Four Years Later

Posted On: 04.10.13

4 years

I am sitting at my desk. It is a beautiful white desk covered in things – books, papers, photographs, pens. My hummingbird paperweight. My good luck rocks. A glass of water. It is half full. Four years ago, I might have looked at this same glass and thought It is half empty. Four years ago, I was me, but a different me. I was months out from losing Dad, I had a two-year-old and an infant underfoot. I was a bit lost and a bit sad. Okay, a lot lost and a lot sad.

Four years ago, I started this blog. I started it because my literary agent thought it was a good idea, that it would help me build an audience for my novel which would be published the following year. I started this blog for other reasons, too. Reasons that weren’t so apparent at the time. I started it because I needed to. Because I needed to carve out a little space to come to write words and think thoughts and ask questions. I needed a haven.

That four years has passed amazes me. So much has happened in these four years. We welcomed our third girl. We moved into this home. I got real with myself about my anxiety and my drinking. But something else that happened, something I’m just beginning to realize, is that I have become an optimist. More often than not, I’m able to see the sun through the clouds and think an important sentence, a sentence that has eluded me in the past: Everything will be okay.

Honestly? This is kind of fascinating to me. That after years of being pretty cynical and even pessimistic, after years of applauding the Nietzschian nihilism in myself and others, I am feeling this shift. I think I always thought I was who I was, that I was a critical thinker, prone to seeing grays, but now I am not so sure. I like this feeling of being not so sure about this.

Today is April 10th and it is a beauty. The weather outside is beyond gorgeous and I took the big girls to school and I couldn’t help looking around at this city I love, at all the chaos, at the people and cars and dogs, and thinking: I live here. This is my life. And the girls were so happy. We rode the bus and walked up Madison Avenue looking in all the shops. We stopped in front of a jewelry store with a giant zebra in it. We were all smitten. And I took a picture of them looking in.


After dropping both girls, I walked some more. I walked down Amsterdam and I bought myself a green juice and drank it. At home, Little Girl was waiting for me in her little flowered dress and pigtails. I scooped her up and we snuggled before she left for music class. And then I met with our garden guy who is going to spruce up our outdoor space.


And then I came here. To my desk. To write this. As I am writing these words, I realize how happy I am right now. On this morning. On this day. At this point in my life. It is not a perfect happiness, but a messy one. It’s hard to explain, but I just feel good about things. About my marriage. My little girls. My writing. My friends. Again, not everything is perfect. There are moments each day when I feel off or lost or down, but they are far outweighed by good, real, clear moments.

And there are wonderful things on the horizon. My novel is coming together. It is a slow and untidy process, but I am getting there. Big Girl has her first league game for soccer this weekend and her Daddy will be coaching. Tomorrow night, I am hosting my next Happier Hour with the editors of Drinking Diaries, a book of essays I just loved. We will gather and talk about a topic that is very interesting and important to me and I think to many of us.

Which brings me to my final bit of this rambling post… I woke up this morning and had a thought. A really exciting one. I might do another year without wine. Yes, I was a smidge hungover from a wonderful night out, a night that ended with cocktails on the exquisite rooftop ofΒ the Peninsula Hotel, but this was not about how I felt this morning. This was not about regret or shame or beating myself up. This was about how I felt last year during my dry year. I realize now, looking back, that it was a brilliant year, a year when I felt healthier and happier than ever before. Now, almost three months after my year ended, I feel like I finally have the perspective to really think seriously about this. And I am toying with the idea of doing another year, but this year would be less about eliminating a negative thing in my life and more about choosing wildly positive things, things I felt in unparalleled doses last year: health, happiness, clarity. Anyway, I’m just thinking about it and haven’t decided, but if the excitement I feel now just thinking about this is any indication, I will probably go for it. And write about it.

Anyway, I know I am rambling, but that’s cool. That’s me. I will cut myself off now and go enjoy this knockout of a day, but I cannot tell you how good it is to be here writing this messy ode to my morning, my day, my life and this place.

Four years, baby. So hard to believe. So wonderful to be able to say.

ADR logo

I’ve missed you guys! How have you been? How are you feeling about life these days? Are you more half-empty or half-full? What do you think about my doing another year without wine? Is it nuts that I love these challenges and am actually pumped about the possibility of another twelve months of dry living?

