Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day two hundred and eleven ... Going to extremes.

I'm at the perfect temperature.

My air conditioner is cranking--cooling and de-humidifying for a while; blowing with just the fan for a while; cooling once again.

It's somewhere around seventy or seventy two degrees.

Right outside my bedroom door it's about fifteen degrees warmer.

So, for now, I'll stay right here.

But the world we live in is a strange one indeed when it comes to finding some stasis.

I've been exercising a lot, and so I can put up with the heat a bit better than I used to. I notice now that I don't sweat nearly as much as I once did. I often times used to sweat for no apparent reason. When I was actively drinking I would sweat almost all day unless I was in front of an air conditioner, or it was freezing out, or I was drunk.

And then there was my three-times-daily workout--mealtime.

It was a pretty awful site to see me most days if I had to eat in public. My friends would be sitting there, eating away and enjoying themselves. And there was me, the fat alkie, eyes bulging, hair mussed, splotchy faced, paranoid, and shiny with sweat. 

I'd invariably hear: "Wow! Dude you're sweating like a pig. You're not even doing anything strenuous. You're just eating like the rest of us, and you've sweat through three dinner napkins already."

Or, something like that.

My response?: "Eating is working and eating is exciting. It makes me sweat. Leave me alone ... please."

And I'd hear what I'd describe as a shocked and worried chuckle.

I used to carry a facecloth around with me at all times. This was my answer to a studied and labored assessment of my situation. I figured if I was sweating, I would just bring something to absorb said sweat. I mean, doesn't everybody carry a sweat towel wherever they go?


Well, maybe I was ahead of the curve.

Or maybe I was continuously on the verge of a freaking heart attack.

That sounds about right.

But it's been pretty hot lately, and I have yet to need to carry my old trusty sweat-rag.

Isn't that nice?

The boozing took a lot out of me. It took my money, my time, my respect (both self and from others), my reputation, my belongings, my peace of mind, my determination, my aspirations, my patience, my compassion, some of my memories, and most of my energy.

But you gotta live. Right?

So I did what I had to and just put up with the side-effects. I put up with the embarrassment. I made myself the butt of jokes before anyone else could, so I could at least hear them coming out of my mouth and in my voice. I dragged my ass out of bed most mornings, went to work, and prayed that it wouldn't be too hot so I wouldn't sweat through my clothes and look like a buffoon. I continuously chewed gum so as to mask any stray scent of alcohol that may be lingering, after the four or five hours between drinking a .750 of Smirnoff and when I had to show up and think straight.

But this world we live in is full of extremes. Our bodies must get used to it from the constant changes in temperature--I should amend that--our bodies, in the countries that have luxuries like air conditioning, must get used to it from the constant changes in temperature.

Some places must just be hot all over, every minute of the day.

Today I rode my bike in the sun three miles and disembarked. I walked across the street and stepped into the market. It was cold in there--freezing almost. I got a cup of hot tea to bring to therapy. The water from the coffee-maker was so hot I almost burned my hands on it just feeling it filling up. I carefully allowed the scalding hot water to slowly ambush the bottom of the cardboard cup, then on past the tea bag, past my pinkie, middle, and index finger, and then felt it spit on the back of my hand as I let go of the red spigot while my other fingers did a little dance on up and around until I was holding the cup between either end ... ah, that's better. I capped it and felt furious steam ribbons escape from the larger egress on top of the thin plastic lid. I paid and walked back through the liquor store portion of the market like I always do (it's nice to keep an eye on my minions). Outside again, I felt the heat cover me like a decal on a car window. I walked across the street, and tried to remember what the towing lot across from the clinic looked like with my car in it, like it did back on December 27th when I handed the keys to my friend for what could have been an insufferable amount of time. I walked into the clinic where it was even colder than the liquor store. The elevator was at just about the right temperature for anything you could think of, but due to its inherent limitations I merely used it to ascend to the third floor. My therapist's room was almost as perfect a climate as the elevator but tons more practical. My tea experienced its short but predictable life-cycle while I sat and talked and listened; it didn't make it back out the door. Outside it was hot as I remembered it, but the air around my body as I biked back into Northampton was intermittently hotter and cooler than the exhaust from the many Subarus and Volvos passing either way. I made it to the bank before it closed and nearly threw out my back from the dip in temperature. It was almost unbearable. 

And just as I got used to it, I had to walk back outside.

See, peaks and valleys come to us regardless of our desire. One can start to enjoy their surroundings ... and in an instant they can change. We get used to a certain level of stress, or attention, or fame, or indifference, or grief, or joy, or any number of emotionally intensive experiences and we can only stay there for so long. This can prove to be a saving grace for the less desirable entrants on that list, or a genuine regret when it is one from the other column. But knowing that none of them lasts forever can offer us great hope, strength, and wisdom. As humans we tend to find ourselves mired from time to time far too deeply in either category. For when we feel the world is crashing down upon us and nobody cares ... that is when we must remember that change is imminent. That is when we need to reassure ourselves that our outlook can pave our future. 

Conversely, when we are the talk of the town, that is when we must remember that there was a time when nobody knew our name, and if we are not careful with our actions, either they will forget it once again, or remember it for all the wrong reasons. And when our body works like it should and we feel well and healthy, we must remember what it felt like to have two blown discs in our spine--housebound and drunk for what seemed like forever.

And so, now I don't have to carry a little facecloth in my bag whenever I go out my door. And I don't have to chew gum all the time to mask last night's binge. And I don't have to worry about sweating through my clothes at work when it's a beautifully mild day.

But I also have to remember that the tea that soothes my nerves can scar me if I am not careful. I have to remember that the liquor store that I brazenly stroll through every week is filled with poison that could rob me of my reputation. And the bicycle that I use for my transportation could easily be my ticket to a broken leg or worse.

It is only when we are completely comfortable that we are most at risk for change. 

I'm at the perfect temperature.

Thanks for reading.


PS: As of this morning I now weigh 210 lbs.

Thought you'd like to know.

1 comment:

ina said...

As I was reading this, there were some little red letters in the margin blinking at me. I looked and saw, "day two hundred and".

That's a lot of days, Alex! You're doin' the hard work. Thanks for the beautiful words.