Best Friend isn’t a person Danny, it’s a tier.
Best Friend isn’t a person Danny, it’s a tier.
It started in early spring. I’d stop in at a plant shop and flirt with the greenery. I wouldn’t buy, only touch. I’d rub my hands along leaves, stems, picture them pot-less, wondering what was happening beneath the soil. I’d go home and fantasize about them, about them belonging to me, and me satisfying them.
I’d visit the shop again, maybe inquire about some of their likes and dislikes, get to know a few of them a little better. I’d play ini miney mo in my head Will you be the lucky one? How long will we will last? Right when the unknowing got unbearable, I’d buy one. I’d cradle it home, pick a spot for it, and place it gently. Here you go. Now we try to make it work. Please, let’s make this work.
First it was one, then two. All of a sudden I was picking up new beauties every week. In the course of 2 months, I acquired 8 new obsessions.
A long time ago, I had a bit of a green thumb. I was even somebody who bought discounted plants and could bring them back to life. But more recently, I’ve discovered I’ve lost my undeniable touch, and it’s shaking my self esteem. How could I be so good at something 10 years ago, and now be void of skill? Is this something I should prepare for when it comes to motherhood, wifehood, friendship or something else? No thank you.
And so I fight.
The Creeping Ivy – beautiful and touchable with miniature oak leaves that started to die. I was horrified and touched it more, panicked and watered it more, but continued to watch it wilt. I changed the lighting (candle light my sweet?), played Jann Arden for her, touched her in places she’d forgotten about and watched her bounce back to life. But then one morning I wept quietly beside her and decided desperate times called for desperate measures. I removed her from her pot and performed an impromtu surgery. I cut her in half and tried to decide which side had the best shot of surviving. I repotted the more lively side and said goodbye to the brown, miserable side that had peaced out. She toys with me. The side I saved hasn’t died. It hasn’t thrived. It is a zombie plant, stuck somewhere between life and Darryl.
The Bamboo plant from Canadian Tire ($10) – violated by my cat. The leaves were nibbled or eaten entirely and yet she stands proud in her…beer glass (?) and continues to green the crap out of the rainbow spectrum. She gives all the other plants a run for their money when it comes to colour. A survivor. Don’t don’t care what she looks like. She’s bad ass.
The Kangaroo plant – doing well. She gives me hope. There’s nothing wrong me with me, I tell myself. If she can be happy here, then the others are being picky.
The Orchid. The Geisha of house plants. I knew it wouldn’t last. With the beautiful orchid, I enjoyed our time together. She wooed me, gave me pleasure. Our shared time was beautiful, memorable, but there was no lasting power there. We were not soulmates, we were in love for a night and I was relieved when it was over. She left her expensive pot and I still don’t know what to do with it.
The Aloe. Omigod the Aloe. What am I doing wrong? I look around and everyone, I mean everyone seems to be able to keep an Aloe alive. I’ve seen the craziest people host the heatlthiest aloes, meanwhile I’m starting to use my Aloe as material with my therapist. Sometimes it stands up straight, sometimes it wilts. At times I think it wants more from me, and I cater. I touch the soil, I stroke the tentacles, one time one fell off into my hand. I was mortified. I came home the other day and a new juicy arm was developing. Playing hard to get, clearly.
I don’t know what my relationships with these plants mean. It feels important, it feels like a test, like a calling. Please need me I whisper. Please make me your number one. Your North. I’ll provide everything if you keep loving me.
And so, I keep growing up plants.
