Museum Security Guard: What I Learned

After my momentous art viewing experiences at MassMOCA last spring, I decided to volunteer at the local art museum.

Here are a few things that I learned volunteering at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center.

I learned that a woman wearing a badge that says "Security" is an irresistible target for remarks from some types of people. Usually that remark is "Security!?" said in a tone of mocking disbelief. Ha ha.

I learned that abstract artist Debra Ramsay took walks on a forest trail in spring, summer, fall, and winter, and took a photo every 18 feet. She then selected a color from each photo and created the work "Painting Time." Above and below are features of the installation.

I learned that people don't really read signs, as they would come into this room and wonder aloud what they were looking at. Although I had read the sign, I did not fill them in because I figured the discovery, if any, is part of their personal viewing experience.

I learned that glass artist Robert DuGrenier had a historic barn full of beloved animals that was destroyed by fire in 2015. All that remained after the fire were the metal parts of the tools and implements that had been in the barn.

I learned that Robert DuGrenier used these tools in a body of work called "Handle with Care." I swear I could feel the pain of the animals and of his loss emanating out of the metal in this room.

I also learned that glass-handled tools are irresistible to some people who feel they HAVE to touch them to believe them. My job as Security was to stop them before this happened (which is difficult).

There will be new exhibits when I volunteer again at the end of next week. I can't wait to learn what else people might find irresistible!

Do you volunteer? Is there a local museum where you live?

1 Year Alcohol Free: 20 Reasons I Like Not Drinking

In the sober community they say that once you know you should not drink any more, you can't "unknow" it again. Once you've gone from cucumber to pickle, you can't go back to cucumber (thanks Mary Karr for that analogy).

I found this to be true for me. Ever since my 2012 paleo diet experience, where I quit drinking for 30 days, I knew that I needed a good, long LONG break from alcohol to sort myself out. It is an addictive substance after all, and a depressant, and I was consuming it every week and sometimes every single day. I knew that it did not feel good, and I could not unknow that.

Here's what happened the day that I stopped. I had a slight hangover from the night before, because the night before was a Sunday, which is a prime day to have a couple glasses of wine to close out the weekend. I was also planning to start another "dry August," which I had tried the year before and really liked. So the morning of Monday, July 31, 2017, I downloaded a sobriety counter app to my phone, just to track my planned 31 days for the month of August.

In that moment I was deeply miserable, frustrated with myself for the zillionth time, and headachey. As I opened up the timer app and set my start time to 7:30 AM, I thought... I never have to drink again. I don't have to stop for 31 days, I can just STOP. I CAN BE DONE.

This realization of not gritting it out, not white-knuckling it, not "having" to pick it up again later, but just being DONE, was such a relief. It was a huge relief. It turned out to be a life-changing relief.

Observation: Nobody really cares what's in your glass.

That first day, I poked around the app's forum quite a bit and found someone had written: "I'd rather have another day won than another Day One." YES.

That's still how I feel today, over one year later. I'd rather have another day won than another Day One. I've been doing lots of reading and learning to bolster that original feeling of relief and to keep piling more weight and information behind that original decision. The book This Naked Mind and the author's youtube videos have been very helpful. (One thing I learned from Annie Grace is that your unconscious mind needs to agree with your conscious decision to stop drinking, because the unconscious is the needy, illogical place where cravings come from. Reading and watching her stuff helped me flip that switch and lose interest in alcohol. Think about that--I'm not even interested in drinking.)

Here are some things I've appreciated in the past year of not drinking.

