A dear friend told me recently that when she heard Carolyn Forché speak, Carolyn said to ’empty the hands’ every day. Meaning, get thoughts out and words down so that the work that needs to come through has space to do so. This is just an emptying the hands post.
CW: discussion of alcohol and drinking and not drinking
I was at my sister’s in Texas on Christmas Eve last year, walking from the casita toward the house at night when all of the nearby church bells started ringing. Oddly, instinctively I guess, I huddled towards a wall and turned my back toward the night, like something was passing by or maybe to have the moment to myself, folded in. In retrospect, it was when some internal root wisdom subliminally accepted that everything was beginning to alter, like a single gear barely heaving to start.
This year has been drastic, and harsh. Certainly not completely, but after years of living so quietly with the exception of career, and watching how invisible I could become in almost all ways as the result of a larger narrative that only recently became illuminated, this year energetically ripped off walls and started pulling everything apart. And while I’m generally one who likes change, this hasn’t been a brand of change from which I’ve been able to dredge ancillary gains, which is usually my way. It was a costly year. There’s less of me now, but what’s left is more precise and solidified, if tired.
It was with no real intention that I stopped drinking at the very beginning of July. I didn’t quit mindfully or out of need so much as I just haven’t wanted to. Since H- was born, I haven’t been very interested, first because I don’t want him to ever equate me with the smell of alcohol, but also because I wanted to see how not drinking might impact chronic migraines, which colossally developed after having given birth to him two years ago. The causes of the migraines, according to doctors, are: altered hormone levels due to being postpartum, stress, and having lived so long with a partner with Asperger’s (I say that with zero blame; it’s one of the many side effects, I’ve learned). Thankfully, the migraines have begun abating in recent months. It’s an incredible relief.
To not have alcohol in my system somewhat regularly means, of course, that my body feels better. I feel less achy and sluggish. I certainly feel more joyful, and I sleep much better. But what becomes worse is what alcohol was useful for–anxiety, worry, and panic.
The only things I’m currently certain of in my life are my child and being his mom, the two dogs (beloved furry shadows), writing, and that the life I want continues to elude me. Everything else is liminal, dismantling, or changing. So to suddenly not drink during a year that I’m at a loss to comprehend let alone communicate, and after decades of having that tool / vice available, is very, very curious, especially for someone who generally considers wine to be their favorite art form and spent 11 years in fine wine.
I’m not sure where and when anxiety became so hugely problematic for me, but I’m going to guess my late teens, near the time I was diagnosed with PTSD and panic disorder (now gratefully mostly abated). I’ve always been introverted, but anxiety bloomed vibrantly in my 20s resulting, at its worst, in two years of periodic agoraphobia. Even when I was social, being ‘social’ often meant going alone to one of the same two clubs on a Tuesday every week, dancing for hours alone, smiling at people I knew, and returning home… so, being in a place I generally felt safe, among mostly familiar people, but not really interacting at all. And if I had to be in a social situation, alcohol would need to be involved. And now it’s not. And honestly, I’m finding it hard. There is nothing to help me settle into a situation, nothing to help calm me or make me able to more fluidly communicate. Instead I spend all of my time trying to regulate my heart rate and breathing, and forcing myself to try and connect.
I haven’t had almost any occasions to experience the ‘not-drinking-right now-but-socializing’ since July, but I have been out a few times in the past months and this feels like a problem I increasingly need to figure out. I’ve only done one poetry reading since I stopped drinking and it was easily the worst reading I’ve ever given. Giving readings is one of my very favorite things to do and generally I do it extremely well, but if there isn’t a glass of wine or a shot at the front of that reading, well then, no promises I guess.
My natal chart instructs that at some point in my life I’ll have to choose between wooded or rural living, and city living. When I was in my 20s I couldn’t even imagine that; I couldn’t imagine making a choice to not live in a large city. But as I get older, it’s starting to seem very appealing, so long as I can get to an airport somewhat easily. Even when I was home in summer, the energy I felt from others wasn’t as bolstering and inspiring as I once found it to be. I generally just want to write and learn, hang out with my kid, cook, be loved and loving, help others and animals, and be healthy… preferably somewhere beautiful that doesn’t hurt my head. And by doing that, when life is balanced, and with less outrageous stress, socializing somewhat regularly might seem less daunting, and definitely more manageable.
Hope is something I’ve never really had the luxury of having. I’ve never hoped for anything and I don’t even know how to do it. It’s foreign. But, as of this year–perhaps because of this year–I’ve decided to try. I don’t really know how, so I consulted a beloved online cadre of attuned women. One said: You start by thinking of your hope. Then you write it. Then you whisper it. Then state it. And then you shout it. That seems wise. And sort of funny if you imagine shouting your hope randomly in a public place. I’m still not past the point of privately thinking of hopes, but maybe my lips will start to silently shape syllables soon.
Happy Black New Moon in Libra, and welcome to all the newness and beginnings it might and will usher.
Addendum: While researching yesterday, an article offered that anxiety might be functioning as something that’s working to keep me sound (logical) and might be viewed as an ally if I can parse it. But that means I have to figure out what such an exaggerated function is actually trying to accomplish. I have theories, but no great ones.
And thank you to everyone over in G.B.s who reminded me about Indicas, especially Avital! I need to do more research. CBD oil has been amaaazing for decreasing migraines and with zero THC, I can function beautifully as a parent and business owner. For myself, personally, I’m anti-pharmaceuticals for mental health or anxiety, I guess unless it should ever be a worst case scenario. Being weird in social situations doesn’t feel extreme enough to consider such an option, unless I exhaust all other options first. I think if I change my lifestyle and make self-care more of a priority, a lot might change in that regard. Today I’m making self-care a priority by writing and reading in bed and working from home. It’s pretty great and feels wildly rebellious.