You do something you shouldn’t have done, and perhaps you could wallow, so you do for a bit, and it doesn’t make you feel any better, so instead the next day you get up and you go to yoga at some stupid time in the morning and you push yourself and you tie yourself in knots and the instructor comes up and tells you that you’re really flexible and you should watch out and hold yourself together better in some poses so that you don’t do some damage by mistake and so you do, you feel all strong inside, and then you leave, bang on time, out of the room before most people have rolled up their mats and you go to your 9am lecture via Starbucks for a fairtrade mocha (forgetting, bother, to ask for decaf), and the Union shop for a new pen, bang on time, concentrating, the perfect set of notes, not just a transcription of the slide show like it’s so easy to slip into doing, and you stride out of your lecture at ten to ten and get to the gym in good time for an hour’s swim and a decent (hot) shower (we don’t seem to have those at home) before your next lecture – you might even get time to drop your shoes at the cobblers if you’re lucky – but you get to the gym and there’s a big sign saying that the pool is closed due to ‘unsafe chlorine levels’, so you go home instead and pray the shower will be hot and you’re going to do some violin practice instead because there isn’t time to go to the library and you don’t own the textbook you need (yet).

And then you go to Oxfam, and then you come home for an actual meal, not necessarily sitting down, but never mind, and then you’re going out for drinks with your possible new housemates, except that you’ve given up alcohol for lent so like last night you’re going to feel all clean and clear-headed when you set out home at eleven (it’s odd how even one drink makes the difference, and it’s so nice being completely and utterly stone-cold sober, even if you would seem no less sober after one half to any observer, that you start thinking about going teetotal altogether, not just for lent, but it’s early days yet and it’s just a shame that some drinks taste so delicious and could you really miss out and also it’s sort of socially awkward being a non-drinker, people get the wrong impression about you).

And the next day it’s Friday and it’s the church weekend away and that’s good, lots of prayer and perhaps you’ll try to take some work or something to do in your free time, there has to be some free time and you have to do something useful with it, so you do. And the next week there’s orchestra and choir and things all over again and you just keep moving and being the best person you can and you’re madly polite to everyone and you smile a lot and you’re a good Christian and this time you actually go to homeless outreach like you said you would and you put daft amounts of money into the collection plate at Church because you really ought to get into titheing even if you are still a bit overdrawn and you try to do everything you know how to do that could make you in any way a better person than you’re starting to think you are because the only way to be a better person is to go out and do things that mean you can respect yourself. And so it goes on.



Filed under Beginnings, Endings, Happenings, Introspection, Life, Relationships, Religion, Society, Thoughts, University, Women, World

19 responses to “Counterbalance

  1. I disagree about being teetotal. I don’t think it’s socially awkward and unless you make a big deal out of it plenty of people don’t even notice. It’s just the “I’m teetotal because I’m more moral than you” sort of person who gets that kind of reaction. You don’t miss out on anything except a huge bill for drinks; as long as you’re willing to dance anyway and have a good time clubbing is just as much fun sober as long as you don’t get lumbered with, “Oh you’ll look after me when I introduce my stomach lining to my hair because you’re teetotal so naturally I become your responsibility”. Those people are arseholes. If you’re getting judged by someone for being teetotal then that probably isn’t the sort of person you want to be friends with anyway – that’s the attitude I take.

  2. Flix

    The thought of being drunk still turns my stomach a little. But the novelty of being sober does wear off after a while and not having Lent as an excuse does make people think you’re a bit odd and sometimes it’s easier just to have a glass or a half pint or a single just to be included but it can be you that chooses when to order water or mixer-without-alcohol (even if you kind of pretend that it might have something in, to avoid hassle) instead.

    Smiling lots is good. It endears people to you, even if you don’t really know them. Everybody likes to receive a smile.

    There’s a facebook group called The Lent Experiment. It’s kind of like a RAOK idea for Lent. It gives a choice of two nice things that you can do on that day as a way of spreading the love.. Today is:

    1) Write someone a little note and leave it somewhere for them to find. A love note under your girlfriend/boyfriend’s pillow, a shout out to your housemates post-it noted to the fridge, a hidden note in a friend’s bag telling them how great they are or a note to a colleague to tell them how great their presentation was etc. It’s surprising how nice it can be to know that someone thought of you today!


    2) Buy someone some chocolate….elevenses, mid-afternoon snack, post-gym splurge, late night treat…Snickers, hersheys, Cadburys, M&Ms, Plain, Fruit and Nut (Extra points if it’s Fairtrade!!!) Do a quick check to make sure they haven’t given up the yummy brown stuff for Lent.


