Publisher loved the chapters I sent through but wants a whole new section. And on reading through the manuscript I see all kinds of adverbs and spliced commas, so that means a few days editing. Work, work, work.
A sudden power blackout this morning and now my screen lights up with ominous messages telling me all my cookies have vanished. I miss the days when I sat with a pen and a noteboook, with spare pens and a new unopened notebook in a nearby drawer.
From an email to a friend, thinking about time and the ability to face a future without drinking:
Sometimes I say to myself that I am never going to drink again and it seems entirely logical. Why would I? Other times I feel as if I am promising myself I will climb Mount Everest before I die, completely unrealistic and undoable. That ambivalence is core to my alcoholism and will probably always be there. I don’t intend to drink today, but I may drink tomorrow. I intend to stay sober for the rest of my life, but I may drink next week. I want to be sober next week on Friday so that I can go to a friend’s house for her birthday. Behind me I have xxx sober days, a new kind of past. Slippery sliding time that drags so and then races past us in an invisible wind.
There is a problem with time and what time implies. I’ve been working on a novel that begins in the 1980s and moves into the 1990s. I realised last night that I recall the 1980s much better than the 1990s and that threw me off-balance for a while because I don’t understand why some periods of the remembered past come up with telescopic clarity and others in a haze. Nothing to do with alcoholism although both decades have their foggy moments. My later drinking was in fact lighter than in the 1980s which was a hectic time — and the drinking again went seriously awry in the 2000s. Nothing to do with emotional crises or being happier or sadder. Just a trick of memory. Time remembered imperfectly.
Because time and memory keep shifting, time is unstable and prone to all kinds of revisions. And that too is how I feel about the future. Sometimes it is a blank slate full of possibilities and at other times it feels like an obstacle course of looming bereavements and losses and terrors to come. And sometimes the future is brief and vanishing. Initially staying in the present day helped a great deal with ‘managing’ the alcoholism, I simply focused on staying in the day and staying sober for 24 hours at a time, not looking ahead or trying to second guess the future . In a crisis I would still do that and meditating each day keeps my awareness very here and now at certainpoints during the day. There may be a slightly Buddhist dimension to this although writers on Buddhism talk about moving beyond simplistic understandings of time, illusion etc.
But memory has a slippery inconstant quality — the unlived aspects within me keep coming up with the past in tow, and there are hopes and plans for the future which seem more realisable now in sobriety than they did five or 10 years ago. I also sometimes think that because I don’t have children or grandchildren, I am less conscious of ageing. There are fewer reminders or contrasts of relative age and youthfulness.
But the life ahead can stretch out interminably when I imagine it as a long-drawn out battle with alcoholism even if I remain on the winning side. Each festive season and January I keep saying to myself: ‘another year without drinking’ as if I have run a marathon. But much of the time there is little awareness of conscious struggle and fewer cravings. So that part of not-drinking is easy. Something else down there is not easy or getting easier. That is life, my own nature, my deeper struggles.
Right now there are trays of ripe clingstone peaches on the kitchen table, hinting at autumn speeding towards us. The pages of the novel thicken with each day’s writing. I work on critiques of friends’ manuscripts, reading them with the care I want readers to lavish on my manuscript. The garden frizzles in the heat, but at night the garden is warm and balmy with starlight like phosphorescence.
Lonely rivers flow to the sea, to the open arms of the sea, Roy Orbison’s voice: