Takin’ What They’re Givin’
or, The Benefits of Gainful Employment
I have three jobs now. One’s teaching a couple of English classes at a local community college. I really enjoy it. A great discovery this year has been that I don’t just love teaching creative writing (as I suspected in grad school), but that I love teaching, period. But an adjunct salary won’t let you eat and bathe, so I needed another job.
Luckily, the small publication where I worked for years before going away to get my writing MFA had a bit of freelance work. But only a bit. And small publication is a beloved local nonprofit. I needed a third job.
So I took one—using the only other practical skill I have on earth, going back on the promise I made to myself after the last time I broke the promise I made to myself, never to ever again sling coffee—slinging coffee. Pulling espresso shots. Asking people, “Do you need room for cream?” Again. Past the age of thirty, now. On this side of the counter, the one on the receiving end of baffled, sheepish looks from people I used to know when I was Fulltime Professional Reporter Me. “K-Kate?” they say, as if they might be wrong. “Do you want a large latte?” I reply, smiling.
This thing—the Ego thing, the fear of being twice my current age or even a couple of years older and asking people if they want room for cream and reading perfectly the looks on their faces when they recognize me—that’s a whole other thing. It’s a huge thing, but that’s not what I’m here to get into now.
I’m here to get into the result of Week One of all three jobs at full steam. I’m here to tell you that on Friday night, after five days at three jobs, I proclaimed that Saturday, I would not leave the house. I did just that. I not leave my house. I did not leave my pajamas. I wrote for a large part of a gray day I hear was bitter and cold. I baked oatmeal bread—my mother’s recipe. And Marshall and I watched this horror movie that had us screaming at its characters for following ever horror movie convention. (“WHY don’t you believe your girlfriend when she told you there’s an intruder in the house? Why why WHY?”) The movie still scared me just thinking about it when I woke up later in the middle of the night. So I guess it did its job.
Tonight—Monday night—I think I can handle this semester’s Triple Job Whammy—but get back to me Thursday and ask me then if this Saturday will be one of enforced laziness.
It’s Five-O’Clock Nowhere.
I actually think that Sober February will begin to remedy this feeling. I first envisioned it on New Years Eve, talking with a good friend at a party, beer bottle in hand—Sober February, we nodded, yes, sounds good—laughing at the fact that February is also the shortest month. We didn’t conceived of it as a New Years’ resolution; it would just be a solid month of not drinking. In that month, I thought, I would write more and do yoga again. My imagination rambled further. Long, thoughtful walks—abstemious walks!—and the eating of the exotic fruits that I had only just peered at down the aisle of the farmers’ market. Yes. Yes! Sober February it was! My friend and I toasted this. Then I got another beer.
I don’t drink much. By this, I mean that I have a beer or two about every night, although some nights I don’t. I mean that when I meet up with friends on weekends, I have three or four beers. I mean that I don’t crave alcohol in that way that alcoholics I know talk about craving it, but I also mean that I wake up most Saturday or Sunday mornings feeling kind of bleary, kind of headachy, and never before ten.
I’m doing this because I am over thirty, and some part of me tells me that I don’t want to spend too many more years waking up bleary on Saturday mornings. What’s normal at 25 is iffy at 45, says this voice. And iffy or no, do you want it for yourself? I’m doing this because I really like the way I feel those mornings I wake up not having consumed alcohol the night before, and I want more of that (this sensation, I imagine, leading to the more-yoga thing which, through its very zen righteousness, will somehow lead to the exotic fruits and the long walks). I also realized anew—that very night I talked about it with my friend as I half-absently peeled back a beer-label with my thumb—this: I don’t feel comfortable at a party without a drink in my hand. I’ve never tried any kind of intentional abstinence from alcohol, which probably also means that I haven’t had a sober two-week period in years, let alone a sober month.
This is what finally did it: not the positive incentives of yoga and Walden, but the negative: fear. The realization of a lack of control.
By the hectic end of the last week in January, I wasn’t sure that the February would really amount to much more than the first of these ideals I listed before, about the walks and the fruit and such. I would just not be drinking alcohol; that’s it. I was—am—so overscheduled and broke that life would still be a lot less tree-pose than bed-crash—but said crashing would not take place after drinking a Pabst.
Here at the end of Day One, I’m already feeling more optimistic than that. I have a measure of energy and clarity tonight, and at least part of that is because I didn’t drink a beer after dinner (I’m a lightweight), and I’m looking forward to feeling this way every night for awhile. Some nights I know I’ll just feel stressed. But I want to reconsider how I cope with that stress.
I’ll let you know how it goes—and I swear I won’t be preachy or whiny about it. See ya. Time for some Rooibos.