Sometimes I forget that I’m older then when I last checked 10 years ago. I seem to eternally hover in my mid 20’s, and often it’s surprising to see my friends celebrate their 30-something birthday and then realize I’m next. It’s not that I don’t want to age, it’s that sometimes I feel that I’ve missed it’s happening. I look in the mirror and I look older. I come home and there are two kids waiting for me. There is evidence that I have been adulting, but the things that I thought would make me an adult while in my youthful 20’s are perpetually out of my reach. I wrote out the list, ad lib, and realized that not only do I seem unable to check off the items, but I can’t seem to make a new list, one that is probably more realistic. Here is what I’ve been banging my head against, in all it’s miserable glory:
Signs of (Unattained) Adulthood That Plague Me On a Daily Basis
I try to conjure up my blessings, a quick substitute for a new list of what it actually means to be an adult. I mean, if there’s one thing Western Society is great at reminding me, it’s to Be Grateful asshole – accompanied by photoshopped images of somebody’s zen travels and tanned skin hiding under GAP Body underwear. It’s hard to fail daily at the one piece of advice constantly thrown at me over newsfeeds, petition emails and viral ad compaigns. But I keep trying. So I made a list. I’m good at lists.
A List of Things To Be Grateful For You Ingrate
I binged on youtube videos when I should have been showering and cleaning.
On a healthy day I think celebrity culture is insane, and we would all be better off just living our own lives instead of checking in to see what our favourite actor was wearing or what they said about anything at any time. My personal experience with it has led me to believe that too much of it can cause a huge gap between real life and the tactfully projected life through pictures and statuses, and can make one feel lacking in just about every aspect of life.
Today I saw celebrities get standing ovations for raising their kids without the use of a nanny. I saw women clap and cheer at a man who was working, while his wife stayed home to raise their new baby at home. I saw Ellen Degeneres learn that an epidural didn’t mean ‘natural’ in the birth world. I heard people with more money than some countries talk about the hardship of planning for their kids’ future. I watch these videos like I’m watching a train wreck – I want to look away out of respect because what I’m watching is so terrible, and nobody should be seen like this, and yet I’m forced to look because it’s so unbelievable that it’s hypnotic.
I imagine that if I were a celebrity, after having lived my non-celebrity life up until now, I would likely be too embarrassed to talk about some of these things as though they were so novel. If somebody cried because I discussed my decision to have a home birth, I might feel more compelled to send them some information on continuing education rather than the remarkableness of my decision. If Ellen Degeneres learned that my husband and I had decided to raise our kids on our own without money, but with a blind understanding of the importance of quality of life, I fear she might fall off her chair and give away more iPods than she’s allowed. I wonder if being at a gala of great importance would be overshadowed by a cluster of people hanging on to my every word as I explained things like grocery shopping without a car in a Canadian winter, or nursing in public or my daughter asking if she can wear a head scarf one day because she has so many muslim friends at school. I’m not sure I would be able to take all these people seriously if parts of my life that seem so simple, so necessary would be celebrated as though I was the only person in the world doing it.
I’m sure there are celebrities who grin and grit through their teeth at these stories they have to tell, knowing that a great many people have also opted to not have nannies, in less comfortable circumstances, and I have a lot of admiration for them. It can’t be easy to talk like you are the first person to discover that breastfeeding can speed up weight loss after pregnancy, but there she is, enlightening the audience, and you have to hand it to her for having the balls to maintain the interview rather than get serious and tell Katie Curic that her questions are stupid.
All of this to say, today if you are working and budgeting, or raising some kids or getting into a fight with your partner, just imagine the applause an LA audience would have for you if you had more money, a couple of red carpet pictures in People Magazine and had dated Chris Pine. As I scrub the slow cooker and try not to slip in the oily bathtub because my daughter decided it would be fun to put baby oil in her bath last night, I will be imagining the reaction of a room who can’t believe I live this way, and how hard they would be clapping at my strength and endurance. If I have a room of applause following me around in my head all day, I might actually be able to get through it a little easier. God Bless LA audiences.
In my new parenting book, to be published by me when I have lots of extra cash and time to write it, I talk about the craziness of not freaking out when your 16 month old is still waking to nurse through the night. There are other chapters. Chapters titled “Ask your African Neighbour What She Does for her Baby – and Then Copy Her”, “How to Lie Down in the Tub While Having a Bath with Your Baby”, and “How to Wear Your Food Splattered Clothing in Public with Pride”. For now, we will focus on the chapter called “Maybe Your Baby Wakes up at Night – Finding Peace Within”.
