I feel like a frustrated missionary sometimes.
I look in the mirror, and I see clear skin and deep blue eyes and cheekbones, and I smile in pleasure. I may be the only woman in the Western world who takes unalloyed pleasure in her natural appearance, but it is true nonetheless.
I wake up in the morning happy, and I go to bed drowsy and content.
I forgive myself when I shout at my children, because I trust myself that I’m doing a decent job overall, and I give myself due praise when I do better. I love them with sweet fierceness, and I wallow in the pleasure of that.
Even when I feel angry, or stressed, or sad, there is a joy in the authenticity of the emotion, and in letting myself feel it.
Once, a long time ago, I knew a man who underwent a religious transformation. From a vaguely Christian Christmas-and-Easter background, he became an evangelist. I was then, as I am now, the most atheist of people, but I couldn’t help but be fascinated by his faith. It shone from him. It suffused everything he did. Watching him, I could understand how people become proselytisers; he truly believed that the deep joy and peace that he was experiencing could only come from a total surrender to his God, and that the rest of us were missing out on a miracle of happiness by not following his lead.
I feel like that. I watch friends of mine struggle with sticking to their allotted alcohol-free days, and hating themselves when they fail. I wince when mothers of young children recommend a glass of wine to one another as a coping strategy, not because I think that they are problem drinkers, but because parenting is so much easier and so much more fun when you don’t think in terms of numbing-agent-as-reward, and I hate to think that perhaps some of them are missing out on the soaring pleasure of sober parenting.
And then there is the group of people who quite obviously do have a problem, and who betray it time and time again without realising that they do so.
It’s not that I think I could help them, per se. I’m just a woman who doesn’t drink. It’s that, no matter how many thousands of words I spill, I can’t do more than talk about how things are for me, and that doesn’t feel like enough. It’s worse than that, because the more I talk the more boring I get. Nobody wants to read post after post about how amazing life without alcohol can be, any more then they want to spend an hour on their doorstep listening to earnest young men spread their own personal gospel.
I have become dull, and repetitive, and ineffectual, even as I feel more and more compelled to try and explain how much better life is, lived sober. I craft posts in my head over and over, trying to say the thing that will make people listen, and transform a life. It’s frustrating.
When I remember my old friend, I don’t remember anything he ever said being remotely likely to persuade me into religion. But I do, almost twenty years later, remember the light in his eyes, and the serenity in his movements.
Maybe I need to stop talking and just keep living. Or does one keep knocking at doors, hoping that someone will have a moment to discuss the good news?