So, I’m working on a few milestones, here.
I moved back to Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend last year. Specifically, I moved back to my parents’ house, due to my brilliant plan to purchase a house of my own. My plan was to do so quickly. It is nearly Fourth of July and I am still living in my parents’ house.
This is not to say that I don’t actually own a house. I have, in fact, owned a townhouse on the south side of Wheaton since April 20th. It might be move-in ready after next weekend. Turns out that buying a house is a giant pain in the ass.
I’ve learned that there are two basic events that no one who’s experienced or been adjacent to someone who has experienced them will tell you the real story until after you’re committed: buying a house and having major elective surgery. Everyone says buying a house is awesome. Then by your four hundredth trip to Home Depot to buy some random shit you didn’t know you’d need you’ll have heard the horror stories of some six hundred other people.
So, basically, if you’re wondering whether or not I’m alive, I am. If you’re wondering whether or not I unceremoniously quit blogging, I have not. I’m just really busy. It doesn’t help that work managed to pick up to an insane degree at pretty much exactly the same time I signed the mortgage. There are a whole bunch of writing-related things I want to get to, but just haven’t been able to sit down and, y’know, write.
I was in Madison, Wisconsin on Wednesday and Thursday. I’ve written about my vast love of Madison before, and this time I was there for the same exact reason: Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers at the High Noon Saloon.
This particular trip was cursed, however. After I got done eating migas at Fuzzy’s Tacos on Thursday morning I just said, “Fuck it,” and got the hell out of town. The Peacemakers were in Milwaukee the following night, but I decided not to go.
The Peacemakers were at the Cubby Bear, across from Wrigley Field, on Saturday. I didn’t go. I was too worn out from everything else, and my bro-and-law and I had been at my house installing a new bathroom exhaust fan at 6:30 on Saturday morning, so I was in bed by 11 pm that night. A friend texted me right around the time the Peacemakers would have been going on to ask where I was and was shocked at my response.
I honestly didn’t feel like I’d missed out on anything. By my count I’ve seen the Peacemakers as a full band a minimum of 16 times since 2008. I’ve seen Roger and PH do an acoustic show together. I’ve made some good friends and good memories out of the whole thing. I got the bestest dog in the world, too, which is pretty freaking sweet. I’ve traveled to some places I wouldn’t have otherwise gone and been introduced to some great non-RCPM bands because of the experience (Sons of Bill, the Alternate Routes, and American Aquarium are the three that come immediately to mind). I wouldn’t trade any of that for the world. I’m not saying that I’ll stop going to see RCPM in the future, nor will I stop wearing their t-shirts now (in fact, I’m wearing one as I write). This was timing, as much as anything (as was last summer’s RCPM/Sons of Bill show at the HoB Chicago on the same exact night Soundgarden was at the UIC Pavilion. SOUND. GAR. DEN). The big thing, though, is this: in between shows I barely listen to the Peacemakers anymore.
But the novelty, it seems, has worn off. That’s okay, it’s a thing. But that’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
Last year, not long after I moved back, I went to see Local H at a venue out in the suburbs. I didn’t enjoy myself much at all, as I got stuck in this weird feedback loop about how I suddenly couldn’t see meaning in going to concerts and what the fuck am I going to do if I find myself at 40, then 50, then 60 as one of those people who’s still trying to go see the same bands on the county fair circuit (or the nursing home circuit, maybe?).
It wasn’t really a question about music itself. It was a question about meaning and mortality. It was a question that I’m no closer to answering now than I was then.
All I know is that when I left religion, RCPM was one of the things I used to fill the gap. I am incapable of doing things like that without reflecting on the meaning. I guess my problem now is this: I know that there are some things that used to mean a lot to me that doesn’t mean as much anymore. It will fade over time. Again, that’s fine. But my big question is this: what do I do next?
Ultimately, I think, this is a question about religion.
Leaving Christianity still hurts. It doesn’t hurt in the sense that I miss having religion in my life. It hurts in the sense that I still remember realizing that I’d been lied to for all those years. I still remember the lesson that people who called themselves my friends, people who claimed we were family would no longer talk to me.
On some level I’ll admit that brought a certain level of freedom. It meant that I could choose to leave behind some people who I didn’t actually like but felt forced to consider friends because, y’know, Jesus and shit. It meant that I could start being intellectually honest with myself and stop trying to cover my various doubts and concerns. Still, leaving Christianity still hurts.
This is a tough thing to talk about. On some level I want to self-censor, because I know that someone, somewhere will read this and say, “Ah ha! He’s ripe for evangelizing back to Jesus!” Fuck that. I mean, seriously, fuck that.
My lack of religion is not an emotional decision. It’s an intellectual decision. As such, my feelings on things have no real bearing on my decisions about them. I just thought I’d make that point clear.
It’s difficult to figure out a way to talk about this, honestly. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable doing so, but that I’m not sure words exist to make my point. If they do I am completely without the ability to put them in the right order to make sense. I suppose, though, that I’ll try.
Self-definition is kind of the central point. I once defined myself as a Christian. I defined myself as a certain kind of Christian. Other people defined me as a certain kind of Christian, too. Once I stopped defining myself as that kind of person a bunch of other people suddenly didn’t like me anymore.
I’ve never been particularly comfortable with myself, if I’m honest. I’ve always been way too freaked out that people won’t like me, especially if I ever let them meet the real me. So whenever I find it necessary to redefine myself, it freaks me the fuck out that people will walk away.
