dishevelled, we were not a part of this herd.  Their disapproving looks told us as much but what did they know of our journey, what did they know of our travails? (We had to go back at one point as we couldn’t get past the cow in the middle of the path in the woods).  They had driven here in air conditioned cars, secluded in their own little caged metal worlds.  Oblivious to the natural world and isolated from the people around them.  My son and I slowly drank our drinks under their disapproving looks and their conceited glances at our lack of designer clothing, gold watches and general lack of apparent affluence.

Who were these people to judge us?  Who gave them the right to look down their noses at us simply because we were not part of their wealthy set?  Was it because we didn’t drive here but walked, because we didn’t buy the most expensive drinks, or food or talk loudly about how much money we had made or where it was invested?  It became obvious that these people were here to flaunt and show off, not to relax and be happy with their families.  It was a pageant, a pageant for the middle aged near retired silver backs, a flaunting of their masculinity, power and of their dominance.

We observed more closely, there was a pecking order that was for sure.  The largest and loudest of the families had cornered the garden where the sun was shining the most, and as time and the sun moved on, they moved around the garden following the suns heat.  Usurping those people on sunnier picnic tables by adroitly placing glasses on their tables and talking loudly and quite blatantly insinuating themselves by sitting on the edges of said tables until the smaller, lesser family was slowly moved out of the sun and into the shade.  It soon became apparent that our table was in prime location and slowly but surely the family made it’s way towards us, at sundial speed.  An odd glass at the end of our table appeared and then another under watchful eyes unless we in our desperate thirst would swipe and drain them in a blink of an eye.  A builders crack presented itself as a silver back lowered his weight on to our now creaking table.  We suspected flatulence was used as some kind of chemical warfare but we remained, the two of us on a six seater table, we weren’t going anywhere.  We had walked far and for a long time, we deserved this seating we had chosen and our time in the sun and we were not going to move, nope not at all.

This seemed to irk them.  We offered the surrounding empty seats to them, to share the table with them.  This irked them more, they obviously wanted dominance of the table, not to share but to conquer, to take over.  They engaged us in stilted and stunted conversation.  What job did I have, how did I get here, where is your wife, where did I live, what school did I go to?  What was my son doing, what college did he go to, what car had I bought him, where is his girlfriend?  Prestige, that’s what they were trying to beat us with, we have more, you have less.  We have money, you have none.  We have it all and you have nothing.  Fortunately my son and I do not measure success in finance and baubles.  We measure it in family and friends, in the warmth of love and caring.  We may not have it all but we have politeness, we have compassion and we have empathy.  We have the ability to see the person beyond face value, something which I was beginning to realise that these people seemed to lack.  Is it because we had to work hard for what we had, because we weren’t spoiled by wealth like them and therefore appreciated all that we had even if what we had was nothing, only ourselves?  These khaki drivers they know nothing of the journey, they know nothing of the travails of the poor and hard working.  But then I know nothing of them except that they were overbearing, rude and conceited, give me my poor peers any time, I’d rather do without wealth if that is what it makes of us.

How the weekend went.

 

 

You may remember how I was worried and somewhat concerned about how the weekend would go after being away from alcohol for five days, well this is how it went.  Friday night wasn’t a problem, carried on just as I had done during the week, drank water and kept myself busy and active during the evening.  Found it somewhat disappointing to be in bed so early on a Friday night but then it wasn’t as if I had anywhere to go or anyone to meet anyway so no huge loss.

I was up early on the Saturday and by the time my son had surfaced from the pit which is the teenagers room the mundane aspects (laundry, housework and shopping) of the weekend had already been dealt with.  My son and I went out for a good walk (there is another blog forthcoming about this walk) and on the way back popped into a local pub.  I had one cider and my son, who I’ve shared everything with, mentioned that I wasn’t drinking as fast as I normally did.  This was a good observation as I was feeling the effects of the alcohol more keenly than I would normally do so and so wasn’t drinking as fast as I normally would.  This did not open the floodgates as I had feared but showed me that I should be cautious with the amount and how fast I imbibe it.  Back home on the Saturday night I allowed myself four cans of relatively weak generic beer.  I drank these over the course of a few hours, stopping and having water between each can.  Not really enjoying the drinking as I had done.  I had a friend visit me and we discussed how he had given up alcohol and started again and how it was an ongoing struggle for him to find a balance, one that he has yet to find.  I shared my experiences with him and he was extremely supportive and offered good advice.