As with all the chapters in my book, they are based on my own experience, and an inclination that other mothers are having or have had similar experiences. I have no PhD or degrees in anything legitimized by society, but I do have 7 years of motherhood under my belt, which is over 60,000 hours of work put toward this topic, which is why I felt qualified to write a book. I understand that anything I say can be poo pood by somebody with a formal education in this field, after hours in labs and studying other people’s babies to write reports on the importance of sleep so that these reports may be published by a journal and then I really look like a moron because I don’t have any reports, unless you count my sobbing diary entries as reports or my midnight text messages to my friends as controlled variables or something. All of this to say, the theme of my parenting book is very much about my own experience with my own children, because I heartily believe that if we all just stick to I statements, we all might actually learn something, instead of all of us following the advice of a few people unconditionally.
This particular chapter was written with the intention of healing my own inner conflict at failing miserably because my child was still waking and nursing at night at 16 months old, and my secret feeling that this was actually not just okay, but necessary. Necessary for what? I asked myself. I first noticed the differences between my oldest daughter and my new son um, on the day he was born. The two of them could not have been more opposite. My daughter was born with an independent streak built right in, and the day she started walking, she never searched for my breast again. It was a quick break, but it made sense for her, and I barely questioned it, even as a young first-time mom. With my second, I found myself a little puzzled by his need to be close. He had independence, this was true, but he also had a clear need to check in with me more frequently. You still there mom? Can I get a little nursing to make sure? This room is really crowded, can I just put my hand down your shirt to make sure we’re still a team? I just woke up and am feeling a little cranky – 5 minutes of nursing? It was and continues to be a strong aspect of his development that persists throughout the night. In the spirit of ‘whatever works’, the truth is is that getting up to cuddle and nurse my son isn’t so taxing on me. He typically goes back to bed without much fuss and I have even come to trust that when he fusses as I put him down, if I give him another 2 minutes, he will then be ready. He knows. But this is in stark contrast to what the world around me expects. Every book and website I go on chides me for not having trained him to sleep solidly throughout the night. It’s the topic I like to avoid with other mothers or older women. Ironically, if I look back to my daughter’s sleeping, it took her 3 years to learn how to fall asleep. Once she was out, she was down for the count, and even at age 6 slept through the birth of her brother happening in the room next to hers. 3 years of back rubbing, of sitting with my back to her crib so she could see me, of hand holding, of trotting back to her room for the 11th time. Just last night she went through the same routine, only this time with words. For the most part she be put to bed and she can fall asleep on her own, but her instinctual need to resist sleep has remained, and yet, I don’t even question that. Then I hear the baby crying and I go in to comfort him and I have a million voices in my head questioning me about my motives, my perseverance, and my ability to ‘sleep train’ him.
Mob mentality is powerful stuff, and finding peace with something outside the parenting norm is hard. Parents who co-sleep with their kids are met with their share of awkward questions and glances, but there is a decent amount of material out there now that supports co-sleeping that one can easily say ‘Let me send you the link to The Benefits of Co-Sleeping’ and be done with it. So far I haven’t found much about the okayness of parents still comforting their babies at 16 months old – hence the chapter in my likely award-winning parenting book.
Key word in that last sentence is babies. This is a baby. Yes he’s walking and has a toddler presence, but if I’m totally honest with myself, the kid is a baby. He falls and needs his mom, he wakes and needs his mom. Everything in me says this is okay, because you know what? I watched my daughter go to school when she was 5 years old and I was shocked at how young she was to be out in the world and I thought long and hard about how quickly we take away the baby years from our babies. So why am I so conflicted when my baby still acts like a baby in the middle of the goddamn night? Once I made that connection, I found a little peace.
Parenting is 24/7. That includes nighttime. I started to look at my own angst towards having to get up at night, and I wondered when I started to draw a line between my role as mother during the day and during the night. I know that sleep is important and when it’s absent, things are hard. Like, really hard. But everything about parenting is hard the thing that nobody tells you us that you don’t get a break, and you are only given what you can handle. So when I started to put in my mommy hat at night fall, and trust that I would live to see another day, I found a little more peace.