  3. Are you not drinking, Flix? \nosy

  4. Jenny

    If I’m not drinking something alcoholic (let me point out here that I rarely get drunk, it’s just that one drink is enough to make me a bit ditzy), I will almost always have tapwater, because I don’t like most other drinks because they’re often just too sweet. I don’t think I could give up on alcoholic drinks altogether because I only drink things like ale and beer and wine which you sadly can’t replicate without the alcohol. So, well, we’ll see.

    Meanwhile I love the idea of the Lent Experiment. I will see if I can track it down.

    And now I have to go, there’s a whole heap of mending to be done…


  5. Oh, and vis-a-vis the difficulty of not drinking thing – in my experience it’s a lot easier to say “I’m not drinking alcohol” than it is to say “I don’t want a lot of alcohol”.

  6. That said, I do miss some alcoholic drinks – for the taste of those drinks, though, not ‘cos they’re alcoholic per se.

    Also, I do love that Lent Experiment thing! J’s signed up. Personally, if anyone asks me what I’m doing for Lent I say that I’m taking on my degree. In both senses on the phrase.

  7. Jenny

    Nah, see, most of the time I am excellent at not drinking too much. Not all the time, if I’m stressed I will drink more, but I am normally quite capable of having exactly one or two drinks and leaving it there without having to think about it. So I’d find it easier than not drinking at all, partly because of the fact that other people would do that askance look thing when they see me Not Drinking whereas drinking in my own time is normal, less of A Statement.

    Goodness, this whole dialogue makes it sound like we’re all ex- or soon-to-be-ex- problem-drinkers, or that you’re both counselling me down the long road to teetotalism and away from binge-drinking, which is clearly not the case… how did we get on to this?

    (and yes. I miss them for the taste :(. But so it goes).

    Good luck with your Lent Challenge πŸ™‚ xxx

  8. Jenny

    Gee, for some reason your comments always end up in the ‘pending’ folder hence my non-reply until now!

    I think people do notice if you’re not drinking, which is fine, but then you have to have a tedious conversation about it, one by one with every person you’re out with sometimes. Not because my friends all want me to get wasted, but because a lot of them would be curious and wonder why I’d taken such a decision and what had happened to make me make that choice. And there is no real reason why I would make that choice specifically and I don’t want to have to keep saying that. The main reason why I probably wouldn’t go teetotal is because I’d miss the taste of certain things as I’ve already said a few times.

    And I don’t really go out clubbing terribly often, it’s not something I would be likely to enjoy much whilst entirely sober, and I don’t have the kinds of friends who often get so drunk that they’d throw up and if they did I would be quite happy to look after them because I care about them at least up until the point where they vomit on me.

    So it’s not about being judged by my friends (I do have a few friends who would be shocked and who would try and get me to drink again but that’s just hte nature of those friendships and those are people of whom I am terribly fond; we just happen to spend a lot of time in one another’s company getting steadily legless); I don’t have the kind of friends who would judge in that way, but they might care and get concerned and think there was more behind it than there was, that’s all. I don’t want to worry people AND miss out on pleasant drinks.

  9. Lol I love alcohol. Alcoholic drinks are awesome. Take beer for instance; I could honestly never give up ale, because a good pint is a beautiful thing, and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. And it’s not just the alcohol doing that – I love the taste, the funny names of some beers, the pictures on the labels, the stories behind particular breweries or brews. I love the way that beers from different places almost taste like that place. Wonderful stuff.

    I do like being drunk too. That doesn’t mean to the extent of getting absolutely wasted, but the feeling after a night spent at the pub with several pints of good beer and some good company, is a great thing.

  10. Flix

    I’m not not drinking, I just had a bad experience,/a> that has kind of actually put me off drinking in excess rather than the blithe “I’m NEVER drinking again…until next week” stance that others go for. It’s surprisingly easy due to the fact that I’m not trying not to get drunk nor forbidding myself from having a drink, it’s just a unfortunate pavlov association that means I have little desire to get to that point. PLUS, hangovers hurt me more in the head than just a headache and I hate the feeling that it’s probably cos of a drug that I’m thinking that way. Depressant, innit?

    I like the taste of some alcohol so a little bit is okay and people call me a loser and people ask me why not and people tell me to let go and relax and act as if I can’t possibly do that via any other means than alcohol and people call me up drunk and make me realise that alcohol can reveal sides of people that – while induce curiousity as you see a side of them you’d never expected to see – are not always a good idea to see and I don’t like myself when I’m drunk and I don’t like the way certain people only come out with particular things when they’re drunk and this is turning into a self-absorbed reminiscent blog about how alcohol can distort people and ruin relationships and I’m not sure that’s what I started this comment out as.