  1. The internal quarrels between the DRINK voice in my head and the DON'T DRINK voice in my head have gone quiet. Drinking made me obsessively question drinking, which made me crazy. So not drinking keeps me much more sane.
  2. I am hangover free. If I feel bad, I know it's because I'm actually sick or tired or overwhelmed, not because I drank. (Actually, I've discovered that I can get a hangover from too much anxiety the day before--is anxiety a toxin?)
  3. I no longer feel guilty about my habit. Simple, but the guilt was toxic too.
  4. I no longer worry (so much) how alcohol is affecting my health (brain, liver, heart).
  5. I no longer worry how alcohol is affecting my skin and appearance. (dry skin, puffy face, hella tired)
  6. My sleep has significantly improved. That alone is so compelling that I can't imagine going back. I used to wake up at 3AM pretty regularly to berate myself and make promises that I then didn't keep. Ugh.
  7. I'm learning how to handle feelings and all kinds of occasions. I'm learning how to show up for my own life. Some say that the age when you start drinking to cope is the age where you freeze your emotional development. I'm unfreezing now and actively working on things.
  8. I'm learning not to hide behind a wine glass. Either I go to a gathering and participate, or I say no.
  9. I have much more brain clarity. I used to feel like I was losing the ability to even find words (which is my job, so that's a problem).
  10. I'm reconnecting with my past selves, with my girlhood self. She didn't drink either, and had strong, good beliefs about many things. I am still that person deep inside, and I am giving her space to unfurl.
  11. I'm leaving behind my 20-something self for good. (I hung onto her a little too long.) Part of this is forgiving myself for not making great decisions sometimes. My 20s are part of who I am, and I don't regret myself. But I'm different now.
  12. I can get up at 5:15 am with much less reluctance. I still don't love it, but it's POSSIBLE. (I usually do this to go exercise.)
  13. I feel better about how my children are seeing alcohol in their home (which is minimal), particularly as their teen years are coming right up.
  14. I have genuine moments of happiness OFTEN. I used to notice feeling happy about 1-2 times a year. Now I have such moments several times a week. I've figured out that the trick is happiness is a subtle feeling that comes from little things. It is not a big parade full of fireworks and dancing girls. I need to be still and let happiness come to me, like meeting a strange cat that pauses to sniff... then flops down so you can pet it. When I relied on my wine I didn't even see those cats.
  15. I have more belly laughs. It feels great.
  16. I can drive any time of day or night.
  17. I can remember more and access more of my own memories, both short-term and long-term.
  18. I choose my pleasures, and as a result I have some pleasure in my life. When pleasure was an automatic glass of wine at the end of the day, it wasn't really a choice anymore, and it also didn't "work." Now, when I get to pick what will make me feel good or happy or quiet or whatever, and do it with intention, it tends to work. It helps to have options too, not just the one damn thing that I keep trying whether it works or not (usually not).
  19. I'm trying new things. I don't know about others, but I didn't get a lot DONE when I was in "relaxation mode" with my glass of wine. And if I'd had a stressful day (which seemed to be most days), then relaxation mode was a priority. Since quitting, I've been able to plan more family outings, participate in Cub Scouts with my child (that NEVER would have happened before), and volunteer.
  20. I say no to things more. I wrote about this in my New Year's post--I just don't need to prove myself to myself anymore. When I was drinking I'd think: "Well yes I drank that bottle of wine, but I will also do this and this and and that so I don't really have a problem! All good!" It was exhausting. Now that the obstacle I was pushing against has been removed, I can focus on making honest decisions about what I actually want to do. During this first year a lot of those decisions have been to take it easy on myself whenever I can. As Annie Grace puts it, think of that 12+ months as long-term healing from an injury.

So that was the first year. The next year might be about taking some baby steps forward. What new connections will I make? What new passions and projects will arise? What new forging in the smithies of my soul will occur?

I've had a few people reach out about not drinking. It is thrilling to hear from them! I believe that lots of people use alcohol as an ineffective stress-reliever, and if we can share our experiences, maybe we can find better ways to take care of ourselves.

At this early stage in not drinking, my main advice is: If you know and can't unknow that quitting would help you feel better, try quitting. Just to see if it's true. YOU DON'T HAVE TO KEEP DRINKING IF IT MAKES YOU FEEL BAD.