Bra-less days

Carless days were a thing in New Zealand for a year back in 1979. You chose a day and your car had a sticker of that day and on that day you couldn’t drive the car. Why you may ask? There was an oil shock and it was one of the ideas of the ‘Think Big’ of the government.

Did it work? No. The idea was scraped after a year. Thursday was the most popular chosen day. Black market for stickers became a thing. For two car families they just chose the other car for the day. We only had one car. I don’t remember much about it apart from that.

This was my thought today as I dressed. Bra-less in a long sleeved polar neck black top and long comfortable pyjama bottoms and fluffy socks. Do I have a business online conference call planned you might wonder. No. I merely wish to make an attempt at normality. I made an effort. I haven’t brushed my hair in ages. All I do is run my fingers through and it’s done. I’m due for a bath. Life is not normal at the moment as you well know.

I made the decision to make our cats indoor cats for the duration of the lockdown. I decided this one week in after reports of the possibility of the COVID 19 being present in animal fur. It was a tough decision. Some might question whether it is a sensible one. It is done. It is not a popular decision. The cats are not impressed by this decision. I don’t particularly like it either. Our cats are ‘flu cats.’ What do I mean by that. Well, they fell ill with cat flu when they were kittens and that is how I began looking after them. They survived and recovered. However they are left with weak immune systems.

For cats to return to an indoor life after coming and going at all hours of the day whenever they felt like it, well it’s a huge adjustment. Every door and window has been checked and rechecked to see if the gap is big enough to escape. None so far. I have left the front door open by mistake when getting a delivery. No one escaped. Luckily. I have cats who dislike or distrust other humans. I hear a growl from one of them when a car passes the window, I hear scampering to the back of the house when a delivery van comes up the driveway. They are better than a watchdog or a goose. Sure they wouldn’t defend me but they’d give me a heads up and a fighting chance.

I cannot imagine my cats smooching with the neighbours begging for food and a belly rub but I just don’t know. What I do know is they sometimes fight with one of the neighbour’s cats and for that reason alone I decided to bring the cats indoors.

Call me ridiculous. Call me over-reacting. I really don’t care about opinions of others who mean me harm or ill will. I care about my cats and the human I live with. I don’t want to wake up and wonder could I have done better. Is it stressful for all involved? Sure. They know something is up. They know this is an unusual situation. I do too. Hell. I made coffee today with masala chai and milk. Just because. It tastes unusual. Not bad really at all. Will it become a trend. Unlikely. There is a milk tea coffee in Asia made with condensed milk. I’ve had it. It’s different. It’s super sweet. This is not like that. Better. So maybe it might become a trend. You read it here first. Remember that. My ridiculous thought might go viral. Ugggh. That word.

Train to Busan. I watched the film for the third time. Great Korean zombie horror by the way. Highly recommend it. Watching it for the first time under lockdown and the film has a weirdly documentary feel to it. Watch it and you’ll know what I mean. Society at it’s best and worst.
Other Korean films to watch:
Parasite
A Taxi Driver
Poetry
Looking forward to the day that Pachinko becomes a film.

I haven’t felt like writing lately. I haven’t felt like reading either. I am here today wishing you all the very best. A virtual hug from a distance of at least 2m using fake fur gorilla extending arms. If I haven’t commented or read your blog. Forgive me. I really thank God that I am sober at this time. The strength that I needed when I decided to become sober is still with me. It was always in me as it is always in you. Be strong when you need to be strong but don’t be afraid to be wimpy too have a good cry too. It’s hard to be brave when you are feeling scared. Stay sober with me.

Today like yesterday I stay home to save lives. Thank you to all the essential workers for our water, power, sanitation, health, medicine, factories, computer systems, internet, infrastructure, transportation, mental health, funeral services, food, deliveries. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Sober as a discarded plastic blue milk bottle top.

Food made with Alcohol

Went out socialising last week surrounded by alcohol for the first time and more than survived. I had sparkling water as my drink for the evening. Dinner was great. I had dessert too. I enjoyed myself. I didn’t miss drinking alcohol. My dessert had alcohol in it but I let that slide. Tiramisu. I’m okay with that being in my life. I noticed that the slice of baked pear on the plate tasted of red wine too. Again, I’m okay with that being on my plate.

I’m not writing this to spark an argument but how do you feel about food with alcohol in it? I haven’t cooked with alcohol. Actually that’s not true. I cook with sake sometimes. Mirin too. It’s ingrained in Japanese cooking. I haven’t cooked with red/white wine. I don’t want to start the cooking with wine, one for the pot, one for me. I’m thinking of Spaghetti allla Vongole (Spaghetti with clams). Thinking aloud here really.

The reason I’m sober is that I cannot be a moderate drinker. I choose not to drink. I like myself better sober. I trust myself to have tiramisu out at an Italian restaurant and not feel like I’m failing myself. Put it this way, I didn’t feel the urge to order a glass of wine or limoncello after having dessert. That being said I don’t wish to buy alcohol filled chocolates. I don’t think that’s healthy for me. But having tiramisu while out occasionally is okay.