Honestly, this has nothing to do with religion, either. It has everything to do with the fact that I walked into my (still incomplete) kitchen at about 7:30 this evening and poured all my liquor down the drain in the sink (except a bottle of Roger Clyne’s Mexican Moonshine that really deserves a good home and a bunch of large format Two Brothers and Dogfish Head beer that, again, could use a good home).
I’m not an alcoholic. I mean, when it gets right down to it there’s a big semantic argument to be had, here, but suffice it to say that I don’t think of myself as an alcoholic. I also think of myself as someone who should stop consuming alcohol.
I’ve been fascinated with the stories people tell about being alcoholics over the past few years. Some of it is because there are certain people I find fascinating who are also alcoholics (Craig Ferguson, for one) or because I know people who are alcoholics. Some of it is, if I’m honest, because I’ve wanted to confirm for myself that, no, I’m not an alcoholic.
Quite frankly, I think I’m on the safe side of the line. In all of the narratives I’ve come across there is a gradual progression that basically amounts to losing control. For a long time the person in question is on top of the alcohol, then they’re not. It’s also always a hindsight thing, too, and there’s always a moment where the person realizes, “Holy shit, what the fuck is happening?” or “Holy shit, what the fuck just happened?”
When I moved to Brookfield and found myself alone much of the time and trying to deal with the fallout of the Amy thing and the leaving Christianity thing I flirted with the edge of control. When I moved to Texas there were several points where I flirted with the edge of control. Right now I’m under a shitload of stress and, guess what? I’m flirting with the edge of control. This tells me that I self-medicate with alcohol, which is a huge, blinking danger sign. It also tells me that if I keep on this particular path, eventually I’ll hit a point where something is too much and I go over the edge. If I’m honest, which I might as fucking well be right now, I’m worried that this time will be that time.
I’m playing Russian Roulette and I’ve already flipped three chambers, basically.
It’s that self-medication during times of stress bit that’s both my savior and the potentially destructive element. When I’m not under a heavy stress load I’m completely aware of my limits and in control. I can go weeks without drinking, or only having a beer or two a week because it seems like a good idea at the time. So all I have to do is get through the stressful time and everything is okay.
That’s where the but comes in. What if the stress time lasts too long? What if that, “Holy shit, what just happened?” moment comes during the stress period and from there I cannot return? The thing I’m suddenly realizing is that my normal state actually betrays me in my over-stressed state. Because I’m in control and/or there’s nothing I need to worry too much about controlling in my normal state, I think I’m in control at all times, even when any outside observer would say that I’ve just stepped over a line.
So here we get into the weirdness of self-definition. I’ve defined myself as the beer snob and scotch drinker guy. I go to concerts all the time, which generally revolve around, y’know, standing around in crowded rooms and drinking beer. I’ve got friends with whom I hang while drinking and shit. I’ve made “guy who drinks alcohol” a part of who I am, a part of how I think of myself, and a part of how other people think of me.
How do I deal with my (very real, I’m loathe to admit) social anxiety now? I mean, I still want to go to concerts (and, on some level, I’m intrigued by the possibility that they’ll suddenly get cheaper). I don’t want to go back to hanging out with teetotaling churchies. I have no intention of starting up with Alcoholics Anonymous.
See, for me from a personal standpoint this is really not much different than losing weight. I’ve been quite successful at doing that in the past, and all I’ve really had to do was stop thinking of dessert as a good idea. I, for all intents and purposes, trained myself to ignore cake. I can (and have, which is how I know I still have control) do the exact same thing with alcohol. When you’re not eating cake, though, you just have to say, “I’m trying to lose weight,” and everyone will be, “Oh, good job, we’ve been meaning to tell you you’re fat.”
For some reason, I feel like doing the same thing with alcohol is a different thing entirely. Losing weight is considered empowering, almost. Not drinking feels like it’s admitting to some sort of weakness.
Actually, now that I think about it, I kinda-sorta blame Alcoholics Anonymous for that. What’s the first thing you have to do for them? Admit you’re powerless in the face of alcohol.
Well, fuck that. I’ma stop drinking precisely because I still have control and alcohol is powerless in the face of me, what with the fact that it’s a non-sentient liquid. And if people don’t like that, I’ll tell them to go eat cake.
Thanks, internet, I’m glad we had this talk.
Also, I’ll probably have to update how this whole thing is going, as this has kicked off a whole round of “Geds thinks about religion and lack of empowerment.” The alcohol/powerlessness thing is basically motivated by shame. It also occurs to me that I feel ashamed to admit to certain people that I don't want to drink alcohol anymore in the same exact way I feel ashamed to admit that I'm just not as in to RCPM as I used to be in the same exact way I felt ashamed about saying I didn't want to do religion anymore.
Think those things are interconnected? Hopefully I'll have time to tease the thoughts out...in, like, two weeks.
I also want to write a post about Mavis Staples, because, holy shit, Mavis effing Staples.
On a somewhat related note, I also have many, many thoughts about Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and, more than that, the annoyingly predictable conversation discussing said book always kicks off.
Oh, and I'm pretty sure I left a really fun sci-fi story on hold back in April.
Also, hopefully I’ll be able to provide a detailed breakdown on my thoughts about oil-based v. latex-based paints. And my thoughts about Sherwin-Williams primer v. Kilz Premium v. Zinsser 1-2-3. And my thoughts about Behr Premium v. Pittsburgh Paints Ultra v. Valspar. And, hell, if you’re lucky I’ll show some pictures of power tools, as I have several and am borrowing many more.
Have I mentioned that homeownership pretty much sucks ass so far?