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40 Comments for: "Four Years Later"
  1. You are honestly one of my favorite blogs to read every morning. Your book is one of my favorites and I am anxiously awaiting your next. I know it is going to be sooooo good! I can’t wait to recommend it to everyone I know.

    Your children look adorable. I love reading about the things going on in your life. And I am happy that you started this blog 4 years ago because I get to vicariously live the NYC life thru you. πŸ™‚

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you so much, Brei. I am really excited about my book. It is an unruly process, but I love the story and can’t wait for you to read it one day.

  2. Happy, happy birthday to this space that I love so much. And to you. Isn’t it remarkable how much blogging bleeds into our lives? I’m struck by that, all the time. For one thing, it introduced me to you. And that, I’m grateful for every day. xoxo

  3. Happy anniversary, ADR!! I love this post of yours today. I love it because, yes, it is chocked with big thoughts, full of good, messy things and ideas that aren’t clear-cut, yet the tone is bright, full of positivity, of hope, of movement forward. Which seems to be the way you are feeling and approaching your days, your life…which is inspiring.

    We talk a lot and often about big thoughts, and nothing usually is “solved,” but despite that, you are right, everything will be okay. It will be. It is amazing shift to make to choose that to believe in, and I am so glad that you do it…because it helps remind those around you to do it too. Thank you for that.

    Year Without Wine: The Sequel could be fascinating, my friend. Can’t wait to hear what you decide… πŸ™‚

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, you. I think I was inspired by the conversation we had on Sunday about “think happy. be happy” and I am genuinely so amazed that a shift like this can happen. It’s pretty uplifting to think that we can change, right? And you know how oddly pumped I am about this no-wine thing. Strange, but good. xox

  4. Sam

    Happy four years! I am so glad to have found your blog, and am amazed at how different your writing is now than even 18 months ago when I started reading it. I am thrilled for you that you feel happier, healthier, and more positive, and I hope you know that all of those things shine brightly through your posts. Good luck finishing your novel, and looking forward to seeing more of you here when it’s done πŸ™‚

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Sam. And that’s really interesting to hear that you are able to detect an evolution in my writing over the past 18 months. I know, of course, that I have changed and that my perspective has shifted, but I am also so close to my words so it is sometimes hard to tell. Thanks so much for your good wishes re: my book as I really need them. I foolishly thought that writing the second book would be a much easier, more streamlined process than penning my first, but not so. Not so at all. Hope you are enjoying your new place!! PS – Read the letter you wrote to your sister on your blog not long ago and just loved it. xox

  5. Dara

    I love this quote from the late, great Roger Ebert:

    “I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try.”

    If drinking makes you happy, indulge. If being dry makes you happy, you must abstain. Life is too short not to live it, really live it to the best of your ability, with or without wine.

    I am three weeks into a sober month myself, and while I’ve enjoyed the insights, I miss my celebratory glass after a great meeting, that POP! at the end of a long day, a beer with friends. That’s what makes me happy.

    Here’s to happiness, however you find it. And *happy* anniversary to Ivy League Insecurities.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Dara. Love this quote and I think you are right. The complicated thing for me is that I like drinking when I am doing it. Nothing beats the clink of the glass, the laughter and conversation, the release, but I am not as much a fan of the aftermath. I am realizing for me that it is not about overdoing it, but about actually preferring the clarity that comes with not drinking. And so I am left perhaps with the odd realization that I like drinking but I might like not drinking more… Worth figuring out.

      Cheesy to say, but one of the reasons I so love this blog is that it has helped me reconnect with people from my past, people whom I wish I knew better at the time, like you.


  6. Congrats on 4 years. I love that you feel you are much more of an optimist now and look at the glass half full. That’s such a beautiful thing to have gained. Enjoy your beautiful day and all the ones after!!! πŸ™‚ Happy for and with you.