I have cooking wine, Chinese and Japanese in the kitchen and I use those for cooking for flavour. I have no desire to finish the bottle because it’s open. It stays in the cupboard. So what I’m asking myself is what is stopping me from using white or red wine? It’s the possible temptation of an open bottle sitting on the bench or under the bench. Nine months on and I think I’m okay with it. Just writing out these niggling ridiculous thoughts.

I just really love Spaghetti allla Vongole. Clams are cooked in the white wine sauce till they open. I didn’t use to make it often but I did have a glass or two of wine with it. More than. Now I think I’m ready to make it again without the glass of wine with the meal. Sparkling water is my go-to drink. Yeah. I think I’m okay with that.

That’s my rambling way of saying I’m okay cooking with alcohol. Tiramisu is not technically cooked so that’s an exception, I get that.

Buon appetito!

Not drinking makes you smarter

Not drinking makes you smarter. Did I really just write that? Who clicked because they believed it, even just for a second?

It ain’t true. Not drinking doesn’t make you smarter. And drinking doesn’t make you smarter either. What makes you smart? If I could answer that there would be no need for this blog for starters. Smartness (look it up, it’s a word) comes from experience, intuition, reading, thinking, observation and I suppose a few genes, not the designer jean variety.

Being sober lifts the fog and allows us to see clearer. What we do with this new sight is up to us. We made the first smart decision: to stop drinking. We can build on this and make more smart decisions. It’s like taking steps. One step after anther. One smart decision after another. Along the way we will sidestep and make dumb decisions. That’s to be expected. That’s what learning is, right?

Last week I made a smart decision. I hit a hurdle in life. I could have coped with it by having a wine or two like I would have in the past. This time, my sober self, said no. Deal with this sober, you are strong. You’ve got this. And I did got this.

Soberness might not give us smart decisions always but it gives us a chance to make more better choices.

Choose to be smart today.

3:59pm Good Friday

Just to be extra clear: Don’t feel like drinking alcohol. Never really have since I stopped. Maybe once or twice in the early days because I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel. Nobody does. It wasn’t hard. It wasn’t the end of the world. It was the beginning.

Today and this week or month I have been feeling out of sorts with myself.

Not drinking allows me to see, find and be myself in the raw. I am finding it hard just to get out of bed these days. Why? Don’t know. Change of season?

I have gotten out of the habit of self care or care in general. How did I get this way so quickly? I have no idea.

In no way shape or form does the idea to drink enter my head. For that I am grateful. I don’t feel ever like taking that route ever again.

Depression is settling in. I have let it in somehow. I recognise it and yet I feel helpless to help myself. I feel like a witness to something happening yet it is me it is happening to. A witness observes and is impartial to the event, yet it is me that it is happening to and I feel immune to do anything about it to improve my situation. I can see it happening. I can feel it happening. Yet I do nothing.

I cannot help myself. The desire is there. But the effort is not there. The house has gone downhill. It is chaos. My cleanliness is doubtful. I am not eating my best meals. My cats are looked after better than me. I put them first. There is no neglect there. Just neglect of myself.

How can I write I have been wondering, if I cannot help myself? Ridiculous thoughts really. I should realise that it the depression talking and not the real me. How have I fooled myself so many times?

Lately (this year) I have felt so strong with dealing with depression, noticing when it comes on and how it comes in. I felt more knowledgeable about depression. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I might have gotten cocky. It appears so. I have been put in my place. Depression isn’t to be conquered, it is to be dealt with and lived with. It is not to be treated lightly and with superiority. Depression will put you on your arse swiftly if you mock it or think light of it.

I am on my arse.

Today I felt able to write about it. That is something. Perhaps things are on their way up after all.

Ridiculous Thought #4

“I’ll never be able to joke about my drinking ever again.”

Conclusion: Case Dismissed with Prejudice.

Drinking is a part of my past. It happened. Most were good memories. Few were embarrassing. Some were lucky, some were stupid. I survived. I will no longer be the scapegoat of the family as the drunk one. The stories were rehashed over and over. They were old and stale and I have not found them funny for a long time. They were maliciously spoken. Enough is enough is enough. (I no longer speak to my family but that is beside the point.)

I am now one of the sober ones. That does not make me the serious one. (Some make think I have always been serious.) I do however take life seriously in that I want to be here and enjoy life, to love and be loved, to laugh, to cry, to feel, to create, to care and to dance and sing badly.

I will remember the time when…. and I will remember the time I did…. It is a reminder that I was young and not so young and foolish and using alcohol as a prop when I thought I wasn’t strong enough to face what I was avoiding. Other times I will remember for the plain stupidity of it all. I have come out the other side. I have survived alcohol. The remembering will be on my terms. I won’t look back in anger (Thank you Coldplay) or disgust or loathing. It is what it was. It was a part of me. It is the past.

I will continue to have a sense of humour, be fun or glum and enjoy life. New memories will be made. Life is for living in the present.

Ridiculous Thought #3

“I’ll never be able to wear my favourite pyjamas ever again.”

Conclusion: Case Dismissed With Prejudice.

