I used to think that drinking helped me access my emotions; unstoppered the cork on repressed tears and frustrations; alleviated the build up of stress so that I could go on through the coming days and let it build up again. I have a different perspective now. You see, it was a cunning trick – when I drank I would feel relief and safety, and then eventually effusive love, or deep tugging sadness. But these were all actually tricksy little masks. Sure, there were emotions in me that probably needed (and still need every day) to be addressed, but I never got the true picture of what was going on inside. Instead I was just piercing all these internal paint bottles of emotion and letting them spill out in a huge mess. And that huge mess covered up any true picture that I might have had a hope of seeing.

I’m not claiming that I super-suddenly have access to awesome self-awareness and clarity. But at least I’m not hiding behind huge blobs of colour and calling those “truth”.

It’s a little bit related to something I wrote about a while back: I’m actually comfortable with sadness as an emotion. It’s familiar and comfortable, and if I can view it through a haze of smoke and alcohol, it’s even sort of beautiful. Artistic. For a long time I also thought the best way to draw was to drink. I’d say a lot of people believe this about their art form. Drinking short-circuits some of those inhibitions, right? And then you can just dive in, up to the elbows in your “true” emotions. The problem being that they’re not all that true, they’re just comfortable, and that’s the very opposite of what I should be seeking in order to make art.

It can be difficult to get started drawing some evenings without some ritual. I used to obsess about having a clean and clear working space, some candles, and a magical alcoholic potion to start the ceremony. I think it was a bit about trying to escape the mundane, every-day mess of boring adult life. Seriously, weren’t we made promises in childhood about being “special”, “chosen” that there was magic there to be found, if only we looked hard enough, if only we deserved it.

But I am finding that alcohol-free doesn’t mean magic free. Honestly, without it, I’m way more able to pay attention to the tiny magical details in life. There’s beauty in the small moments, looks, turns of phrase. There’s an elixir in a breath taken in a momentarily still room.

And, of course, there’s still the usual mundanity and clutter and frustration of grinding through daily life. But I can honestly say that it’s my life now. And I don’t want to escape from it any more. Not even the painful parts. Not even the boring parts.

(Maybe the boring parts, sometimes.)

And now we’re heading off to Galway for a 4-night vacation. That’s triggering all sorts of feeling responses in me. I’m not even sure what they all are just yet. When I first returned from Japan, myself and G. visited Galway together, then he returned home while I planned to stay for another week and see some people. I lasted about a day before I felt the need to flee and run and escape and get the hell out of there.

It’s been 15 years since I lived there, but there are ghosts of a past me still walking the streets. A younger me who’d reached a dead-end in her life and didn’t know how to turn around and find another path. A hurt and panicked me who couldn’t see any next steps and turned to self-harm and suicide attempts because she felt so out of options, felt like it couldn’t be fixed.

Maybe in returning, I’ll get the chance to heal some parts of that person. Maybe there’s no need and I’ll find she’s already healed and accepted and held in my heart. All the same, I’m feeling a little apprehensive about it. My NOPEpotamus is stomping around my brain, his big body getting ready to shield me from any overwhelming emotions by shutting down all emotions, but I’m just trying to breathe and say “It’s okay. You can live through this. In fact, you’ve already lived through this.”

So, on one hand, I’m feeling optimistic and open and hoping to actually get to know and process some shit that’s inside.

On the other hand, I’m all super-protective and instructing myself to “just enjoy the city and block away that crap and don’t meet up with too many people from your past!”.

On a theoretical third hand, I’m aware that 75% of the trip will be wrangling small children, so maybe all this speculation is moot.