If It Takes a Lifetime

Hey everyone, Happy New Year!

How are you? How was last year for you? What’s this year look like, did you make any resolutions?

(He said, half-mocking himself.)

I’m here at my house, eating everything in sight, and drinking carrot juice, and smoothies, and lemon water, and tea by the pot, as I decided to take a New Years break from all my favourite vices, at least for a couple months.

It was just time, you know. The turning wheel of the year provides a great metaphor, and who hasn’t said to themselves, This Is The Year…?

I’ve been a fairly wimpy smoker – but still – since I was a kid. I love good strong coffee, I love beer. All are pretty endemic to musician culture, to Maritime culture, to my family. I used to love making beer for friends who came over. It’s night coffee for an introvert like me, a metered dose of being around other people, or alone with the moon, and common practice when folks gather.

Particularly in music: Everyone knows the stereotype. Worse, I know musicians who’ve quit their habits and found themselves suddenly not getting any calls. Our conferences and festivals move a lot of money around for beer sponsors. It’s a budget line that makes these things happen. It’s part of the calculation of your worth out in the clubs. Business is frequently done over smoke breaks, Caesars in the morning, networking receptions in the afternoon, social beers at showcases, songs-and-drinks-and-smokes-of-all-kinds at 5am in a hotel stairway. And a foot-tall coffee as soon as you get up, quickly followed by another.

Some of us have quietly discussed how the industry eats its young by being so much about us bringing the party everywhere we go. We attract addictive and depressive personalities because the behaviour is normalized. Ask any country song: when times are good, you drink; when times are bad, you drink. We are conditioned to this on simultaneous levels at once (as artists, working class people, entrepreneurs, consumers, etc), and it bears questioning as a norm.

Smokes, well, nobody even needs to question that, anymore. My consumption was low enough that my doc said don’t even worry about it, but still. Enough.

Conversely, I’ve long been interested in developing the running addiction that a lot of my friends have. I’ve been bartering music for hot yoga for a few years, and I’m excited to go deeper into my breath, deeper into sleep, deeper into guitar practice, deeper into productivity, deeper into writing, deeper into fresh-air-more-often, deeper into being well-hydrated, rather than a walking piece of beef jerky.

For a guy who’s been surrounded by addiction all his life, I’ve gotten lucky. I’ve been inspired by many friends who’ve been public about kicking habits; some of them just stopping a thing they rethought, some for whom it came to life-and-death. I’ve seen lots of them hit 1 year, 5 years, 17 years, 28 years. I’ve never seen one regret it.

So, when a friend decided recently to make what was for him a huge change, I decided that I’d do a solidarity-quit and start with a dry January (which I’ve done before, and I find to be a pleasing ritual). My person and I are doing a Whole 30 diet in February, so that’ll be two months. Beyond that, we’ll see. I’ll still have a coffee in the morning with my person, but then switch to my beloved water bottle for the rest of the day.

It actually feels a bit subversive, to go out amongst friends and be the only guy drinking tonic waters with cranberry in an environment that depends on liquor sales to survive and be a place for us to play, but, it’s me-time now. I know exactly what I’m missing, and I still love the characters there. Last night would’ve been a perfect storm: a good friend’s birthday, he owns a terrific venue that might have to shut down soon, other friends were in town to play for the occasion, lots of folks coming out after the holiday break; the atmosphere was both a birthday dance party and an Irish wake and the night certainly went until daybreak for many. I stayed for the gig and escorted myself to bed by midnight. I’ll go back and visit that place in my mind, and my neighbourhood, from time to time. But I’m really enjoying catching up on my sleep, and I enjoy the sense of presence, and not caving at the first really good excuse. It feels like I’m doing something right, for once.

Works in progress: lots of time on the Prairies this Spring and Summer, currently writing for the new record. Practicing like a madman. The better I get, the more I realize I have to learn. I’ve realized I’m starting, as the world seemingly goes crazy, by quieting the hell down.

Just wanted to flip you this little radio show I got from last year’s Western tour, live at Guilt&Co. in Vancouver’s Gastown. We had a lovely time there, and I love talking with with Tonye Aganaba.

(Disclaimer: I’ll be rejigging my first song intro, as I was labouring under a misapprehension. Thanks to the community for correcting the matter.)

Take care, beauties. If anyone needs me, bring jujubes.