I started to wonder if one training style met the needs of all people. Now, I know there are lots of different ‘sleep training’ methods out there, but they are all geared toward getting that 1 year old to sleep through the night. But what if some babies need a different method entirely – one that involves practicing reassurance, patience and comfort for longer than what is widely accepted? Is it possible that my baby needs to be comforted for longer during the night in order to develop a healthy relationship with sleep, something he will do for the rest of his life, everyday day, until the day he dies? Is it possible that I need to allow for perhaps a year, 2 years, 3 years to develop and nurture that relationship in order to create that foundation for him? When I realized that, and realized that there is nothing crazy about that concept, there was more peace waiting to be found.
The chapter ends with the observation that despite still waking, my son sleeps for longer stretches at night, while still waking and needing to be held and nursed. More often than not, he sleeps for 5-8 hours at a time, but there are the nights when I am up every 2 hours to prove that I am still there, or to reassure him that there will always be comfort when he needs it. At times I remember that between the two of us, this little human has a clearer sense of what is needed than I do. His head is not clouded by the words and advice of experts or published studies. He survives day to day with the purity of understanding what his body and soul need. In the dark, he knows that he needs the familiar hold of the woman he relies on for everything. The depths of sanity of that fact have sealed the deal for me, and I no longer harbour the inner conflict of getting up at night. It’s hard, but now that I don’t fight it, it is at least peaceful.
You can look for my book on shelves in 2020. National book signing tour will commence on July 7th in Ottawa ON. In the meantime, stay tuned for other exciting non-advice blog posts.
I wrote a decent post on watching my son make messes. It was eye opening and honest and told the story of how important it is to let your kids make messes for the simple fact that it’s important to seeeeeeeeee what they are doing. To see how they are learning and for me, to take the edge off the inconvenience of the mess. But right before I pressed “Publish” I found myself cringing at the writing and recognizing a certain ‘do this!’ that I hate about most blogs and believe to be the root of most conflict in the world.
I wrote a pretty good, albeit completely emotional post about a new path I am walking called Being a Doula and I semi-objectively wrote about the benefits of doulas, and of course my ability to be the best doula you will ever have, and almost pressed “Publish” but then decided not to. It was a post that was slightly too preachy, slightly geared towards selling myself and it made me cringe.
I thought about writing about my visceral rejection to self promotion, and how I see other’s doing it and they look so beautiful and so happy and I feel like I could maybe be more successful if I just did it, but then I cringe and know that it’s not coming from an authentic place and that is something I cannot get comfortable with, and in some ways that makes me successful, but in other ways that ensures that I will never be. When did being authentic get anybody anywhere? I mean, really?
Somewhere in the depths of this computer I have a saved post about mental illness. I didn’t publish that because the truth is I believe more educated people than me should be writing posts about mental illness.
I have a saved post about the differences between my self as a young 20 year old and a young 30 year old, and how much it sometimes hurts to see those difference in pictures, played out in memories and in lost friendships. It’s a post that takes the reader through some life changing moments 10 years ago that now seem to have been experienced by a different woman than I am today, and poses the question of whether or not that’s true for all of us. By the end of my writing I was almost too lost in the past to feel like I really had a handle on what I was trying to say, and thought about starting a new post that spoke to the power of glorifying our past, but then was too tired and
My cat. ISIS. Being Crafty. Sesame Street vs The Muppets. Facebook creeping. Avoiding opening mail. Complimenting a woman in a beautiful dress in the parking lot and rejuvenating my hope for mankind. Crushes on movie stars and realizing I am older than most of them. Like, foaming at the mouth because I was to spend money on things things things for me me me. Vancouver vs Ottawa. Halifax vs Ottawa. Style change as we age. Collecting art. Sending mail. Birthday parties. Oh that’s a good one. I’ll probably write about that one soon.
