Distract Me From Myself

I nurse a glass of warm, red wine with my feet tucked under me on my friend’s leather couch. As I take in the scene of the four or so conversations going on simultaneously in this room full of my girlfriends, I’m reminded of how we all ended up coming to each other’s rescue last spring. It was timed eerily right before I’d go through a surprise break-up, and also at a time when I’d been overwhelmed with the sense of existing in a man’s world. Between playing in bands and usually being the only women, living with all male roommates, and working as a free-lance composer in a production studio space of all men, I had started to become acutely aware of my diminishing feminine side. I was starting to feel like I always had to be tough, never too emotional, and the mother-fucking best at what I did all the time. So instead of resorting to angrily tweeting about it over too many Evan Williams’ (which I had done in the past), I decided to text every lady I knew who I wanted to get to know better. And so our beautiful, diverse, and intense girl gang was built over the course of six months.

“I don’t feel like my day is complete until I’ve had whiskey, weed, sex, or candy,” jokes one of the ladies. What was said in a breezy, understated tone hits me like a hangover hits me after a night I play a show. But no one else seems as bull-dozed by this statement as I was. I suspected it was because I was holding a half-full glass of wine and was pretty much sober, and because I had a raging headache, which made me more of the listening and observing-type this evening. This was a rare occasion where I wasn’t joining in in the heavy drinking. I took out my phone and wrote down the phrase. Little did my friend know I’d go on to brainstorm pages upon pages of song lyrics for months to follow, trying to untangle this declaration. I felt the same way as her. Was it because of consumerism? Was it unhappiness? Was it just innocent fun? Indulgence? Hedonism? I wasn’t sure. But in the months that followed I started to notice the increase in substances around me, the hanging out at bars almost every night, some of us forgetting entire nights, and the camaraderie of a shared hangover on a Sunday. Or, fuck it, on a Wednesday. Most of us are free-lance musicians after-all — so we can do whatever the fuck we want, right?

It’s sort of like when you hear about a new band or a movie, and all of a sudden you notice it everywhere. The moment I started thinking about my distractions — as I went on to name them — I was confronted with them constantly. “Why aren’t you ordering a drink? You know Mimosas and Bloody Marys are free with brunch, right?” a friend would pry immediately following my turning down of a beverage other than coffee. “What is that? Is that a beer?” asks another friend, on a different occasion, as I order a diet coke at the bar. “Can you please pick us up some whiskey for the session later?” asks the band, innocently, that I’m about to producing that day. It’s. Everywhere. And it’s normalized.

A distraction in the form of alcohol, drugs, sex, or candy is tough for the all or nothing personalty type. And let’s face it — vices are a lot of fun, so why assert yourself in turning it down? It’s such a normal part of my job as a musician that it feels borderline encouraged. “Here are your drink tickets,” says the manager of the club I’m about to play, “let’s discuss it over drinks,” says the fellow creator who wants to pitch me a new project. But, something was starting to bubble inside me… something irked me, and it had been building for months. I don’t judge others — let and let live is my motto. If you’re happy, I’m happy. But was I happy? I couldn’t quite answer this question because I hadn’t been in my purest, truest, sober-est form for more than an evening or so in many, many years. I couldn’t answer the question of whether I was truly just cool with myself in a quiet, dull, unintoxicated, sugar-free, sex-free moment. Where exactly am I at with the homeostasis in my brain?

There’s no denying that I dive deeper into my indulgences when I get stressed out, unhappy, or overwhelmed. The part of my brain that says “everyone has bad habits, who cares” is the same part that says, “fuck you, New York City, I’m moving to LA so I can go swim in the ocean and skateboard” when I get too stressed out. But the problem is whether you’re floating off into drunken-land or you’re moving to California, you’re ultimately going to take yourself with you. As they say, “where-ever you go, there you are.” There’s no escaping that.

I’m not ending this post with a grandiose conclusion where I exclaim that I’ve discovered the answer. I’m not going to claim for a second that I understand the intricacies or human desire and the existential battles that rage on in our minds daily. So, I’ll leave you with the same question I’ve been asking myself lately — do you indulge in your vices to escape life, or to enhance it?

With love,

Sulene

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