  7. I have missed your blog! Seriously. I am so happy that the novel is coming along. I am intrigue by you doing another year – I’ve been catching up on your first non-drinking year (I was late to the party). I also just ordered Drinking Diaries. I have conflicted feeling about alcohol, myself. My little brother is very sick, because he’s an alcoholic and I also lost both parents to the disease. Although I am not an alcoholic, I do enjoy my wine. When I give it up for Lent or a cleanse, I always feel good. Lately though, I feel like when I drink a glass, I’m drinking poison. Complicated. So, I will be following, if you chose to share again.

    ANd Happy Anniversary!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Allie. I would so love to talk to you more about all of this. I can totally understand why your relationship to alcohol feels very complicated and I am really sorry to hear that it has played such a negative role in your family’s life. Honestly, I think so many people have complex connections with alcohol and it is so prevalent in the modern world… All makes for a really interesting and important topic. Not sure what I will do, but no matter what it is, I look forward to writing about it to the extent I think there is something worth sharing.

      Might email you!

  8. I love this post! Congrats on the 4 years. I’m 4 months into my year without wine, and it’s so refreshing, so amazing to me that I’m loving my year *without* wine a billion-fold more than the last year I had *with* wine. My head might well explode over this, truly.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      As you know, this comment and your email mean the world to me. I never really thought about the fact that doing my year, and asking all the questions I continue to ask, would actually prompt others to embark on similar experiments, but it makes me smile and also affirms why I chose to live this year and beyond in a public fashion. Look forward to catching up on your posts!

  9. Loved this. Do you think it’s optimism or just being appreciative? I can moan and groan and be frustrated and sometimes I look at the boys and pinch myself “it’s good” I say. “I’m lucky”. I love the thread of health woven in this piece…the green juice, wanting to feel vibrant.
    I/we’ve said it but let’s have a (healthy) lunch soon.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Lauren. I’m not sure what it is… Optimism? Gratitude? All I know is that it is relatively new for me. Glad you appreciated the green juice cameo. And, yes, to lunch!! Soon. xox

  10. Happy anniversary, Aidan. Much, much to celebrate! And I love your revelation about *becoming* an optimist. I have actually been somewhat of an optimist my whole life (well, an optimist-worrier, if such a thing exists.) I have a question for you which perhaps belongs in an email or non-public forum, but here goes: how much do you think your state of being when you first started blogging (as you say, having just lost your dad, with two tiny ones underfoot, etc) had to do with being a “newer” mom than you are now? I am finding myself struggling so much every day – just wrote a blog post about how this has been BY FAR the hardest 1.5 years of my life, since I had my first kid! – and I (think) I know rationally that the hard times WILL pass (we’re renovating our house and not living at home. Our toddler boy is amazing and curious but WILD. I’m trying to finish/publish my first book. Husband is working crazy hard) but sometimes I feel that “lost and sad”ness that you describe, and it’s hard to deal with… xox

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Rebecca, Thanks so much. I am glad you wrote this comment here as I think so many people will relate. And the answer is YES, I do think my lostness and sadness had something to do with the fact that the kids were so young and I was such a rookie. There is something particularly draining and difficult about the first years of motherhood even though they are also magical. There is the constant lack of true rest, the constant question of whether you are screwing everything up, there is the loss of identity that comes with immersing oneself so deeply in the identity of another… So much going on and I think it takes its toll. I say it, and often, and know it’s a cliche, but being a mom is the hardest and best thing I have ever done and it continues to be so day after day. Would love to chat more about all of this and maybe write a post or two on the topic!!

      • Thanks, Aidan. I think commenting here helped me vent a little πŸ™‚ I do feel like one day I’m going to wake up and never remember NOT being a parent. But right now, it still feels “new” enough that I question everything (like you said) and compare everything – both the joys as well as the difficulties – with “before I had kid(s).” Anyway, yes. I will def. write a blog post about this at soe point… xox

  11. Happy happy happy blogiversary – so happy to have found your little corner of the Internet.

  12. Jacqueline

    Happy four years! Hope there are many more to come!

  13. I have always thought of myself as cynical, pessimistic, and a critical thinker like you did. But I think even Ms. HalfEmpty has become more optimistic.

    Perhaps noticing the happiness in our lives (and the warm weather and sunshine) have helped shift our perspectives. I wonder if I’ll have to change my name at some point!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      So happy to see you commenting on this post!! I do think so much of this is about opening our eyes and noticing things around us. Thanks!

