Diamond-Cut Life

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Happy Hour: Truly Happy, Or Sedate Sedation?

August 29th, 2009 by Alison · 1 Comment · entertainment, food & drink, health & well being, lifestyle, money, sustainability

Late last December I decided to drink less, feeling somewhat sobered that an average of four glasses of wine per week since age 21 added up to a minimum $30,000 lifetime investment in libation.  Less consumption of a luxury would liberate some funds for helping someone struggling with survival, who under-consumes (and we have gotten, for example, to buy four bikes for an immigrant African family). Besides some rearranged spending, I’ve found something . . . new, other than what I’d expected.

Background: the only time I’m interested in having a drink is during what our culture calls happy hour — that transition zone between the work-day and the evening. A person wants to make that transition . . . happily. Yet here is the thing: alcohol is a sedative. My job, like most professional work, is sedentary, and so is sitting in a vanpool two-plus hours each day I do the round-trip commute. All this adds up to a hell of a lot of sedentary hours. A lot of sedateness.

Yet, what I really want after work, the thing that makes that hour the happiest for me, is activation, not sedation. I’d actually like to be running, hiking or, my true favorite, dancing with others. I’m square-dancing this Monday night, for example. Singing is also near the top of my list  (and happily, I have another voice/performance lesson this Tuesday, preparing for my 50th birthday in 2010). These are what bring me the most joy, the most diamond-cut life possible: running or hiking in nature if the weather is good, and dancing indoors if not. They connect me to the world, raise my energy, use my gifts, connect me to what’s bigger than me. They make me fully alive.

I’ve been finding as I drink less and become more objective that alcohol, i.e. the one or sometimes two drinks that I have some evenings before dinner, actually sedates my instinct to be physically active. Drinking makes me one of the crowd, less likely to have a bold, creative thought or action. Drinking enables me to ignore that I have a healthy body that, unsedated and let loose from eight hours in an office, moves around. Like other animal do.

It’s not nearly as simple as drinking being bad and not-drinking being good.  When I do drink I’m either socializing with people I like or reading or writing , all of which are a fine use of my time. But what happens — or actually, what fails to happen — after I’ve had a drink or two makes a difference in my life. I’m generally not alert or productive then. I don’t write, or call my family in California to keep up with them, or get ready for the next day. The light buzz becomes a subtle form of lights-out, with the energetic-animal part of me having exited.  The Happy (sedative) Hour easily ushers in Passive Hour. Passive is dullsville, at least for me. It’s like being a child rather than an adult.  Like everyone else in the world, I’m given 168 hours each week. I want to use them well.

I still have one or two drinks a couple of evenings a week, typically after work. But my 2009 resolution to drink less has revealed that my happiest of hours are not when I’m having a drink, not when I’m being sedated. My happiest of hours are when I’m activated, doing things, when I’m the most fully engaged with life, especially in my animal body.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Chris

    Yeah! We L-O-V-E E-N-D-O-R-P-H-I-N-S…

    Wise old Mother Nature gives us a pretty good price on this stuff too! I wonder what she had in mind when she created this evolutionary, internally created happy hour drug… :)

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