I’ve taken on so many new things recently that I’m both exhilarated and terrified all the time at the moment. Who needs alcohol when you’ve got a healthy dose of adrenalin, right? It’s all good, satisfying stuff that is for myself; I’m studying, pursuing new career directions, renovating and generally carving out a new way to live.
And yet, somehow, I still feel a lack of something. I’m reminded of the way Mrs D described needing more wine as wanting to feel ‘full’. That’s exactly it. And I’m in an awful spiral of eating junk food in an attempt to do the same thing, and it’s completely unsatisfying – which means that I try again the next evening and in a shocking turn of events, it continues to be unsatisfying. I’m sure it’s an addict impulse, this conviction that if I just find the right substance to put into myself, I’ll feel better (maybe salt and vinegar crisps will do it? Maybe if I go on a special errand to the one store that sells lime and chilli soy snacks?) whereas clearly, what’s needed here is not going to come from external sources.
But I don’t know what it is that I am yearning for. Relaxation? I’m quite relaxed, these days, though. Life is so much easier without wine that I feel like a lady of leisure. Evenings are packed with possibilities, all of them satisfying in their own way; shall I have an indulgent bath? Spend the night cooking and listening to music? Go to bed early with a book? Write another few pages of the book? All of them are things that make me feel good, all of them are quite healthy ways to spend my time. When it stops with the blizzard conditions outside* I may even take up exercise again.
So why do I go back to this idea that I am not full, that there is something missing? A magic key that somehow unlocks a new level of joy or deep satisfaction? Something, above all, that will make me feel satiated.
When I was eighteen, I intended to write the definitive Australian youth novel, along with almost every aspiring teenage writer out there. It was going to be about my friends and I (along with almost every aspiring teenage writer out there) and our experiences in share houses, at parties, in tangled relationships fuelled by dope and booze. And then John Birmingham wrote He Died With a Falafel in His Hand, so I didn’t bother. Well, and I was too busy with the aforementioned, and also Boys. Anyway, I was going to call it Chasing The High, because it seemed to me even then that that’s all any of us were doing.
The first time we do anything, it has more power and resonance than ever again. Do you remember the knee-weakening amazement of your first kiss? The first time you heard a song that spoke to your soul? The day that you got your first paycheque? The first time you discovered that you could make yourself come? And then we want to do these things again and again, but they wear out with use, they lose their power. The lyrics become trite, the kiss becomes a mere stepping stone on the way to something else.
And of course, if you’re an addict you find an external substance that enhances the sensation you’re looking for, the high you’re chasing. But then you build up a tolerance, and you know how the rest of this song goes. The very definition of addiction is chasing a high.
Right now, I’m on another high, because I’m pursuing a long held dream that is starting to come true. But what happens when the novelty wears off? When the ‘firsts’ stop and I’m back in reality, doing the same things over and over. Even if my entire life is comprised of things I love doing, they can’t be newer and higher and more exciting every time. One day soon, they’ll be routines. The most exciting love affair in the world becomes your daily domestic life eventually. There is no magic formula for living that means that you stay on the high.
I don’t know how to stop chasing highs. I don’t know how to just live.
That’s the hollow inside me that I’m trying to fill, this time with external validation and an audience for my words. A hollow where peace should be. I don’t have peace, because I’m still chasing the high.
*It’s not a real blizzard. I’m in Australia. It’s just quite chilly and there’s some drizzle. But if my English friends can describe 30 degrees as ‘scorching heat’, and believe me, they can and do, then I’m calling this a blizzard.