Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Holidays, or, Interlude

Bite me, Holidays.
Never been a fan of The Holidays, or even holidays in general. My reasons are the same as most of the cynical bastards you know, so I won't bother to enumerate them here except that (1) I'm a broke, self-employed type and the holidays (capitalized or no) tend do to little other than cost me billable hours and make me work harder to get anything out of the people I deal with in the days surrounding them, and (2) every vice I have gets drenched, fed after midnight and unleashed on me from all sides.

I like that metaphor because it's tantamount to what I do.

Thing is, a couple of weeks ago I started on a new story. It was one of those things where there's only a flicker and it's gone before you can get enough of it on the page to keep it alive. That happens a lot to the ones born of insomnia bouts, as that one was. I forgot about it a couple days later. But then two nights ago, I was flipping through my bad starts (a habit I have when nothing I look at holds my attention) and that one jumped out at me. I got a little more of the thread of it as I read it over, and added another 1000 words to it, which is better than average in these dark days. Then last night I did the same. There's a story there, but hell if I can tell you what it is.

Not knowing isn't what bothers me; it's not knowing if I can keep the thread. Momentum means a lot to the first draft of any story, and this is a bad time of the year to be needing momentum.

It also strikes me that I haven't been able to make much progress lately on any of my writing projects, and it corresponds with the general fucking up of my train I bitched about in a whiny previous post. I've got about two weeks in of cleaner diet, no alcohol and regular gym attendance, and what do you know? A new story comes to life.

One of my favorite things.
It's funny. When I was a kid, I was always kind of a tight-ass about drugs, alcohol... vices in general. When I hit my twenties that didn't change much and I was working really hard all the time. Now in my thirties, I've looked back over that and wondered what the payoff was. Most of the great writers, artists, musicians and performers of pretty much any stripe went through or are still going through some major shit with excess and addiction. I never did that and it always made me wonder if I missed something there.

I feel like I've put that question to rest. The effects of my greatest vices (sweets, carbs, craft beer and Scotch, in that order) are quantifiable and immediate, even when enjoyed in moderation. The contrast between the time I was really living clean and now just makes it too obvious to be denied: I have to live without these things. It's not life-and-death, but it is life-and-no-life.

Which makes The Holidays complicated. I'll be spending Christmas with my extended family, who I adore but who exhaust me entirely. I generally duck behind beer and sweets and lob short, noncommittal quips back into the melee they think of as light conversation. I don't know how to do it without these defenses, and I'm not sure I'm inclined to try just yet.

Also, I mentioned this change of lifestyle to a close friend, who immediately wished he'd known that before he and his girlfriend got me whatever they did for Christmas. Whelp, as I told him, I'm going to enjoy whatever it is just as I would have and damn the consequences. Cuz Holidays.

I'm conflicted about how far to take this concept. Part of me wants to make it sort of a last hurrah, but I think the rest knows better. Last year I went big because my 35th birthday hit right along with everything and I was still very excited to be in a new place. What that ended up meaning was almost two solid weeks of eating and drinking hearty, and I didn't recover until March.

So I'll probably split the difference, erring on the side of asceticism. By next time around, barring anything too terrible, I've have been living clean for a year. Maybe by then my focus will be better and I won't be so worried about momentum.

Maybe by then I'll be on to better things.

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