I have an endless list of things going through my mind that seem important and then I go to publish and I change my mind. Unless it feels authentic, I can’t do it. So today, the only thing that feels right is to admit to all the topics I would pollute the internet with but decide not to. That every idea or post idea is meticulously thought about and only shared if it passes my test for being honest, maybe informative, open to connectedness with others and non preachy.
Publish to Wrinkles and Dust.
My biggest failure in life seems to be that I am not very obsessed with myself. In a world where everyone is selling everything and trying to make a buck, I can’t seem to get there because I just don’t think I’m that special. Not in a wah wah way, but in a real way that simply means I’m pretty sure somebody else is doing what I am doing way better. They have funnier and better blogs. They have better kids, a better husband, they cook better, they laugh better, they look better, they do stuff better. So who am I do elbow my way into your life and try to get your attention? There’s so much noise out there, I don’t always have the energy to be part of it. When I long for quiet, and I turn off the world for a bit, I’m sometimes shocked to find that others are still listening to the racket, and not demanding for everyone to be just sit the fuck down and be quiet. Then I mope that my need for quiet has pushed me to the back of the line and everyone else is still doing things better, and so my cyclical inner turmoil thrives.
There’s too much pressure when I try to get attention. So in the spirit of releasing some pressure, here’s a rundown of the last few weeks, instead of an insightful blog post, which you can find at renegademama, who is basically my blogging idol.
Currently, as I type, my cat is fucking digging and kneading his claws into me in some cat attempt to get some affection. I am still confused as to why we have a cat. Aside from the fact that the domestic cat is NOT my totem animal, I am allergic to the whole feline species. We got him on a whim, and we’re stuck with him. We have to lock him in the bathroom at the night because he was grooming my husband’s head so viciously that a)it was gross and b)he wouldn’t stop. He would walk the length of our bed’s head board like a convicted sailor walking the plank and pounce into a fully reclined position as if to trick us into thinking he’d been there the whole time. You know, that was even kind of funny. But then he would get his grooming on, and would lick my husbands forehead and hair for the duration of the night. WTF? So now Jimmy sleeps in the bathroom. Which means he seeks affection during daytime hours, which I am fine with, and try to appease him, but right when it’s time to quit, he gets his claws out and starts threatening me with them. I don’t get cats.
My son has aced his 1 year old manipulation practicum and has me tending to him every 2 hours or so nightly. In typical mother fashion, let me take full responsibility and say ‘it’s all my fault’ since I’m the one tending to him, but he’s got me between a rock and hard place. Right when we had positioned ourselves into a reasonable sleep routine (8pm-5am) he went and started to teethe, to get a cold and there I was tending tending tending and undoing all the good habits we had created over for the summer. Then it gets to the point that I am just so bloody tired that it’s easier to just go in and put him back to sleep with a mouthful of boob rather than lie in bed and wait for him to stop crying. I’m tending to him for selfish reasons, but also because I want to be able to function during the day. Bad mum. Bad. But this Friday I am passing the torch and relieving myself from nighttime parenting duty. After more than 400 nights of keeping the watch, I am bestowing the honour onto Dad, who will likely have to tend for about 5 nights before Baby decides the new guy just aint’ worth getting up and crying for.
I cleaned out my fridge. In fact, the reason I have the energy to sit and write all this is because I was so awesomely pleased when the container that had suction cupped itself closed until I banged it on the counter and ran it under hot water, then cold water, then pried it open with a knife – turned out to be old coleslaw instead of what I thought it was, which was old tuna, I couldn’t believe my luck. Hot Dang! I chirped and my daughter gave me a look that could have been from the smell, but was most likely because she thinks I’m an idiot. If she had bothered to ask me, I would have explained that after having thrown out things like liquified cucumber, rock hard and brown lemon (lime?), 4 jars of salsa growing mould babies, pasta that had blended into itself to become one large chunk of gooey spaghetti rather than individual strands, she would have learned that the smell of old cabbage is much less assaulting than what I had prepared myself for. When it comes to Taking One For The Team, cleaning out the fridge is about as jihadist as I get.