  14. Congratulations, Aidan. Love this post !

  15. Rachel C

    Happy Anniversary! This has obviously become an integral part of your life…this safe space to explore and ponder the highs and lows. I’m so glad you feel there has been a shift in your life recently–I think many young, ambitious women..especially those of us trying to balance our our passions with motherhood–are constantly seeking clarity and meaning. Inspiring to know you are finding your way…


    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks so much, Rachel. Love talking to you about all of this stuff and it makes me smile to think we have so many years to do so, right? Ah, motherhood. And friendship. Hope to see you tonight but so understand if it’s not in the cards. As an aside, cannot wait to come to one of your fabulous workshops!! xx

  16. Hi Aidan,

    I love your writing and brave honesty. Congrats on four years, it’s amazing that you have kept it up. I was feeling a little lost, a little envious of other mothers who had a stronger hold on their identities than I did, so I started writing and crazily decided to put it on a blog (crazy because I am an extreme introvert). Amazingly, almost immediately I started feeling lighter, more energized, and excited for nap time when I can type all those thoughts out on the computer. I don’t know if this new rose colored lens will continue making my days brighter, but I know that this new found energy is telling me to keep writing, this was something missing. I have gotten a great response from family, friends, and strangers, which is exciting. However, I had a bout of insomnia last night, worrying that being so honest and open leaves me so vulnerable to a verbal knockout by almost anyone. At night I contemplate taking it all down, so strange, nighttime anxiety is hard to shake. πŸ™‚

    On a side note, I love hearing the comments regarding wine, wow, amazing how many people are conflicted on this topic. I relate to the previous comment of perceiving it like a poison, but I’m not quite ready to give up my evening glass.

    Thanks for everything.


  17. It’s so very clear that your life is full of lots of wonderful people and events and milestones and memories and things. If going another year without wine excites you, I say go for it!

  18. Happy Belated Anniversary, Aidan! Your space offered refuge for me when I decided to quit my job as an attorney. Since that day, your posts are a part of my daily routine. I love that during these 4 years you are not afraid to write about your authentic self. Your willingness to discuss your vulnerabilities offers so much light. Please know that.

    Here’s to many more years of musings from you! Raising my virtual non-alcoholic glass!

  19. Happy Anniversary, Aidan and ILI! I can’t believe it’s been four years, either! It seems like just yesterday I stumbled across your blog. You have been delighting me, inspiring me and allowing me to see things in new and different lights since day one.

    Keep up the great work and keep writing!


  20. AG

    Happy Blogging Anniversary! I love having you as a part of my daily life as I face the world and am so happy I discovered you 3 years ago. Also have to say I so admire your shift towards optimism and it gives me hope for myself. I am 28 and feel a bit of a pessimist right now to be honest. I am trying to be more optimistic and sometimes I am really good and sometimes it is an absolute disaster. But it is good to hear that if I hang in there maybe I will experience a shift like you have and begin to see the world as more half full all the time as opposed to some of the time.

    Thank you for continuing to blog and can’t wait until we get to see you more regularly again on here! This post was such an unexpected treat πŸ™‚

  21. I’ve missed you!! I love your words and your outlook. It always brings a spring to my step. I just did a 21 day cleanse and feel amazing. Without alcohol or coffee I slept better and my skin looks amazing. If you do another dry year I will join you. Some days of my 3 week cleanse were tortyre without wine but the next day I felt amazing – I feel string and amazing. For myself I am setting strict limits on wine from here on out. And I’d join you in a heartbeat.

  22. Bob

    Love your blogs and honesty

    In my wildest dreams I would love to wake up and say that I have done a year without wine & beer , and to wake up and say my anxiety has gone , I have thought about this a lot but never set a date and always have a reason not to , like holidays coming up relatives arriving etc, I would live to wake up 1 year on and say I feel the healthiest ever at 44

    I think you all ready know your answer to shall I do another year of no wine

  23. LED

    Beautiful. Just beautiful. You are in what I like to call “your sweet spot” in life….what a blessing you see it.

    I read regularly and comment infrequently – but know you’ve got a silent majority soaking up your thoughts and questions and reflection – and cheering you on for more. Here is to another four years!

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