One remark stuck with me and is still bouncing around inside my head.  When I told him about how I was regaining control he looked at me candidly and said “I accept my friends for who they are, not what they do.  But it is good to see you being you and not being a drunk.”  My son has said similar things before in the past, especially when younger and unsure of what is happening.  He would comment on how he’d not want me to be drunk daddy but happy daddy or he would encourage me to drink later in the day in order to spend more time with him as I was more coherent and able to give him more of my attention.  Oh please don’t get me wrong, there have been times when he has encouraged me to drink but only when he was older, and for his own ends, the cunning little chap that he is.  However my friend was right, we stay who we are when sober and when drunk our personalities, although still our own, start to “slide and shift” about as do our priorities.

On Sunday I drank two cans of beer and a bottle of wine over the course of the day.  I noted how alcohol does exaggerate emotions and how quickly it happens.  How I could be happy, then sad, then energetic then forgetful all in the space of several minutes.  I may have been aware of this before but had become blinded to it due to the many years that I had lived in this state, I guess it had become the norm.  By 9pm Sunday I had run out of wine and beer but instead of going to the shop to buy more, as I would normally did, I was content to drink water and happily observe myself slowly sobering up.  I think I am at a stage now where I prefer sober me to drunk me.  Doesn’t mean I’ll never drink again but it has made me much more aware of my adverse and exaggerated behaviour while drunk and more aware of how stable I am when sober.  Stable and coherent.  I am looking forward to another five days of not drinking, saving that money and being able to write and think clearly.

In a way I feel as if I am cheating by not giving up entirely, I was expecting a hard time and the ease of which I have been able to accomplish getting control of my drinking I find amazing.  It may not make for an engaging blog with the twists and turns and ups and downs that will make it a gripping read but I am happy to report, even if somewhat tediously, that everything is fine.

Booze vs Me

So I have been asked to keep an account or a diary of my progress. I don’t mind doing this otherwise I would not have even started a blog let alone written one about my struggle with alcohol.  I would like to point out though that I am not quitting, merely trying to regain control of my life, time, thoughts and emotions instead of blanketing them all with booze in a hope that I can numb my way to deaths final destiny.  The objective is not to drink during the week.  Saturday will be ok but I want to avoid binge drinking. Sunday is a bit of a grey area which I will come to presently.  This diary will be done on a weekly basis.  So here we go then, this is how it’s been for me so far.

 

Diary

Week 1

Day 1
Booze provided me with escapism but now I wanted to escape from it.  On the Sunday I rested and had a few cans plus a nice bottle of red wine and settled down to an early night.  That night I was restless and worried that I would not have the willpower or the inclination the next evening to go through with it.  This wasn’t the first time I had tried to get a hold of this particular tigers tail and the first few attempts had not succeeded beyond 24hrs.  I focused on work on Monday, determined not to let any upset, no matter how major or minor, give me an excuse to have a drink after work.  Thankfully the day flew by and before I knew it I was on my way home.
There was a moment of frisson as I passed the local shop where I’d normally stock up for a night of drinking, at this point in my life that would be a couple of cans of beer and a three litre bottle of cider, there was money in my pocket and a want to drink but greater than this was the desire to resist, to abstain, to remain away from the booze.  The actual Monday evening was fine though.  I had in doors, and still have, two cans of beer, a bottle of red wine and a bottle of 40yr old whiskey.  When without alcohol I normally suffer from anxiety and succumb to buying some and then drink it on the way home out of a sense of relief but actually having booze to hand alleviated this anxiety.  It was there if I wanted it but I didn’t, not at all.
I focused on how I had felt and behaved when last seriously drunk and the risk I had run to a dear friendship simply because I had drunk too much.  Grabbing my book I buried my head inside it, when that no longer held my attention I wrote, when that waned I simply put on the gaming console and escaped that way.  Before I knew it it was time for bed and off I went.  Happy and a little proud that I had made it, sleep didn’t come easy that night and my sleep was restless and full of fragmented dreams.

