To Do or Not To or To or To Not Do
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Picture this. The wedding is over. And the guests, your friends, want to come to the capacious house you've rented and drink champagne and sit by the swimming pool. You want this too. You want to keep dancing and singing, talking loudly and clasping hands with your women friends. You want to keep playing songs from Motown, singing along and whisper a pledge, a secret, a wish to a dear lady from your life before you lift up the goblet, the tumbler, the coffee mug and sip from the glass.
That's the fantasy. That's the trained narrative. The one you've been spinning since your early twenties--well before you met a man worthy of serious commitment, let alone marriage. This play didn't fall out of the sky. It came to you from years of nights spent in scenarios resembling the one mentioned above. You laughed, you drank, you danced. And now on the eve of your MARRIAGE, you are flooded with nostalgia for this night of revelry that is not to be. A night that will never be... Because, because, because you spent the last five years being crazy and now you need to rebuild. And rebuilding takes time. It takes commitment. It takes repetitive action. The repetitive actions of not drinking, not staying up super late, not self-destructing, not carousing. Carouse. From the German, garaus. Literally, to drain the cup. Although to talk about this as rebuilding isn't exactly accurate. Rebuilding isn't exactly right. It's something else. Something like: starting from the beginning. A new beginning. Is there a word for that?
When you first quit drinking you had so much energy—so much unbridled spirit you couldn't wait to put to use or simply put out there—insight, hard won wisdom, the feeling of promise and excitement—and control. As time's gone by, you feel different than that. You feel rather circumspect sometimes or listless or dissatisfied. You love your life and all its parts, but the truth is you sometimes long for a kind of flux—a jostling or inspiration, a stimulation that is absolutely shearing—or simply an unforeseen event, an unplanned moment. Which is (is it?) rather selfish, egotistical, adolescent, perhaps... Cheers!
To not drink is a practice that changes as time goes on. At first it feels NEW. It feels like—wow! I'm really doing something good, smart, even. Later it feels difficult, but regardless the challenge is noble, character-building. At some point it begins to feel misguided, and finally, it feels like crap. It feels like "will someone please tell me why I thought it would be a good idea to quit drinking? And why I decided to share this witless decision?" It's not that you want to be drunk, to get drunk as a skunk and act like a nut and feel terrible and remorseful the next day. No. It's a matter of wanting your life back—the things that drove you to abstinence—you want these back. Or, some of them. You don't want the lethargy and the fear that you could be accomplishing more. You don't want the slight headache on Sunday morning. You don't want to gaze across a playground and whimper. You don't want to toss your book to the ground in disgust at yourself for not making further progress.
You want the easy feeling. The one you don't have to work for. The one you ease right into like an overstuffed chair. You want access to those friends and stories—that special intimacy, the bond that is created in the clinking of the glass. You want to share that special feeling—the heightened and diminished awareness—with someone. In a moment of affection. In a very tender, affectionate, meaningful way. You don't picture yourself standing on a coffee table, playing the air fiddle, singing Wagon Wheel at 3 a.m. You picture yourself at a café, clinking red wine glasses with a close girlfriend, laughing about a story, a circumstance, an observation, a secret...