a perfect sober weekend (# 85)

This is a bit of an odd weekend as my kids are with their dad AND my husband is out of town. On the one hand, that’s too bad because it’s beautiful here and there is a fun local music festival going on. It would be fun to be enjoying this with my husband. On the other hand, I have throughly loved every minute of flying solo, and I have accomplished much , even while indulging myself in many activities I like to do.

It has been especially good, because I know it will be a sprint to the end of the year. This might be my last chance to deeply relax. So, let’s recap . . . and catch a glimpse of me in my natural habitat under the influence of nothing stronger than my own whims and interests. . .

Friday Left work at 4:45 p.m. to meet two of my best friends for drinks. I am far enough along in alcohol freedom that it doesn’t bother me when I am with people who are drinking. In fact, I realize that I actually have more fun, feel more present, and am able to leave invigorated and ready to switch gears instead of itching for more drinks. I had an NA Becks and some iced tea and soaked up late afternoon sun on the patio, instead soaking in several margaritas. After the drinks, I headed over to an outdoor tango event. This summer I have not done a lot of tango. I’ve been focusing on yoga instead and thinking about what role I want to give tango in my life, given that it will be a smaller role than it was when I was single. But last night was a great opportunity to dip my toes back in that water. Except for the fact that we were tangoing with mosquitoes, as much as we were with each other. I was home by 9 p.m., where I talked to my husband on the phone, web surfed and read.

Saturday  Woke EARLY naturally. (It was 5:00 a.m.) Instead of cursing my inability to fall back to sleep, I felt excited to have a couple of  bonus hours in the full day ahead of me. I read some more and worked on a photo downloading project necessitated by having had to get a new phone last week. Got laundry going, picked up the kitchen, had breakfast, and started watching a documentary. And that was all before 7:45 a.m. when I headed to the yoga studio for a 45-minute meditation followed by a 75-minute flow class. Home again, where I finished the documentary before heading out to shop. I had to get some groceries, as well as few things, including clothes hangers, at Target. Last weekend, I embarked on a massive three-closet overhaul but ran out of hangers before I could properly finish the job.

Came home. En route I discovered a podcast called “Dr. Death” and immediately got hooked. The story involves a multiple messed-up back surgeries by one messed-up doctor in Texas. As a former medical malpractice defense attorney, I find this topic fascinating–it’s about more than just one bad egg, it’s about the failure of the medical establishment to stop a surgeon like this in his tracks before he harms many patients.

After finishing the closets, I talked to a high school friend on the phone, then headed out for a 2.25 mile run around 6:30 p.m. More photo stuff, some light cooking (vanilla-cardamom-pear compote to eat with yogurt and tomato-mozzarella salad) a phone chat with my husband, and sound asleep by 10:30 p.m.

It was a quiet day, with very little social interaction, but it was peaceful and productive.

Sunday  Woke at 5:00 a.m. naturally, again. More futzing around with photos on my computer. Mostly deleting hundreds of bad selfies, I am embarrassed to say. I biked over to coffee shop a little after 8:00 a.m. to meet a friend from grad school (almost 20 years ago!) who was in town for an event. He and I caught up for about an hour, and then I went to a yoga barre class before biking to yet another yoga studio for ecstatic dance from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Home again for lunch and great deal of laundry folding and another appointment with Dr. Death. Thankfully, all the clothes had places after the closet job. Cleaned up the bathroom and scrubbed the slightly nasty kitchen stove top. Showered and walked over to yet a different coffee shop where I did a little research related to our new soon-to-be store and wrote this blog post. Soon, I will walk home, and then bike to yoga flow, followed by meditation/yin. I will be home by 8:30 p.m. to get ready for the work week and unwind before bed. Tomorrow morning I will be fresh as a daisy and back on the yoga mat at 6:00, before work.

Phew! I am taking really good care of myself this weekend (and taking care of my family too, by doing all this house stuff, even though no one is around). This is marvelous and made possible primarily by the complete and total absence of alcohol from any of these proceedings. I felt centered and able to make good decisions from hour to hour, in which I balanced my personal desires for entertainment, friendship and movement with my needs to get certain specific projects done. There was time for everything I wanted to do, and then some.

I have gone into all this exhaustive detail about my activities because I am really pleased with myself. I want to bottle this feeling! I LOVE the difference between this kid-free weekend and kid-free weekends of the not-to-distant past. Typically I would feel a bit hungover or sub-par on one of the days. I would still squeeze a lot in, because that’s my style, but I would let house stuff slip, for sure. I would not feel such surges of energy nor would I feel true peace.

Also, when I was between marriages I HATED spending any time alone. I would either be with my boyfriend-du-jour (or going on dates), planning my schedule around tango, exercising, or generally finding someplace to be. I would go to bars alone, I would go dancing alone, if I had to, just to be around people and combat my overwhelming fear that life and love would pass me by if I did not get out there and stay out there. I had no ability to sit still and just BE WITH MYSELF . . . and all my feelings.

For a while I had a certain boyfriend who had a terrible habit of canceling plans with me whenever he was freaking out about his own shit. It was a true push-pull dynamic between us, deeply unhealthy. When he pulled the last-minute bail move, as he often did on a Sunday afternoon, I would freak out — mostly because I was utterly unprepared to spend any unstructured time alone. Looking back, it was pretty pathetic. If I had to spend unplanned alone time, I did not embrace the opportunity to get other stuff done. Instead I would mope and obsess and stress and generally let everything go all to hell.

