Middle English Word of the Moment

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Alcohol: shame and usefulness.

So, how do the rest of you find it? This whole, brain-doesn't-switch-off, over-activity-of-the-grey-matter, how-do-you-stop-thinking-all-the-time thing? You see, alcohol may be frowned on generally, but it can actually be really useful when it comes to relaxing. Whether it be because you're practising your vocal exercises for a singing exam, and your mother is disturbed and distressed by your confession that it's far easier when you've had a half-cup of wine but it makes damn sense because it switches off the instinctive muscular tightening and clamping that is sabotaging your performance through over-thinking everything and the inability to trust your body to support your performance unsupervised; or because your stomach is cramping horribly because, well, that's what it does once a month, and your body doesn't consult you first to ask whether you've got, say, a paper due to be delivered (performed) tomorrow and you just need to turn brain and muscle off because you've done as much as you can for the time; or just because it's the end of the day and your brain hasn't realised yet and keeps doing interesting things with texts which, yes, are interesting but I'm trying to relax now and go to sleep please shut up...

... Am I alone in thinking this is somehow shameful? Or am I alone in thinking it's maybe, within moderate limits, acceptable?

8 comments:

Vellum said...

Self-medicating with alcohol is a proud English tradition. :) Consider yourself one step closer to medievalism.

tenthmedieval said...

I recognise this dilemma quite loudly. I have had real trouble with the brain that won't switch off at times, it's one of the ways my brain responds to bad times, but on the other hand there is alcoholism in my bloodline and so I worry. At the moment, I reckon it as I would psych drugs; it's probably not good for me, it would be nice to manage without and ultimately that's the aim, or at least, not to need it, but as long as it's under control it's not awful. But I start to worry if I'm drinking every day.

A more healthy solution may be to fit a good half-hour or more of genuine physical effort somewhere in the day, but there isn't always time when you're up against deadlines, I know. Er, none of this is very helpful but I just wanted to proffer fellow feeling, this does all sound very familiar (except the singing).

Ceirseach said...

Vellum: this is very true! Gaining perspective into mediaeval mindsets? Research!

tenthmedieval: The trouble with physical exercise is that it's so boring. Because I can't do anything productive during it. Or nothing my brain will acknowledge as productive. It's actually harder now I'm in Canada because I lack my dogs, so walking feels extra pointless without them zooming around me.

If I think about it, I'm not concerned about alcoholism or the emotional crutch aspect - more the purely physical effects, like having too much coffee or sugar. But the fact that I (while slightly tipsy!) used the word 'shame' in the title suggests some degree of cultural baggage, no matter how much I rationalise it...

Cailliomachas said...

I hope you don't mind me commenting. I think 'shame' with regard to alcohol is part of the renaissance / puritan tradition (Erasmus?). Medieval people probably regarded being drunk simply as a very forgivable deviation from Church teaching. I find taking ideas out for a walk a help: combining physical excercise with sorting thoughts into an order that I can recall later on, pehaps with the aid of a note or two. Easier said than done of course. Uncorking requires less effort, but it's probably not as effective in the long run if the brain is overworking due to stress.

Ceirseach said...

Less stress than enthusiasm, usually. :) However, I now have a much more effective brain-stopper in the house: a newborn baby. Did you know the clock hands just zoom around when you're staring at a baby? They have special arcane mind control powers.

tenthmedieval said...

By the time they're heading for a year old, that'll be a source of more than a half-hour's worth of exercise too, unless you manage to dodge all baby-minding duties.

Ceirseach said...

I have no intention of dodging! I don't think it's possible to intend to dodge anything while under the secret arcane baby mind powers spell. I am a minion!

Michael said...

Alcohol is useful. From personal experience, getting a shot of whisky at about eleven pm is a great way to get the fingers ready to type a few more words and open up the noodle to new ideas.