Oh my god, are we still writing this blog post? Lets stop here before I get a cramp. My arm is itchy from my cat’s kneading and I need a cup of tea. Go do something with somebody who is doing that something better than me.
You know when you have a bunch to say but nothing you say seems like it holds relevance? I feel like that.
I have a lot to say, but everything I go to write it out, it seems petty and unimportant.
I am still here. I think about this blog everyday, much to my dismay and I feel like perhaps I just need to write and post one entry to get the blood flowing. My wit and quip seem to be vacationing together and without them everything is just so much heavier.
I don’t want this to be an online diary.
I don’t want this is to be a mother blog.
I don’t want to win audiences by sharing impassioned opinions.
So what am I writing about? Pesky truths. The truth is, everything seems too heavy right now to post on a blog with the hope that I will ‘get hits’. It’s the same reason I rarely use my Facebook status as a sounding board for real issues. It’s mostly used for lighter topics, as a tool to crack a smile. I feel like we lose the severity of some issues when we use social media. Social media takes away the sacredness and aren’t some things still sacred? I’m sure some people would tell me that the times are changing and communicating about issues that matter over the web is the new way to rally. I’m sure they are right. But it leaves me feeling empty to right about meaningful things on something that I don’t think means much. We can all survive without blogs, Facebook, Twitter, instagram. None of us will suffer too much for it and soon I’m sure there will be a movement to rid ourselves of our media dependance. So I have been living heavier these past few weeks and finding it difficult to sit and write about it in this space.
Maybe I’ll shed the weight and find the lightness again soon. Until then, I am a slave to my pen and paper and some good old fashioned morning pages.
As a female, there is nothing I hate more than the hundreds of topics that pit women against women, mothers against mothers. As if there isn’t enough going against us that we need to turn on each other. It’s insane to me, the amount of conflict we create just to prove we are right, or more importantly that everyone else is wrong.
When I had my first child, a nurse came into the hospital room to discharge me and offered one piece of advice that has stayed with me longer than anything else. She said “My professional opinion is that nothing anybody offers you will be relevant unless you know that it will work for you and your family.”
Done. No friend, no article, no doctor, no midwife has said a word to me that has meant anything unless it struck a chord deep inside that I knew was the truth for me. It’s tempting to read those magazines and gobble up all the expert tips from around the world, and it’s alluring to pen down all the tricks that worked for your bestie or your sister – but unless they have your body, your headspace, your child, your neighbours – none of it is relevant. When it comes to the life task of birthing children, raising them and maintaining a life, my humble opinion is that the onus is on you. You have to be the one to educate yourself through conversation, reading material and anything that will expose you to those gems of truth that resonate with you. Otherwise you are blindly following somebody else’s path and one day you will wake up and rage against the choices you felt were done to you.
This is what happened when women woke up to the fact that the medical profession had duped us into limited options for childbirth. Rage rage rage, we took back the night and decided to get out as much material as possible about natural childbirth out there, if only to level the playing field. And why not? Such tremendous strides in medicine are to be celebrated and have saved countless lives, but if there are other options period, we deserved to know. And so began the fervour of advocating for natural childbirth.
Yet another topic to fight about.
But don’t. Don’t waste your time, because nothing you say is right. There have been countless successful C-sections and there have been countless failed ones. One person praises the success of natural childbirth and another punches them in the face with statistics about natural births gone wrong. In the latest reading this morning by the blogger Jezebel, I agree that the baby is the end to a means. Who cares how it gets out, as long as the baby is out and you get to call yourself ‘mother’. But almost everything she says is another example of winning over an audience and it leaves a taste in my mouth that sparks not a debate, but a warning and a pleading to keep your opinions to yourself. Share your experience because it leaves a mark on people and your experience could be the thing that somebody needs to hear to further investigate a topic and find their own path. The minute you try to win over a crowd because your experience somehow outweighs others is the minute you start wasting my time and I think it’s misleading, dangerous and unhelpful.
