Under the Influence

My Grandad was a big drinker.

His favorite place to take the family was the Yarmouth House, a nice restaurant where everyone knew Bill Boyne for the legend that he was. He would usually order scotch, and sometimes, he would offer a sip to the grandkids.

Sipping your grandfather’s drink was a nice little ceremony — a little reminder that he liked you. And we liked him a whole lot — that’s why we would always fight over who sat next to him. Not because of the sips of alcohol, but because it was a seat of honor.

But with each drink he had, the more insistent he’d be… Not always with his alcohol, but with an appetizer he’d gotten, or a bite of his own meal that he wanted to share with us. He would prod us, each prod a little more forceful depending, again, on the amount of alcohol he’d had, and say, “Eat! Have some!”

Which got a little annoying after a while. Grandad didn’t realize his own strength, sometimes, and he wouldn’t notice us rubbing our arms after his prods, or pay attention to the fact that we said we were full, for that matter. He was having a good time, damn it, and everyone in his vicinity would, too.

Grandad was a drinker. It was part of his personality. Even after the doctor tried to cut him off for his health, I’d catch him with a drink in his hand. And though I bought my first bottle of scotch in his honor after he died, Grandad is also a reminder of how you can become the drink in your hand.

I’m not saying he wasn’t the same person when he wasn’t drinking. He was still stubborn, still feisty, still someone you had to peel back the gruff layers to see fully. He still loved his family like there was nothing else to love. But Grandad was a drinker. That was a part of his description as a human being. You could spend about ten seconds describing the man, and that would come up.

4BCE8AAF-5F43-43A8-A690-D33932236276-11195-000014ECE2F3792DMy relationship with alcohol has definitely undergone an evolution over the years. I went from not liking it at all (when I was underage, drinking just seemed like a thing people did to break rules and feel rebellious, which didn’t sit well with me), to dabbling with mixed drinks and cider, then onto beer, then onto wine, and then learning to nurse spirits like my grandfather did.

My experiences have been pretty tame. I don’t have any crazy blackout stories (I have blacked out once, but I would hardly call it a story). It now takes me a total of two beers to get completely drunk, so I can’t make any boasts in the tolerance department. I wouldn’t consider myself an alcoholic, not by a long shot, but alcohol has still certainly affected my life in plenty of instances.

I remember the first time I drank more than a couple of sips was in college — really the only time I drank before I was 21. I was at a party, and there was jungle juice… which, honestly, meant it could have been any assortment of things. It was disgusting, but I figured, it’ll be an experience to know what it feels like to get buzzed. And I did get buzzed. I also had to help my drunk roommate walk up three flights of stairs, and hide her medication from her for fear that it wouldn’t mix well with alcohol. So I didn’t drink for a while after that.

The next party I remember going to, I started talking to a boy. He seemed pretty excited at the fact that we were hitting it off, until I drunkenly told him he wasn’t getting in my pants, because I wasn’t that kind of girl. Poor guy. I have no evidence that that’s even what he was trying, but the more I drank, the more paranoid I got about the situation I was putting myself in, and I wanted to be damn clear.

I didn’t always have the best judgment, as most experience with alcohol. When I briefly moved to Los Angeles, within the first couple of weeks my roommates and I played beer pong with the guys across the hall, and I made out with a guy who was clearly an asshole (first sign: he said he didn’t like sand. Like, sand at the beach. I should’ve known). The day after, I pretty quickly made the realization that I didn’t like the guy (and a couple of weeks later found out he had a girlfriend, so trust your instincts, folks), but in the moment, while drinking not even remotely enough alcohol to be drunk, a loneliness had washed over me – that tide of fear you get when living in a new city, even when you have an apartment full of friends to support you. That loneliness will creep up on you.

I’d love to say that was the last time I allowed alcohol to influence my decisions, but it definitely wasn’t. Since then, I’ve had my fair share of screw-ups, and I’ve also gone through a couple of alcohol-free periods, just because.

In the past couple of years, I’ve definitely questioned my alcohol intake more. Especially now that I feel it in reference to my health… Not only are the mornings after significantly worse than they used to be, but my body very clearly hates when I drink more than a couple days in a row, and will blatantly let me know that in various ways.

Don’t get me wrong, drinking is an enjoyable thing. But it has its consequences.

