Sunday, November 05, 2006

to relax

SK's got a lot of interesting ideas about awareness. She likes to bring awareness to everything you can think of, including the lack of awareness that comes from something like drinking. She has a cool theory about drinking: we often drink to go into altered states, but we don't usually understand much about those states. Her idea is to follow ourselves while we drink to try and understand what we find so moving and meaningful in those altered states, with the hope that we may be able to live those things more fully in everyday life.

So, with that in mind, I paid very close attention to myself the other night at Leo's pumpkin carving party, as I carved my pumpkin and drank my three Black Butte Porters right in a row. At first, as I drank, I just felt heavy. I was also sad, because SK and I had just had a big fight and she hadn't come to the party with me. I was feeling anxious and hopeless about things, yet there I sat, drinking a beer and carving a pumpkin. Then, suddenly, the feeling hit me and it was so... well... intoxicating. I suddenly just relaxed. It manifested like a sturdy column, running up the center of my body. A sturdy column of warmth that seemed to hold me up and make me very steady and peaceful. It was like I had finally found my balance, my center. I smiled. I felt wellbeing.

Wow. No wonder I used to drink so much! I *never* feel relaxed like that. Even when I look relaxed, even when I act relaxed, I am not relaxed. I am churning about something on the inside. Always churning. And always so externally focused, externally validated. Always watching for signals that the outside world approves of what I'm doing. Always anxious. Yuck. I don't like it.

Contrast that against a film SK and I watched last night about the artist Andrew Goldsworthy. He makes gorgeous and temporary art in nature, entirely of natural materials. Some of his most striking pieces are his egg-shaped stone cairns, big as a person, which he creates by meticulously balancing the stones on top of each other, without the aid of mortar or other structural adhesives or support. As you can imagine, these are often precarious and we watched as several tumbled apart while he made them, after hours of work but long before completion.

I watched him labor over these emphemeral projects and I thought how wonderful it would be to wake up in the morning and know that I would spend my day on my art and know, furthermore, that no matter what I had to show for it at the end of the day, it would be worth every moment. I watched him work last night and I imagined him feeling that feeling of peace I get when I'm drinking. I imagined he felt a harmony with his natural materials, his setting, his contribution, his body, his mind. Maybe he doesn't feel harmony at all. Maybe he feels just as anxious about it all as I do and maybe he goes home after a cairn collapses and drinks a bottle of whiskey and yells at his wife and feels like a failure. That's all possible. But I don't want it to be the truth. I want his art to sustain him because it gives me hope that I'll eventually find something that sustains me too, besides a six-pack of dark beer. I want to figure out how to have all that without the beer belly and the hangover. Is it possible?


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