Working mom vs Stay at Home mom. Organic vs. Processed. Nanny vs Daycare. Breast vs. Bottle. Home vs. Hospital. All of it means something to you and if you have kids and I understand the feeling of wanting to change people’s minds if you think they are making the wrong choice. But more important than being right, (because you’re not right if it’s not you) is changing your language and sharing your experience instead of asserting your opinion. Your opinion divides us, separates us and that is the last thing we need. We need community, support and an understanding that choices made by others were good for them, and don’t change your own actions. You haven’t been personally attacked when your natural childbirth is compared by a woman’s hospital birth. You aren’t being forced to breastfeed when your best friend decides to bottle feed. It’s important to have different people making different decisions because it expands our knowledge.
It’s sad that mommy circles still hold a moment of shame when a mother is doing something she thinks is un-trendy. Jezebel, coming up with an answer for her planned C-section helps no-one. The truth in her post does, as we see some women choose to go that route, and that will strike a chord with some women looking to make birthing plan. Writing an article titled “My Unnatural Birth Should be considered Natural” is dumb. Your natural childbirth was natural, and your medically aided birth was um, medically aided. Do we have to argue about it? Would winning over 100 women satisfy you and make you feel better about your choice? How about 1000 women? Is there a moment in time that you would stop asserting your opinion or will you just keep going until everyone does it your way?
We all have our little secrets. I put my kids to sleep on their stomachs because they looked uncomfortable on their backs and because I was a baby sleeping on my stomach and it wasn’t right for either of my kids. I was the only mom in the circle with a baby that had hair on the back of its head. I started to tell people the truth on my first day of circle group because one of the moms looked about 1 hour away from a breakdown and I thought my secret would at least give her an option. Maybe she tried putting her colicky baby to sleep on its front, maybe she wondered if my kids were in the right hands, but that day I stopped keeping my story silent, and I never asserted my way as the right way. It simply worked for me.
So the next time you feel strongly about something go ahead and share your experience. Why do you feel strongly about it? Because it was successful? Awesome. Now do you have space in your brain to hear about why my experience was successful too? If you do, then together we are building a network and community of mothers and women who support each other. If you don’t have space to hear about why my experience worked for me, then you are part of the problem and you should think about why you keep getting into arguments with people or why your friends don’t call you when they need support for something you don’t agree with. I’m including the Jezebel post as a reference. I know she’s a fancy blogger and I can barely add a link but since I referred to it I thought it important to include. Her post in response to feeling shamed and tired of hiding her C-section choice. I think it’s about time to stop the shaming entirely and just start sharing.
I stopped drinking in the middle of the summer as part of an inner cleanse and a personal test to see if I could even do it. I didn’t follow a particular diet, I just cut out booze all together and watched my life unravel.
It turns out unravelling is way more healthy than balling it all up. I’m in the middle of a knitting project and I find the analogy very fitting. Typically we call our girlfriends because our lives have begun to unravel, have begun to spill over and cause big messes and we panic at the potential clean up, but perhaps we have it backwards. Perhaps those phone calls should happen when we discover that we have been bunching up all our problems and it’s turning into a tight ball of avoidance behaviour and unhealthy practices. “I did it again”, she wailed into the mobile, “I avoided dealing with the problem and got drunk again” instead of “It hurts so damn much, I feel like I’m unravelling”.
For myself, I discovered many, many, MANY issues that were happily being swallowed with each delicious sip of sauvignon blanc. Upon removing the nightly wine I found myself sitting uncomfortably and wondering if I really had to think about a specific problem that I knew needed solving. Without a glass in my hand to distract me, I felt stupid not looking at what was actually sitting in front of me needing attention. Okay, so that’s a pretty straight forward lesson. Drinking distracts me from dealing with my life.