Day 2
Tuesday morning, bright, energetic and confident.  Completely fine.  Just the start of another day but without the alcohol lag that comes with drinking.  Not the hangover, no, the lag.  A hangover is alcohol poisoning.  Pounding headache, watery bowels etc etc etc the lag is different.  When drinking on a daily basis, for me, the body is reticent to start a new day, the alcohol is still in the system and gets sweated out, the mind has to clear and get going the body and needs to reset and readjust before the toil of day can commence.  This morning I didn’t exactly spring out of bed (too old for that, I’m not in my 20’s anymore) but I did flow into the day rather than having to fight the current to get going.
Work was fine, a few minor hiccups but nothing of real interest.  The work day ended, I didn’t even think when I passed the shop, just went home ate, read, wrote went to bed.  Drank loads of water as I also did on the Monday but that was more out of habit, muscle memory I guess.  This habitual movement was something I was accustomed to when I gave up smoking.  My fingers needed something to do back then so I dabbled in origami, badly, and found other things for my fingers to do.  In the same respect for over twenty years my muscles and psyche had the ingrained behaviour of raising a vessel to my lips and drinking, to stop doing that I think would have been discommodious.  It would have upset my settled mind and made me fidgety and anxious.  Not something that I wanted to happen so water, water and more water.  Must have urinated more on these evenings than if I’d been on a pub crawl.
At this point I didn’t even miss being drunk, didn’t miss the slurred words, the short attention span.  I was able to think coherently and string complex thoughts together and remember where I had started and follow how I’d reach the conclusion of these thoughts.  Normally I would have been a rambling incoherent mess gibbering on about god knows what by around 9pm with no understanding or memory of how I’d mentally or emotionally got anywhere.  Still a bit hard getting to sleep and the dreams were slightly lurid and disturbing.

Day 3
Much the same as days 1 and 2 truth be told.  Nothing new to report.  Spoke to my brother who was supportive and encouraged him to read my blog, so far he still hasn’t but he has a busy life.

Day 4
Had friends around in the evening.  One remarked on how I was only drinking water and asked if I wanted some beer.  I declined and told him that I hadn’t had a drink since Sunday night.  His response was to ask if I was ill or had something happened to me?  “No,” I told him “just want to stop drinking during the week.”  He looked at me askance as if he hadn’t heard correctly.  We have known each other for over 30 years and nothing more was said.  Thanks for the moral encouragement and support my friend, I don’t think he thinks I’ll make it and I will have great joy in showing him that I can.  My housemate has continued drinking throughout all this and seems incredulous that I have stopped so suddenly and so simply.   Didn’t take long to nod off this night and I slept soundly throughout the night, the first time since Saturday night.

Day 5
Friday!  Just started work.  I am looking forward to seeing my son and letting him know I haven’t been drinking, I know he will be happy and proud of me.  We talked about me cutting back on booze much the same as we discuss everything.  When I gave up smoking he was the only person I didn’t want to let down when I was quitting.  I still get the odd craving for a cigarette and it’s his disappointment that ensures that I will never light up again.  I know that with the drinking it will be the same.  I won’t let my son down, I won’t let myself down.  I’m not exactly looking forward to the weekend.  I know I will drink and that’s ok, as I’ve always said I’m not quitting, just regaining control but I’m now not so sure I want a drink in case the flood gates open.  I have no craving for it, well mentally I wouldn’t mind getting tipsy but physically my biological body doesn’t seem to have any want, desire or need for it.  I’ve not got the shakes or anything like that.  I’m enjoying turning up to work not drenched in an alcoholic sweat and also appreciate the ease of getting up and about first thing in the morning.  If I do drink this weekend then it will be a little, if at all, at least that’s the plan.  Guess you and I will find out how it goes, I’ll keep you informed and up to date.