I announced earlier that I will be thinking about Happiness this coming month and it was, on an important level, a silly announcement because the truth is that I think about happiness all the time, quite possibly too much. I think about it vis-a-vis myself and my daughters and my husband and my family and my friends. I also think about it in a broader sense, in a more thematic way. What is capital-H Happiness? How do we find it and keep it? How does it show up in our moments, in our memories? The questions are endless.
I think about happiness a lot in terms of drinking. If you know me at all, you know that I have a bit of a story with alcohol. It’s not a dramatic tale, nor is it necessarily a very interesting one. The gist is that I fell in love with wine when it seemed okay to fall in love with wine – as I headed off to college – and the love affair lasted for the better part of twenty years – through my undergrad and law school years on into my newlywed days and rookie writing years and through the terrain of early motherhood. The truth is that the affair is not over. Are these kinds of affairs ever over? Do they ever just disappear? I don’t think so.
But what happened several years ago is that I began to wake up to the fact that I didn’t like my relationship with drinking. While my patterns resembled those of many I knew and know, they no longer felt okay to me and I wanted to, needed to, make a change. And I did! Oh was I so proud of myself for stepping away for that full calendar year, for writing about life without booze. If I’m being honest, I got a bit smug about it all. A bit I have my life together and look at me. And yet I was also doing something I knew was healthy and good and empowering for myself. I was taking care of myself. I was practicing being present for my little girls, for my husband, for my writing, my self.
And my goodness, it all felt good. It was, and is, its own high to be so in control, so composed, so clean. Which is why it was surprising that I went back to drinking at all when that year was up. But then again it wasn’t surprising because I once loved drinking, because I had powerful and beautiful memories of sipping wine, of celebrating life, of falling in love, of becoming me. And I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye forever.
I’m still not sure I am.
The past several years have been made up of long dry chunks and times when I’ve indulged a little. It’s been a back-and-forth, an existential dance if you will. And I’m just coming off one of my dabbling times. I’ve been drinking again and I’ve loved it and liked it and hated it. I’ve felt all of those things, those highs and lows and middles I felt back in the day and back in the day it didn’t seem to matter to me to make a decision, to fashion rules, to focus so much on time and happiness. But now it does. And here I am, at another turning point, drying it up again. On Saturday morning, I wrote words on Instagram and it felt so wonderful to write them because I knew they were true and fine and human. I knew that so many people would relate. And they did.
I’ve been drinking a bit again & it’s been okay, fun & festive at times, not really a huge deal, but I’m just realizing (as I have again & again), that on a macro level drinking just doesn’t work for me. I feel so much happier & healthier without it. And so. I begin again on the path I know that’s right & wonderful for me. A broken record? Perhaps, but it’s my broken record & my story & I’m proud of every page. Tonight we will go on a fun double date with my sister & her hubby downtown & I will swill Pellegrino & nibble on French fries & it will be fun, the most fun. Yay for truth & self-awareness & loving ourselves enough to begin again & again. ☺️💞 #love #yay #thehereyear
People did relate. And people do. And they always will. Because whether or not it is drinking, it is something. We all have our stuff whether or not we choose to share it with the world. We all have struggles and uncertainties and shame and regret and what-ifs and whys. We all have our own ways of coping and hoping, of fleeing and being. I look back at the words I typed so spontaneously and I smile.
It’s my broken record & my story and I’m proud of every page. Maybe this sounds trite, but it’s true. I am proud. I’m proud that I’m making the efforts to think about all of this, to visit and revisit my imperfections, to hold them up and accept them and talk about them because maybe they are yours too? I’m proud that instead of sticking my head in the proverbial sand (oh does sand sound dreamy right about now as I type from the Manhattan arctic) as it’s sometimes so tempting to do, my head is up and my eyes are open and I’m willing to see. I’m proud that I’m beginning yet again and I’ve decided that there is nothing shameful about this. May we all care for ourselves enough to begin again and again. Maybe life, the best life, is about beginning again.
Then it was kind of funny because I posted something else on Facebook after the Instagram thing. Nothing like a little introspection to make my social media juices flow. I wrote something a bit more vague, but equally heartfelt:
I laugh as I read this because it’s so Facebook Philosopher-ish, but it’s also really me. This is what I do, who I am. I think and rethink and decide and re-decide and then I confess to the ether and tie it all up in a little preachy bow. But, again, I’m heartened because I read these words and I hear a woman who means very well, who is foolish and fierce and hungry to understand herself and the world even though she knows she will never understand either. I hear a woman who has fallen in love with her life, who wants it to be a good one, even if she is still stumbling along and trying to find out how to do that perfectly. There is no perfectly.
Anyway, if there’s a point to all of this, I guess it’s that we are all human and we have our things and this is okay. We must do the best we can and celebrate our victories and even our marginal defeats which probably aren’t defeats at all. We will love things and people that aren’t good for us in ways that fall short of Addiction, but these ways matter too. And we will leave these things and people and love them again maybe, too. We will invent ourselves and reinvent ourselves, succeed and surrender and rinse and repeat. We will all be broken records about something and these broken records are maybe at the heart of our stories, and perhaps the best thing we can do is be okay with that and forgive. We must hold our pages first – and read them – if we have any hopes of rewriting them.
Enough with the mixed metaphors, with the self-rationalizing. I think those of you who know me will understand these words because you will see yourself in them. There is something in your life on which you are snagging, something which sometimes gets in the way. It might be a thing or a person or a situation or a circumstance, but it hovers and threatens your happiness sometimes. I guess the cool thing, the hopeful thing is that if we open our eyes and our minds and our hearts, if we name it, it might hover less. Think: It might even go away.
So onward in my next no-drinking, yes-thinking phase. #ichooseclean for now. And I vow to count the colors, to notice how good I feel without the primer of white wine, without the hangovers and the self-lacerating loops. I vow to be straight with myself on what makes me happy and what doesn’t. It’s a process, but also a privilege. I’m a work-in-progress, but then again we all are. And the funny thing? The spectacular thing? The more I acknowledge my messy side, my imperfections, my work-in-progress-ness, the happier I am.
(Thanks for listening, guys. I heart you all :))