I think the biggest consequence it has is that it makes you passive. I mean, obviously not in the sense of what you do when drunk, because plenty of people become very active and do crazy things when under the influence… What I mean is, it’s so easy to put the blame for your actions on your drink. “I normally wouldn’t do this, but, well, I’ve been drinking.” Or, “I’m sorry about last night. I was drinking.” It becomes so easy to pull focus from your decisions when you have a drink in your hand.

It’s also a great scapegoat for emotions. “I just feel this way because I’m drunk,” or even, “I need another drink, so I can get out of my head.” So often people let alcohol take the reins for things that are pretty achievable while sober; but we recognize that alcohol makes it easier. And so we submit.

I’m not trying to bash drinking. I love it. But I’ve just been thinking about it lately… every time I have a drink with friends, the next morning I’ll sit there, kicking myself for things I did or said. In a way, I’d love to chalk it up to the alcohol doing its damage, but somehow I understand that I can’t use that as an excuse anymore. All those stupid things I’ve done while drinking were my decisions, not the alcohol’s. I can’t act like alcohol turns me into some other person, when really it’s just loosening my inhibitions to draw out who I am, deep down. This is me.

Maybe that’s what people like so much about alcohol — that they do believe the alcohol is transforming them, and it allows them to put up a barrier between their sense of who they are and who they are when drunk. I think all of us would rather just blame it on the alcohol, but I’m holding onto this idea of claiming what goes on in my head. I want to deal with the fact that that’s me, not just what the alcohol makes me. I want to be able to see who I am, and be comfortable with that, sober, before I worry about being under the influence.

 

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My Best Damn Love Affair To Date

For the past couple months, I’ve been coveting a house on the market.

It has an open living room and dining room, and an adorable kitchen. It has a backyard. It has big bedrooms, and a second bathroom. It’s still within walking distance of work. I want it I want it I want it.

Maybe I’m too easy to please, but I don’t know… comparing the responses I had to the previous houses I looked at, I would say this is something worth getting excited about.

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Every house prior to this one, I would walk through the house with my agent, and say, “I like this house!” And my agent would ask, “Would you like to put an offer on it?” To which I would reply, “Well… I want to look at a few more houses just to make sure I can’t find something better. But this is on the list.” I had that uncertainty in my gut, the one that said, well how do I know for sure this is the house for me?

But with this house… I suddenly understood what it was supposed to feel like. Ironically, I don’t believe in love at first sight in terms of human beings, but damn it all, I now cannot say that I don’t believe in love at first sight for houses. This was the first house that, when my agent asked, “Would you like to put an offer on it?”, I responded with an enthusiastic “yes!”

So imagine my frustration when the sellers didn’t seem to be in any rush to move. They still live in the house, and while they have said they are looking to downsize (the house has three bedrooms, one of which they clearly use as a guest bedroom and one which, in all its bare beauty, is still completely empty), they just haven’t found a place they like as much. When we started haggling back and forth with offers, they didn’t seem to want to budge at all. Which, you know, was not a complete deal breaker, because the price was still within my range, but it’s the principle of the matter. Come on, seller, you put your house on the market, and it’s been a while. At least be willing to play the game.

I remember sitting myself down and thinking, okay, they’re not going to budge on the price, so you’re just going to have to look for another house. It’ll be fine. Absolutely fine. You don’t need this house. There are other houses out there. I even made an appointment with my agent to view a couple of other houses, because it’s fine.

But before I even made it to that appointment, I realized what I was doing: I was giving up on the excitement I had when I first viewed the house. I was ignoring my wants because people told me to haggle. And I was going to scrap the feeling I got every time I thought about this house and go through possibly another year or more of looking just because I didn’t want to pay a price that I could, in fact, pay?

So I may have caved a little, and allowed the price to stay relatively the same. Maybe that makes me a sucker. But if all goes well, the house will be mine, so who’s the sucker now?!

Probably still me.

But here’s the thing: as usual, the things that I do in life teach me valuable lessons about myself. I learned that sometimes I have to push my pride and/or insecurity out of the picture and go for what I actually want. And yes, sometimes I’m going to have to compromise a little… in order to understand that your desires are still worth the effort that you put into them, you must first dismantle your pride.

There’s still a contingency period to go through before I know for sure that the house is going to be mine, but we at least have a contract signed. Who knows, maybe at the last minute, something will happen to prevent this transaction from actually happening; I mean, this is me and my dumb luck we’re talking about. There’s a high probability. But maybe it’ll go through. Maybe I’ll be a proud homeowner in December. I have no idea what is in store for me over the next few months, or years. But I do know a good rule of thumb: when you stumble across happiness, you’ve got to embrace it. I’m sure there will be plenty of ups and downs in my journey, and I’m sure I will have a lot of fights with my house.