    I generally go for cranberry juice or apple juice. I dislike fizzy drinks and I feel cheeky asking for a tap water in a nice bar at early o’clock in the evening.

    • Jenny

      That was why I stopped drinking so much as I used to – I literally couldn’t bring myself to drink at all for a while, and then I did start drinking more again but never so much as I used to, and then I had the same pavlovian inability to reach that point. Very, very occasionally I would somehow slip through that barrier and drink too much but I don’t really know how or why and I always regretted it when I woke up disgustingly hungover and hating myself and depressed. I don’t know why that sentence was in the conditional past, really. Basically these days I very rarely drink to excess and I’m never happy with myself when I have but in recent weeks it’s happened twice – it’s understandable, I’m very stressed and worried and my whole life is in limbo – but that doesn’t mean I feel like I can really excuse myself. And theni turn around on myself and start to feel like even one or two drinks is in some way morally wrong and I’m just being silly, confused and daft as always. And then I realise I’m being stupid and then I get scared that I’m backtracking, off into the mental badlands, and that’s a really stupid worry to have because up to a certain point I am the one with the power not to go that way. Aren’t I?

    • Jenny

      As for distorting people and ruining relationships…yes. Hugs. Xxx

  11. “Depressant, innit?”


  12. C R M

    For lent (based on the disgusting bits of meat used in our play yesterday, to creepy and glorious effect…) I’m becoming a vegetarian. I don’t think I could be totally vegetarian for ever (some bits of meat taste really nice) but I just want to see.

    As for the alcohol, I just ignore what other people think, and I don’t worry about how much or how little I’m drinking. I know what sort of mood I’m in at the start of the evening, and I know very well therefore just what sort of effect drinking will have. Most times, I’m very much NOT in the right frame of mind to drink lots, because I know it will just make me feel more miserable. So I don’t drink, and have a much better time. And then sometimes I know I’m in a good enough mood that drinking a little and getting a little tipsy will be fine, so I do, and it is fine.

    Anyway, I should be doing stuff.

    Lots of love.


  13. The way I see it, we should take the same insight the Buddha reached; take the middle path in all things. Alcohol is like anything, in that it should be consumed in moderation.

    Too much food will make you fat, too little will make you underweight. Too much wealth makes you spoiled and unhappy, too little makes you poverty-stricken and unhappy.

    The way I see it, there’s a terrible tendency to turn things pathological, to make an issue about over or under-consumption.

    Generally, the trick I find with alcohol is just to be about as drunk as everyone else you’re with, and to never go past your limit, even if people are goading you on to. You’ll get the last laugh when you’re holding their hair back as they chuck up.

    That said, I’m quite a pleasant drunk, I go through ludicrously happy into unconditional loving, then on to reality-questioning existentialism as I drink more; also I think I’m resistant to hangover symptoms. I pretty much only have a bad time if I need to vomit, which is thankfully rare.

    So yeh, the other week I was out drinking every night. Some weeks I don’t drink at all, sometimes it’s twice a week with the guys after Fencing.

  14. C R M

    I giggle like a hamster when I’m drunk. And talk about inappropriate things. I also get happier around people who are happy drunks, whether or not I’m drunk myself. I think second-hand drunkenness is the best way forward. No hangovers!


  15. Jenny

    I have some very goady friends. Thankfully I have never got utterly wasted with them and rarely been the most drunk out of hte lot of this particular group, so that’s OK.

    Personally I’d prefer to stick to a rule of at least trying to be slightly less drunk than the average or at least trying not to be the one who is most drunk (there’s always one). Sadly for me one drink makes me pretty tipsy (to clarify for a couple of my readers tipsy in this instance means what you would understand by the word ‘tipsy’, rather than in its Jenny-Mohan-Specific sense of ‘wasted’).

    I’m not a pleasant drunk. I can be, but then I get very self-absorbed and arrogant and silly and do stupid things a lot of the time. And then I get all self-pitying and weepy.

    Andy, you are lucky in your drunkenness. Here’s hoping you never *do* experience a hangover – honestly they’re hell.

    Night all.


  16. C R M

    s’easier just to be drunk by osmosis.

    For example, Varsity has just made this easier for Cambridge students – they get a couple of reporters to hang around outside Cindies on the big club nights and film the people as they come out. It is glorious πŸ™‚


  17. Jenny

    that sounds pretty hilarious to be honest. Is it some kind of alcohol awareness campaign? And when you say Varsity do you mean the bar chain or (as I guess you probably do) Cambridge university itself? xxx

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