Disclaimer: This post is longer than my typical posts. But it is also more honest. Up to you.
At around 4:30pm yesterday afternoon, I came home. The kids were out with our nanny and the house was quiet. I slipped my bag from my shoulder to the floor. I paced around the kitchen, checking my phone. My mind rumbled with things.
My mind rumbled with good things like seeing writer friends later today and attending a Huffington Post Women’s Conference tomorrow and reuniting with law school classmates this weekend. Good things like going on a field trip to an amusement park today with Middle Girl and watching Big Girl perform Annie next week. Good things like the news of my sister passing her driver’s test and an old friend just learning she is pregnant with her first child. Good things like the last scene for my book which came to me recently and I think will work beautifully.
My mind rumbled with bad things, too. Bad things like this morning’s news that a three-year-old girl was killed by a speeding SUV across the street from my daughter’s school. Bad things like someone I know finding a growth that could be cancer and like the fact that a father at my daughter’s school lost his wife to cancer exactly two years ago. Bad things like friends’ marriages crumbling and people I know being pretty sad in life.
My mind also rumbled with neutral, everyday things. Everyday things like the fact that I must remember to send Big Girl with $4 to school for a Kindergarten Farmer’s Market and must remember to take yogurt tubes to Middle Girl’s school for a forthcoming end-of-the-year picnic party. Everyday things like sending in those camp health forms and buying swim suits that fit, and replacing the carton of milk that’s almost empty. Everyday things like figuring what we will do this August once camp is done and what I will write for Middle Girl’s Kindergarten application essay.
The point is that my mind was full. And it’s often this way, particularly at the end of the day. I wasn’t feeling particularly anxious or stressed, just full. And I didn’t really know what to do, how to spend the hour-plus I had left with my sitter around. With so many things buzzing on the brain, how to pick one and go? That’s a struggle for me sometimes.
And so. My thoughts went to wine. They did. I didn’t think to pour a glass at that moment because in my mind it was too early. But I did think about wine and that it would be nice to have some soon. I thought about how it would soften things, quiet my achieving and articulating mind, how it would help me unwind a bit. I knew that all of these things would be true; I know how that first glass makes me feel, how it soothes me, how it makes the day suddenly better. I knew how the second glass would make me feel, too. How it would actually take me one step further, how I’d feel a bit of glee, how I’d feel more like me.
But I didn’t pour a glass. I resisted. Instead, I went to my writing room and wrote words and sent emails and got a couple of things done. Instead, I came downstairs and played with my girls and asked them about their days. Instead, I wrangled them toward bed and put toothbrushes in their little hands and laughed as they stood on their beds naked and did a hilarious dance that for me evinced all that is good and happy in life. Instead, I sunk into the reality of my life, my very busy and good and often stressful life, the very life that makes my mind rumble with so many things.
I am not writing this to give myself a pat on the back that I didn’t drink last night. Then again, maybe that’s exactly what I’m doing. As many of you know, I took a full calendar year off from drinking and it was a brilliant and beguiling year and I went back to drinking this past January once my year was complete. The truth is that the last several months have had their ups and downs. Some days, I feel like I have really changed, like my year brought a clarity and a control that has informed a new sensibility and moderation when it comes to drinking. Other days, if I am being honest, I feel like I am right back where I was before I did my year; struggling, shaming, blaming, numbing, escaping.
And so. I guess the point is that it has not been easy. I have gone in and out of drinking nothing at all and absolutely too much. Mostly though, I’ve been measured and moderate. When I’ve confessed this to friends and family, I’ve often gotten a standard-issue smile and some words, words like: Yes, well that’s the way it is with most people, isn’t it? And, I suppose, it is. Of course I know people who are A+ at moderating their alcohol intake, who really don’t like drinking, for whom it’s no biggie. But most people I know? They struggle with it, more or less, less or more, depending on the day or where they are in their lives.
And so. I’m kind of at this odd point where I don’t know what to do. One thing that’s clear to me and an amazing thing? I know with every bit of my being that I have the ability to control whether I drink or not. I know people for whom this is not the case and I feel grateful that it is the case for me. One thing I’m less sure of? Whether I am good at moderation when it comes to drinking, or whether I really want to be.
Does that sound strange? That I might not be totally enamored with the idea of drinking moderately all the time? Perhaps. It feels kind of strange to write it. But I think there’s something here. Maybe it’s all about everything in moderation, even moderation itself? I think that when I drink, and drink what even I know is too much, I feel lighter and less-controlled and more alive somehow. I think when I feel tipsy, or a bit beyond tipsy, I feel young and vibrant and full of ideas. I also think that when I drink too much I feel messy. And there is a part of me that craves messiness in myself and others. Who wants to read about characters who have it all together and lead square, strict, linear lives? Who wants to be these characters?
A dilemma of sorts. Do I stay away from that glass of wine that might become two or on occasion four because in the aftermath I feel icky and tired and insecure? Do I play it safe and find other ways, quintessentially better ways, to deal with the rumbling of my mind and the odd hankering for some existential messiness, like reading or writing or meditating or running a few miles? Or, maybe just maybe, do I just accept that when it comes to this thing, this one thing, I might never be perfect at it, and might not ultimately want to be? Do I allow myself the hangover here and there, the sprinkling of self-loathing moments when they come, and realize that in the grand scheme I am really doing just fine?
I don’t know. What I do know is that this story, this story about alcohol and me, is far from over. It will continue to be a question. An important one. And an interesting one. Yesterday, as I was walking to pick up my daughter at school, I emailed my beloved agent Brettne. In a quick note, I told her that after I finish my novel, I want to write a book about this, about modern life and drinking. Because I do. This topic fascinates me personally and professionally. I want to do research. I want to talk to real people. I want to talk to you. I want to discover themes of drinking, sinister and sublime, in literature and in life.
So. This is a ramble. But a whoa-this-is-honest one. I trust that some of you will see bits of yourself in these words. Or maybe not. I’ve said it before, but I will say it again. This is not just, or maybe even mostly, about alcohol. It is about life, real life, and the things we do and don’t do and reach for and avoid to cope and to control and to convince. It is about the messy parts of life and the messy parts of who we are, parts of life and ourselves that we might, for some crazy or genius reason, be hesitant to eliminate full-stop.
Ultimately, this, whatever this is, is about all the things I find most interesting – the big, bad philosophical conundrums we can choose to ignore, but we’d be better off facing: life, love, identity, insecurity, choice, fear, mortality, control, creativity, expectation, anxiety, happiness. I could go on. And on. But I’ve done enough of that.
Now it’s your turn. Please tell me that something here makes sense to you. That, at the end of that very long proverbial day, your mind too rumbles with things good and bad and everyday, that there are parts of you that are far less than tidy, that you sometimes want that glass or two of wine at the end of the day or that big, fat piece of cake in the fridge. Tell me that you like reading about the honest, vulnerable stuff. Tell me that you will read my book when and if I write it because I think it could be good and messy and true.
Good and messy and true.
Just like life, right?