The day after I decided to become sober I almost threw out my favourite pyjamas. I have several actually. “But first champagne” and “Let’s celebrate” written in cursive text on the tops and half full champagne glasses decorating the pyjama bottoms. They are super soft and extremely comfortable and they remind me of an overseas trip. It was a festive trip, it was around Thanksgiving. I bought four pairs.

Now that I’m sober I couldn’t possibly wear anything with alcohol on it. I cannot associate myself with alcoholic brands or drinks. I really thought that I had to bin my pyjamas. I actually had one pair in my hand ready to toss them away and I thought wait, they weren’t cheap, they were super soft. You can’t just walk into a shop and buy them. They don’t sell them in New Zealand. Long story short. I slept on it. Like I do with everything. I decided to postpone the fate of my pyjamas. And after some careful deliberation, a few days, or a week, I decided I would keep them. I decided I was strong enough to wear them and not be tempted to follow the wording literally.

Why did I decide to write this today. Guess what I’m wearing? I made the right decision to keep them. Cheers! Chamomile tea this evening.

Ridiculous Thought #2

“I’ll never be able to travel again!”

Conclusion: Case Dismissed With Prejudice.

If I fly I’ll miss out on all the free drinks at the airport lounge and on the plane. I can’t go to Europe now. How can I eat tapas without wine? It’s just not done. No more Grappa. No more Limoncello making. No more Umeshu making. No more sangria. No more beers. No more vodka. No more Champagne, Barolo, or Cava. I can’t go back to Spain, Italy or France. There’s no point going to Oslo or Moscow or Dublin.

These were some real thoughts I had. As mentioned before, not all thoughts are equal. Some are straight out lies. The fear of the unknown makes us stay in the ordinary, somewhere safe. Better safe than sorry. Unlikely. You’d die of boredom. I tend not to believe a word I think when I go off on a rant. It is sure to sound legitimate and knowledgeable and even if it’s shouted it doesn’t make it right or even sane.

Never travel again? But you’ve already been to Thailand for a dry holiday. You survived it. No. You enjoyed it. Soda water the whole time. You loved it. You especially loved the scales you stood on every day telling you how much weight you had lost. They didn’t match the scales once you got home though. That wiped a smile off your face. One of them was wrong. There surely must be someone in Europe who doesn’t drink alcohol. Remember you spoke to that French waitress who couldn’t recommend a cheese because she hated the smell of it. There’s bound to be someone who hates alcohol too, right?

You can’t give up travel because of being sober. That’s just stupid. But you went to Spain to sample the wines and spirits. Italy, France, Japan, Australia. You collected wine labels and wine books. You even read wine notes. You started collecting wines.

The wine collection kept shrinking. If a wine was good to keep for 3-4 years it had no chance of waiting that long. It wouldn’t last a year. Buying expensive wine didn’t make it off limits. Nothing worked really. Wine was meant to be drunk. And it was.

Europe is not just wine and spirits. There is far more to it than a liquid. The art, architecture, history, music, theatre, people, beauty and driving. Of course I knew all this but my ridiculous self was turning blue in the face at the thought of not ever another drop. I’ll live and so will she.

About the airport lounge and the alcohol that is served onboard, well I don’t have to pay extra now for membership, and business class travel is about the leg room and lie-flat bedding. And with a well hydrated flight I might just adjust to time zones better on arrival. On short haul flights economy saves a bundle. But from New Zealand most places are far. Any flight over 9 hours and I say business class please.

Think of all the money I will save by not drinking overseas. There is less chance to be taken advantage on with a bill at a restaurant. That hasn’t happened though as far as I know. I check receipts. In fact I collect receipts, they become mementos.

A better sleep on a flight due to being correctly hydrated. Save a tonne of money through not drinking alcohol. You don’t have to worry about drinking and driving because you will always be sober. You will always be fresh to drive the next day. There will never be a concern if you are in an accident, you will be the sober driver. You will be in the right. Dead right, doesn’t help but, for minor scrapes, you know what I mean. You will better remember the trip. It will be more meaningful. You will make better clear headed decisions mid-trip.

Remember you are a nomad. Keep you passport up to date. Always.

Ridiculous Thought #1

“I’ll never be able to enjoy listening to jazz again if I stop drinking.”

Conclusion: Case dismissed with prejudice.

Started sketching again late into the night. WBGO* online radio and my two cats as company. First time I have listened to WBGO while sketching sober. It felt good. In the groove again. It felt familiar and even better sober. Concentration was present. Small steps. My fingers cramped up. It has been so long. I’m out of practice. A good cramp. It will get easier day by day as I return to sketching and painting. Creative pursuits with a clear head.

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”**

Mini habits are having a positive impact already. The evening breeze is coming in the window with the occasional moth. The neighbourhood is quiet. I can hear from far, far away the hum of the motorway. No morepork (owls) hooting in the night. No planes, no helicopters. Admittedly it is already morning and a peaceful time to think and create. The stars might be out but I’m occupied. My eyes are staring straight ahead, following the pen strokes. The pen stroke following my brain. Or maybe my brain is following the pen. Who knows what my hand will draw next? Until tomorrow.

*WBGO is a jazz public radio station “Jazz 88”, 88.3FM from a studio in Newark, New Jersey, USA.

**Dr Seuss quote