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You Have My Permission

verdi Today is August 13th. A Tuesday in summer. Just another day. But also not. A month ago, I gave up drinking. Again. Maybe for good. We shall see.

As I've said before, I feel a profound ambivalence about continuing to write about this topic, this particular story of mine, because it feels kind of tired, and some how narcissistic. A bit enough about me. But. There have been too many signs that I should continue to talk about this, feel it out, write these posts. I am hearing from people who relate to my wrestling match with wine.

I have this friend. A fellow writer and mom. She identifies herself as an alcoholic and has a very compelling story and is sober now and very, very inspiring. She reached out to me recently and said something, something that offered perspective. She said that she's encountered a lot of people who are concerned about their drinking, feel uneasy about their relationship with alcohol, but who are not alcoholic, whatever that means. People who know that drinking is not great for them for whatever reason. People who are looking for a different way to do things. People who are looking for permission to stop. Or pause.

She said that she thinks I am offering an example of this, of abstaining for reasons that are more gray than black and white. I thought about this and I think she is right. I am not someone who needs to stop drinking. Not yet, at least. But I am someone who has a hunch that my life will be a different, and better life, without it. And after an entire year without it and now another good month under my belt, I know this to be true. This doesn't mean this is an easy thing to do. It isn't. There are times when I am totally bummed that I can't pour a glass of wine. It is 5:42pm as I type these words and this would be a fine time for Pinot Grigio. But I know that if I get through this craving, this longing, that my night will be better and clearer, that bedtime will be more fun with the girls, that I will have a better conversation with my husband, that I will sleep more soundly, get up early to write words, and so on and so on.

It's still not easy though. It's actually kind of hard. But it is good.

And so. I feel compelled to come here and say that. That making a choice that is tough can be worth it. That taking away something that was once a staple can bring with it bits of shakiness and doubt, but also a whole lot of joy. Because that's what I'm feeling right now as I sneak these moments to write these words. Joy. Optimism. Unbelievable clarity.

And so maybe these posts are not about preaching or pontificating but about permission. Permission to look at yourself and rethink things. Permission to make changes that might make you feel better. Permission to walk away from something that seems to be bringing you down. Permission to feel things fully. Permission to put yourself first even though maybe you've forgotten how to do this.

Anyway, this is a ramble, but that's the kind of thing I'm into these days. I'm feeling drawn to the non-linear, what-is-this-really-about stuff that seems to contain the most truth. I'm not sure what this is all about, this dance I'm doing, this question I'm asking again and again and again, so publicly, so adamantly. And I'm okay with that, with the not knowing bit. I imagine it's somehow par for the existential course.

I will leave you with a bit of Anna Quindlen. I'm reading her memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake and am honestly smitten with her story. Anna also gave up drinking when her three kids were young and I relate to what she writes about drinking, and not drinking so much. Here's a bit of what she has to say:

I think of giving up drinking as a little like passing an intersection where someone has blown through the red light, smashing up his own life and that of whoever was in that crumpled can of a subcompact, realizing as I survey the carnage that if I'd left the house a minute earlier it could have been me: got lucky, beat the reaper, just in time. But, looking around the landscape of my friendship circles, I don't think that's specific to alcohol abstinence. So many of us know where the fault lines lay, the things we managed to do, or change, or avoid, almost without knowing what we were doing, and why. All the things that, looking back, meant the difference between one life and another. It's why a certain kind of movie has always been so popular, the once that includes a chance encounter on a train or the near miss in the revolving door. Life is haphazard. We plan, and then we deal when the plans go awry. Control is an illusion; best intentions are the best we can do. I remember imagining that I could chart a course that would take me from one place to another. I thought I had a handle on my future. But the future, it turns out, is not a tote bag.

I know that I can't perfectly chart my life or control it. I know there's no way to know what the future holds. That's the way it must be. But from this spot, this Tuesday evening where I am fresh from the shower, cross-legged on my big white bed, hunched over my favorite screen, tapping away, listening to good soulful music, my body tired from a brutal morning workout and a long day, my mind clear as a (tired) bell, counting down to snuggle time with my sweet and exhausting girls, I feel like the future, however uncertain it must be, will have some big bright spots.

So. I'm not sure if I'm making any sense, but that's not illegal. Indulgent maybe, but not illegal. I guess what I'm saying in a pretty clumsy way is this: If you need permission to do what you think you might need to do, or want to do, whatever that is, to make that change, that choice, you have mine, my permission. Know that.

Dear Rowlets

The Green Light Place