Life is so different now. I feel happy and secure with my partner, my husband. We spend a lot of time together, but when he is away I embrace having time for myself. I keep busy, but I don’t spend all that energy I used to expend putting myself in the path of strangers (i.e., men), adventure/experiences, and, many, many times, alcohol. I was always seeking to escape myself and my situation and propel myself into something new, no matter how meaningless and un-nourishing it was.

I am grateful for my perfect sober weekend and for this sweet life I am creating. Better late than never.

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sheets (# 40)

I am in bed, not quite ready to sleep, enjoying the subtle touch of the sheets against my legs, reading words that maintain a steady march across the page. I am not squinting to still their wobbling. I listen to the purr of the fan and feel its breeze move across my hair. I am fully aware. My senses are fine and sharp, expansive. My consciousness is unmuffled by alcohol. It is not encased in a cottonwool cocoon that extends no more than a few inches beyond my body.

My mind is clear and calm. My mood is even. Soon I will venture into sleep peacefully and with intention. Sleep will not come suddenly tonight, thudding like a stone that ripples outward, obliterating the last few memories of the day. Tomorrow it will be my pleasure to rise at 5:30 a.m. for yoga with firm feet and sweat running clear and pure.

yoga (# 21)

There is a yoga studio near me that I have attended intermittently over the past four or five years. It’s kind of expensive but occasionally has a sweet, sweet 20-visits-for-$100 offer. At the time, I wasn’t really in yoga mode, but I was enjoying barre classes around  town (anywhere I could get a Groupon). This place had barre classes, so I would go to them occasionally, and I could really milk my $100 deal for many months. The barre classes were a casual supplement to all the other things I was doing at the time: running, Zumba, body sculpt/boot camp classes, and tango.

Fast forward to fall 2017. The $100 deal popped up again, so I jumped on it. I was still running, but in an increasingly lackluster way. I was continuing to do other classes, ,too, but feeling pretty uninspired and like nothing was working for me. I thought I would just do barre again, but here and there I started interspersing some yoga classes.

The backstory is that I have done yoga off and on since first trying it about 18 years ago, but it has never been more than a once-a-week thing for me. So I was surprised when all of sudden, I wanted to do yoga all the time. Like every day, if possible. Twice a day, if I could do a restore-type class after a flow class.  By Christmas, I was totally hooked. My 20 visits were up, so I decided to join as a member. I figured that if I went 300 times in 2018, each class would be an absolute bargain at less than $3.50. Already this year I have gone to more than 150 classes, and it’s not halfway through the year.

As my husband says, when I am into something I am all in. But why yoga? Why yoga right then? Truth be told, I needed a focus and a challenging. Something complex I could work on and improve. Something that would help me appreciate my strengths and confront my limitations. Work had me feeling kind of bored and unchallenged so I wasn’t going to find what I needed there.

Tango had served as that challenge for me for the last 5 years. I had learned so much, but it was receding a bit as a focus for me. Partly, I was tiring of dancing with the same people in my not-large tango community. Week after week after week. Partly, I had been in a relationship with my now-husband for about two years. He tried tango, and it wasn’t for him. Tango was not looking like something that we going to be doing together for the rest of our lives.

To add to this list: in addition to suspecting that I was drinking too much, to the point of interfering with my overall mood and my self-confidence, I was going through a hard time with my 15-year-old daughter and I was being hard on myself about it. Taking her struggles with school as a reflection of me as person and parent. And, lest I forget, we had just bought a house that was total fixer-upper. We were going through a two-month remodel while still living in our rental house for the first two months of 2018.

On the yoga mat, my mind did not stop spinning on all this stuff completely, but it did slow down substantially. Without mirrors everywhere, like the gym, I was not obsessing about all the ways my body was changing for the worse. Instead I enjoyed observing the differences in my body each day, purely as sensations. I noticed that I sweat WAY more in the late afternoon. Sometimes my balance is way off–impossible to say why. I never felt worse when I left yoga than when I arrived. I walked taller everywhere I went. When I did go dance tango, I felt more grounded, I could follow better, and I could breathe better through my little fuck-ups.

Anyway, yoga was proving to be an unadulterated positive force in my life. The next question is: did yoga play a role in my decision to stop drinking. Yes, a part. It was becoming important to go to class daily. Some days, only a the 6:00 a.m. class would work for my schedule. I didn’t want to risk missing it to sleep off the previous night’s drinks for an extra hour.

Perhaps even more important than this practical reason, I was appreciating yoga a practice of intention and choice. In this arena, at least, I was being successful at choosing what was best for me. I chose to go to class. I chose to use a block if I could not balance. I chose to take child’s pose if I needed a break. I chose to show up each day to see what would happen. I chose to be kind to myself when I wobbled and stop beating myself up about all the stuff, at least while I was on the mat.

I began to want more of this centered feeling, and I began to feel clear about how I could attain it. I certainly was not finding any of this peace or deep-seated pleasure in drinking alcohol. Just irritation, disappointment and agitation.

A drinking life is by nature monotonous except when it is distracting. A life of practice, be that practice tango, yoga, writing, music, or making art, is always unfurling, metamorphosing and revealing new mysteries.

(# 19 again)

I suspected I should rethink drinking when . . . thoughts of what I would soon have to drink drifted through my head on the yoga mat after work.

When I am not drinking, I do not have those thoughts.