I was also surprised by some of the emotional hurdles that I went through when I took away the drink. For example, it became glaringly obvious that most friendships revolved around dulled senses and the absence of being present. Yikes. If I was honest with myself, I found that I dreaded most social interactions because I knew that without a slight buzz I would be forced to be present, which meant I might have to be honest about my life and my emotional stability and quite frankly compared to the glossy eyed conversations of long passed, I realized that I was quite unstable. Not in a frightening way, but in the way that we all try to avoid the real answer to How are you? when really all you’re looking for is idle chit chat at the dinner table or at the social gathering of the week. I found the urge to quit my little cleanse so overpowering that I wondered if I was a little more dependant on alcohol than I realized. Images of the word alcoholic haunted me at night and I wasn’t even able to pass out from a few drinks, but instead had to wait for sleep to come to me. Another reasonably predictable lesson. Drinking had become a social crutch that removed authenticity from my relationships.
Sleep. Holy moly, what a dysfunctional relationship I was experiencing with that necessity. I quickly learned that I was practicing self-destructive, abusive and toxic practices with something that could otherwise be giving me energy, clarity and fundamental health. As soon as liquor was removed, I realized that falling asleep was a huge problem. I went to bed with high anxiety (a great way to fall asleep) and had negative feelings about everything to do with the night. So strong was this reaction that it was slightly more obvious that alcohol had somehow convinced me that I was doomed without my night cap and it was almost, almost comedic. Of course after a couple of weeks I found that I was able to fall asleep on my own, that my sleep was uninterrupted, and that when I was woken by the screaming of an infant, I was not only less groggy (some might say I was hung over…?) I was also able to go back to sleep. Amazing. First surprise lesson. Drinking was having a negative impact on my sleeping. Sleeping is one of the most important things a person needs to function.
Surprise lessons. They are wonderful. I rarely embark on anything thinking I will be surprised, and then I am and I am left mouth agape. Without a beer or a glass of wine in tow, I saw how much we all drink. It’s astounding. When was the last time you had a group of friends over and all easily sat in each other’s presence and talked, played games, got animated, laughed, cried, left feeling amazing and not an ounce of alcohol was consumed? Collectively we drink constantly. Sure I have friends who don’t drink very much or at all, but that didn’t mean I had to decline when it was offered to me. And there I was – declining and tightening my jaw at wanting to say yes, and everyone else was happily sipping their craft beer around me. Only at home with my husband was I able to practice the skill of maintaining a relationship without the fuzzy haze of alcohol. I learned that I was able to laugh hysterically and find truth in our disagreements and remember it all. We had a lovely evening one time with friends, meeting new people and as we drove away I realized that if I had been drinking, I would wake up the next day and second guess everything. I would wonder if I had been too tipsy, too loud, not casual enough, not something or too much anything. Instead I knew that everything that had happened had been real and had been grounded, and I discovered that I was slowly building self trust. I was regaining faith in myself and in my ability to be engaging, to be liked just as I am, not because I was uninhibited due to alcohol but because I was enough. Surprise surprise, I had some self trust healing to do. Surprise surprise, I could still have a good time in a crowded room without intoxication.
Surprise after surprise kept coming. My inner compass was aligning itself again, I was saving almost $400 dollars a month, I was sleeping, I was present, I was engaged again. Then another surprise. I met a handful of people my age doing the same thing either temporarily or permanently. For one reason or another, I was in the company of other young adults giving up drinking. Maybe a few too many forgotten moments, maybe the longing of a healthier lifestyle. All of a sudden I didn’t feel so crazy, so shy to admit that it wasn’t so much a cleanse as a need to be unravelled, to iron out some deep issues. Where had these people been and are there more of us? Maybe we are closer to a night of board games and ginger ale than I thought.
I have had a couple of drinks once the cooler weather came. They were in celebration of, not in avoidance of life. I had never intended to give up drinking forever, but have come to see how my relationship with it has changed indefinitely. Looking back, I realize that my drinking never matured past my university days. It was a given social practice regardless of my fatigue, my want, my responsibilities. I suppose this could all be poetry for I am an alcoholic, but I don’t think so. What I think it is, for me, is a most important social and personal development experiment. One that has been eye opening and truth telling. One that has unravelled my life in the best way possible. So if you get a call from me saying that my life is falling apart at the seams, wait a minute to hear the good news.