But it’ll be my house.

A Really, Really Great Day

I had a peculiar thing happen yesterday: I had a really great day.

dsc_04471825298966.jpgThat sounds like I’m trying to infer that I don’t normally have good days, but yesterday was really great. Harrisburg on the Hunt, a mass treasure hunt experience I created with a friend, had its inaugural hunt, with 14 teams at the start (two teams ended up dropping out. But I still consider that good odds). It was a nerve-wracking but exhilarating experience, and we got a lot of great feedback, including constructive, which I always wish people would be more willing to give. The hope is to take that feedback, polish up our clues, and do another route sometime in the near future.

It was great to watch people enjoying something that I’d helped to create. That is the beauty of art, really. Because yes, damn it, puzzles can be counted as an art.

And the team from the Hershey Perplex Escape Room competed, and we had a really great conversation with them. It was a great time geeking out with people about puzzles.

After, we grabbed dinner and went to an all-women stand-up show that some friends hosted, and then continued the night at a piano bar. The company was great, and the high from the hunt continued late into the night.

It was such a great day. There was one thing that tried to tamper with my experience, and that was that I had my first alcoholic drink in about a month (I feebly attempted Sober September, and ended a little early to celebrate the hunt).

My body was not happy with me for drinking beer. My stomach got all bubbly, and my chest got a little bit tight (which was probably just anxiety from my stomach’s reaction). But it didn’t matter. I didn’t want to leave and sleep it off, because I was having such a great time.

So despite my body wanting to drag me down, I had one of those magical 24 hours which result in my mind gushing genuine love for the people around me. It’s a hard feeling to describe, because I always worry if it will sound creepy to people, but there are moments when you just feel really good about being in the company of individuals, even if nothing significant is happening in those moments, simply because of who they are. Those experiences are moments of clarity, when you think too much about how life works and about how those around you are people with minds and thoughts that you can’t access, and it feels bizarre and wonderful to connect with them by just being in their presence. A privilege, really – to be with people that you feel good about for no other reason than that they are them.

That’s the feeling I felt. And no amount of bubbly stomach was going to take that from me. It did make me quiet down a bit toward the end, and I only hope that people didn’t misconstrue that quietness as boredom or uncomfortableness, because I just wanted to stay and talk and be for as long as possible.

But, after the fact, I start analyzing everything and ruining it in my head, and thinking about the fact that I get those feelings a lot after I feel I’ve “earned” them. There was a moment as I fell asleep last night that I was feeling that high of the accomplishment of the hunt, which really is an accomplishment, but it was a weird feeling to then realize that maybe that’s why I felt so lovey towards my friends. My brain thinks, I’ve done something great, so now my friendships have validity – it’s the idea that I’ve earned people’s love, and that only when I accomplish something do I deserve to feel that high and experience my friends that way.

I should feel that way about people all the time… Which I guess I do on some level, because I love my friends dearly, but it’s more of a fearful, “I love you even if you may not love me back” feeling. But this was an “I love you and I don’t care if you love me back because I’ve earned this feeling and I’m fine with just feeling it because you’re here” feeling. Lots of feelings, sorry.

But I don’t know how I feel about earning my friendship. I’ve had conversations with friends lately who feel like they don’t contribute enough to the world, they don’t do artsy things like their friends do, and I couldn’t wrap my brain around what they were saying because I didn’t care that they didn’t do those things, I just knew that I valued them as a friend. The epitome of who they are, as walking, talking human beings, makes me love them. But then turning it around on myself, I have that hypocritical standard: what makes me worth other people’s friendship? How can I be a good friend? What can I do to not lose those around me?

I want to take that hypocrisy out of my life. I want so badly to do things because I like doing them, not so I can earn love from my friends. And I want to be able to have those magical moments at all times, not just conditionally. Maybe all of us feel the need to earn people’s love at one point or another, and maybe that feeling helps us push forward to do great things. But it would be nice if we could just all genuinely love each other and know that about each other, that we can be loved without condition. It doesn’t just have to be religion that touts that idea of unconditional love, maybe it can be found within ourselves and the people around us. It is a pretty terrifying concept, though.

I know that sounds extremely stupid and cheesy, and you’re probably only ever going to associate me from now on with sticker decals of rainbows and peace signs. But it’s something I’m thinking about.