I told you that I have embarked upon an existential experiment of sorts, that I have decided to give up alcohol for one year in an effort to examine my life without its telltale gloss. I told you that I have, at times, come to rely upon wine in moments of stress or overwhelm. I told you that I have been doing this, this living sans wine, for two months now, and that I feel great and have learned a great deal. Because I do. And I have.
I also told you that I was a bit scared to be truthful, and so publicly truthful, about all of this. And I was. I was, and am, scared. Because people are judgmental creatures, creatures who often see what they want to see, often believe what they want to believe. I am one of these creatures, so I know this. I know that when I see someone doing something, even something good, particularly something good, I squint and scrutinize and shimmy into judgment. I do this because it is human to do this and I am human.
But Friday was a truly wonderful day. It was because I said screw it, this is my life, and my work, and this little experiment of mine is important to me, and interesting to me. I felt this overwhelming instinct to start talking about my temporary dip into the dry life on Friday, and I didn’t look back. I hit publish and I felt a rush and a spectacular sense of progress; I felt, and feel, like this is a tremendously positive thing to do. For many reasons.
And I was, and am, blown away by the lovely comments here. Currently, there is something funky going on with with commenting/subscription system and so I apologize if you did not receive the follow-up comments or if you were belatedly bombarded by a slew of comments at odd times over the weekend as my dear Husband was, and told me about. We are working on fixing that, but I did want you to know that I took some time to sit down and respond to each and every comment (and will do so on this post as well) because this really is so important, and big, for me and I want you to know that your words and questions and ideas mean a tremendous amount. Keep ‘em coming.
I was also incredibly moved by the scores of emails I have received from so many of you. I was, and am, blown away by how many of you really seem to get this, and understand, that I do not have to do this, but I want to, by how many of you can see that I am trying to live a small, but also meaningful change in my own life, that I am simply trying to switch things up, and write about it. I am writing about it because I am a writer and that’s what I do. I live my life. I process it. I write about it.
So, this, really, is a thank you. A thank you to all of you who read my words on Friday. A thank you to those of you who took the time to think about this admittedly confusing/bizarre experiment I’ve concocted out of curiosity and an abiding desire to be a better writer, thinker, mother, person. A thank you to all of you who came at this with an open mind, who refused to jump to more sinister conclusions that I am doing a dance of denial around a much bigger problem. The truth (the disappointing/less dramatic truth?) is that I am not.
This thing I am doing? It is a choice. It is a curiosity. That’s all.
To be honest, the responses haven’t all been positive. I knew this would be the case. Some people have doubted my story; why in the world would I write about this, why would I do this, unless I am wrestling with major demons, unless I am weathering a true, textbook Problem (capitalization intended)? Is it truly advisable to put myself out there, out here, in such a wildly vulnerable way when I have little girls who look up to me, and greater families who care deeply, and understandably too, about me and care about appearances and reputation?
I am doing this because I want to. Because I think there are things to learn. Because I think this is an interesting conversation, this conversation about life and love and escape and humanity. I think this is a conversation we don’t often let ourselves have, not aloud at least, because it is tricky and wrought and oh so real.
Well, I’m having it. In my mind. In my life. Here. This conversation. And I’m writing about it. And I feel so good about this. I feel like I am asking questions so many of us ask. I feel as if I am thinking things so many of us think. About big, ineffable things. About life and love and parenthood and fear and faith and mortality and time. About the things that scare us senseless and bring us immense and intrinsic joy. About the things that we don’t talk about when we meet for coffee or run into each other on the street, things that are too big and shapeless for the chit chat with which we pepper our days. I’m talking about these things.
I had this wonderful talk with Mom last night. We sat on my couch as Little Girl bounced between us in her sagging white diaper. She said something so simple, so wise, Mom did. She said something like, “This really isn’t about alcohol.” And it isn’t. It’s about life, and how we live it, how we choose to live it. It’s about how we cope, how we process, how we make it through. Because all of us, every single one of us, has something or many things that we do to blur the sharp corners of life. If this makes you uncomfortable, the fact that I am saying that you have your crutch, your way of dealing, I’m sorry. I’m just saying that we are all one thing, one avoidable and incredible thing: human.
