I took this picture yesterday. We were on our way to breakfast. It was a beautiful morning and I lagged behind – as I like to do sometimes – and I captured them. My creatures. My man and my girls. In other words: My everything. Everything. It’s interesting how complicated life can be or seem, but then BAM you are hit with something on a sunny Sunday morning in Spring, and everything is suddenly simple and clear and you know what it is all about, this life thing: Them. It is about them. And they are an extension of you, connected to you in ways you can only dream of articulating, but the point is that it is also about you. You and them. Them and you.
I have not had any alcohol for three months now. And I do not say this to brag though I am proud of myself because this hasn’t been totally easy-breezy stuff for me; No, these months have been gorgeous but also complicated. Yes, both. Things can be both. I say this – that I am 25% through my year without wine – because it does feel like an accomplishment of sorts; three months is neither nothing nor forever. It is a solid nugget of time. I say this – that I have dried out for three months – because it is important for me to check in with myself and see what I have learned so far.
What have I learned? Too many things to enumerate and examine here, and many of them might have absolutely nothing to do with alcohol. A few things though: I don’t miss it. Except when I do. I sleep much better now that I have not had alcohol in my system for a considerable while. I work out much more and much more efficiently when I sleep better and have more energy. I have been far more productive in writing my novel – maybe because I am feeling great physically and not slowing myself down with dips into the vino over the course of the week?
I have been a better mom. This is the biggest thing by far. And I know it sounds odd. Why would eliminating a few glasses of wine here and there make me a better parent? I’m not sure and I’m sure it wouldn’t work this way for everyone, but when I stopped drinking I felt this palpable shift in my attitude toward my life as a mom. I have been more serene and less snappy. I have been more cheerful and less overwhelmed, less inclined to feel anxious, less inclined to doubt myself. Conversely, I have felt this wild clarity in moments with my trio; I literally feel myself noticing things more, engaging with my girls in silly and serious ways, all in all, enjoying more of my time with them. I don’t pretend to know what this is all about, but I think all of these things must be connected, right? I think feeling good, and happy, and working out and writing up a storm, and sleeping well… I had dinner with a friend recently and she walked me to the corner to hail a cab after we finished our meal and she said something. It seems like you are doing a great job with your girls. In the past, I would have wriggled and deflected, but I surprised myself that night, words just pouring from me. Thanks, I said. I feel really good about that part of my life. And I do.
Last night, I said something to Husband. The girls were tucked in and we were both wiped out. I said to him, “You know, tomorrow will be three months. How am I different three months in?” I was sitting on the couch and he was standing in the kitchen making us some decaf coffee and I looked up at him and watched as he furrowed his brow and gave this some thought and then he said it. Something I will not forget.
“You are more present. Yes, that’s it. You are more present.”
And I smiled, and thought about this, and felt a surge of something grand. Maybe it was pride. Maybe it was love. And then, because I am an overthinker and I couldn’t possibly let his answer stand on its own, I asked why. Am I more present because I am not getting buzzed and out of it or because I am not hungover/anxious or because I am not obsessing over this facet of my behavior/personality in my uber-perfectionist way? Oh, how he smiled. All of the above? I asked. And he just grinned and handed me a cup of decaf. Hot. Delicious.
A little story. A story that’s not so little.
This past Friday night. Bedtime. Daddy reads book #1.
Big Girl, giggling: “That book is so complicated!”
Daddy moves on to book #2.
Big Girl, again giggling: “That book is so complicated!”
Big Girl: “What does complicated mean?”
Big Girl: “Tricky like looking at your own eye?”
She’s already smarter than I am. And she’s five.
I tuck her in. Under her covers, she shimmies and shakes. And sings.
“Oh yeah. Oh yeah. There is a jelly fish in my pants! Oh yeah. Oh yeah. There is a jelly fish in my pants! Oh yeah. Oh yeah.”
I smile. She’s five. Oh yeah.
Three months in. Nine to go. And then what? Will I give myself that imaginary gold star and go back to my Pinot Grigio with gusto? Will I continue to abstain knowing how good and pure life can be, and feel, without it? I imagine I will choose a middle road. I don’t pretend to know. I don’t need to know. I have plenty of time to think about it. And write about it. And I will do these things because that’s what I do, how I process, how I see. That’s who I am.
It’s important that I close this with a bit of a reality check. This hasn’t been a fairy tale three months. I have had some really hard moments. Really hard. I have had moments where I’ve had to defend my decision to do this and write this. I have had moments – icky ones, great ones – where all I wanted was a big fat glass of wine. I have had moments where I felt a keen rush of memory and emotion and I felt lost without that go-to glass to blur, to escape. I have had moments where I couldn’t for the life of me remember why I am doing this, this utterly unnecessary and perhaps truly self-indulgent experiment. I have had moments where I felt quiet and profoundly un-fun, like I was a bore to be around. I have had moments where I have felt sad, and vulnerable, and misunderstood.
So. Yes. I have had hard moments. But the thing is, the important thing is, the thing to which I cling and cling fiercely, is that the good moments, the really good, absolutely exquisite moments have vastly outweighed the hard ones. And these really good moments have become consistent in my days. They are moments when I feel awake and alive, centered and strong, energized and evolved. They are moments when things make sense, when dots begin connecting themselves, when dreams seem real and reality dream-like, when I feel swollen with purpose and meaning and, gulp, self-love.
So. Onward. There is no going back now. This is not easy, but it is good. It’s complicated. Tricky. Like life. Like looking at your own eye.
And now, of course, I am thinking of my sweet girl’s ridiculous and amazing ditty: I’ve got a jelly fish in my pants! Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
I am smiling, guys. Smiling as I write this. Smiling as I study my beautiful creatures in the picture above. Smiling as I live this and learn this. This. Whatever this is, and ends up being. This thing, this time, this story, this change.
A kind note to the next nine months: Bring it on.
Thank you all for your continued support and curiosity about this odd adventure of mine. Weirdly, I love answering questions about this, so please feel free to fire away in the comment box below. Oh, and I am beginning to do some research on alcohol, anxiety, parenthood and perfectionism in modern life, so please please comment here or email me at ivyleagueinsecurities at gmail dot com if you have any relevant personal stories or blog or book recommendations for me, and all of us. Thanks!