And so. Here I am. Chugging along. Confidently, too. Smiling far far more than I am shaking. Because this is good. This is real. This is me.
Also, this is you.
On Saturday morning, I took the big girls on an “adventure.” It was a bit chilly, but the sun was bold, and we walked to the bookstore. Their hair was tangled and sticky from breakfast and they wore ridiculous outfits, wonderful outfits they had chosen themselves, outfits full of unabashed, unapologetic color and pattern. We skipped along, literally skipped along, and talked about what books they would get because I told them they could each choose one. Big Girl said she didn’t know what book she’d choose yet, but just that it would be good. Middle Girl said she would pick a beautiful book. And then her older sister said something, something really incredible. She said, “It doesn’t matter what it looks like. It matters if it’s a good story.”
We walked on. And as we neared Barnes & Noble, the sun grew hotter. I was clutching a coffee in one hand and holding Middle Girl’s hand with the other. And Big Girl, my firstborn, looked up at me, squinting through her gorgeous little glasses, and said, “Mom, can I hold your hand?”
Can I hold your hand?
I smiled. Oh, how I smiled. I cracked some very bad joke about how I needed a third arm so I could hold their hands and also carry my coffee and a passing dad locked eyes with me and laughed out loud as he walked his own little girl in the opposite direction. Big Girl wrapped her hand around my pinky so I could still hold my coffee and we walked and as we walked I thought about this, this little sentence, this little question.
Can I hold your hand?
I noticed how she phrased this. How she used the word I, how she conveyed a sense of individuality, agency. How she wanted to hold my hand. She could have just as easily said, Will you hold my hand? or I want to hold your hand. And she says these things too, and often, both of my big girls do, but I noticed the subtle difference this time. I noticed. And it meant something, means something. Something important. Something I don’t yet fully understand.
Can I hold your hand?
Of course, it was not lost on me how incredibly amazing it is to have little creatures in my world who want to hold my hand, my hand, who need me, who want to walk with me, touch me. There will come a day when they don’t want this, at least not in this conspicuous and simple way, and I will cherish this time, this time of hand-holding, while it lasts. Trust me, I will and I am. But in that moment, in the moment when she asked me that question, I thought of something more, something bigger.
I thought of connection.
Isn’t it better somehow, more interesting, more comforting, to go through our days and our doubts and our struggles and our celebrations and our stories with other people? Isn’t it better somehow to walk the sidewalks of our cities and of our lives, our good and imperfect lives, holding a hand or two?
After they picked their books (Dora for each of them; the writer in me was a tad disappointed, but, alas, this is about choice), we spotted the ice cream truck on the corner. Mr. Softee. And of course there were sweet, crooning pleas. And though it was still technically morning, I caved and quickly too. We walked over and looked up at the smiling man in the window and, per their requests, I ordered two vanilla cones. With rainbow sprinkles. Rainbow sprinkles have always been my favorite, too.
And instead of racing and rushing as we so often do, we sat. We sat on a little concrete step on the side of the bookstore, a little dirty concrete step. I sat with them, between them, wiping white from little lips, plucking sprinkles from wrists and knees, stealing bites for myself. But then I stood and backed up and took a couple of pictures. Of my little girls, my creatures, all innocence, eating their treats, enjoying their lives. They looked up at me as I snapped away, whimsy and wisdom flickering in big blue eyes, young eyes, smiling. Smiling in the Saturday sunshine.
And I smiled too. My mommy smile. My person smile. Because there is so much to smile about. There is this hand-holding, these rainbow sprinkles, these messy moments, these magical moments, this city, these stories, these struggles that can unite us if we are strong enough to let them. There is this love. There is this life.
And so. Today. I’m smiling. Still smiling. Because this is good. And this is life.
And so. Today. I’m writing. Still writing. Always writing. Because this is what I love, this is what I do. Because this is good. All of it.
And this is life.
Again, thank you. Thank you for reading, for thinking, for asking. Thank you for sharing bits of your own stories here, and elsewhere. Thank you for keeping an open mind, an open heart, for letting me do this thing that I love. I know that many of you are new here, to this odd little corner of mine, and I look forward to connecting with you, to saying hello, over the days to come.