I’ve been feeling really blue since my 44th birthday on Monday. I feel isolated, and I’ve been crying suddenly at pretty much anything, but most often when I see past years’ birthday party photos crop up on Facebook (stupid f$%^ing FB).
I used to love my birthday. I loved hosting big parties with cases and cases of wine, bowls of loose cigarettes, and decadent pates, cured meats and cheeses tucked into every nook of whatever loft apartment I was overpaying for that year.
I loved getting drunk and pulling out my guitar and serenading whichever poor saps were still around and willing to listen to me say “fuck – that’s not right”, or “sorry – one sec” between every single verse.
I miss the glamour of my gluttony. The “might as well have fun while I can” thing.
Being sober brings clarity. Peace. Self-esteem. Less fear. Less shame. But letting loose is really fucking hard to do while sober. Drinking and parties allowed me manufacture that vibe. These days, that feeling of looseness and freedom is meted out randomly by the heavens, it seems. And grudgingly.
I know I am still in early sobriety. I also understand that the magic of feeling free is now a permanent little piece of me, instead of a fleeting burst that comes with drinking. But sometimes I miss the burst.
I went to see Madame Butterfly last night with my husband. Before the lights went down I excitedly told him that I sang two of the songs from Madame Butterfly for my senior recital and for singing competitions in high school, but I’ve never seen a production of it live. He wasn’t all that interested, which made me feel foolish for mentioning it.
Then it was intermission and there were so many glamorous and weird people milling around with large beautiful wine glasses and they seemed to be having so much more fun than I was. I was also wearing the same mu-mu linen dress I always wear, with bulky boots that I had thought were so badass just a few hours before. I wasn’t exactly glamming it up.
If I’m honest, it’s not like I had a trove of friends who also loved opera back when I was drinking. In fact, until I got this poor man locked into a life of being married to me, I never had the balls to force anyone else to join me at the opera. So I never saw an Opera in Seattle until this past year. That’s 13 years opera-free, which is kind of hard to admit.
[Side note: if you ever get to see an opera in NYC at the Met, go do it. The Zefferelli sets (he might be dead now but I think they still go big at the Met) are mind blowing. You feel like you are in another world.]
I have such an intricate mythology about my past that gets bigger and wilder as sober time passes.
I need to take a deep breath and give myself a reality check:
- My involvement in, and pursuit of, the arts was dead in my twenties and thirties. I did NOTHING related to music or singing other than drunken guitar playing at the end of parties. I need to stop romanticizing my drinking time as some kind of wild and artsy time in my life. It wasn’t. It was just drinking and eating (and smoking) with abandon.
- I really hated the cycle of getting too drunk, wasting weekend days or being hungover at work. HATED it. I’m so glad to be done with that.
- I have clearer memories of my life before I started drinking than after. My 20s and 30s are a blur. I don’t want that for my 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s (a girl can dream).
- I can go to the opera or musicals any time I want to, and I don’t need to wear my linen puffy dress + boots uniform. I can wear glamorous dresses and heels and make up.
- One day, I will be able to host dinner parties and serve other people wine again. And I will be able to relax and enjoy myself and I will kick people out once I’m tired and done with it.
My life is as insular as I make it. Right now, I’m making it pretty fucking insular. And that feels safe and easy, most days. Today, I feel sorry for myself. I wish I could just start a diet (hope! future life delusions!!), crack open a bottle of rose, smoke a million cigarettes and laugh with friends all afternoon – in my own apartment or on the phone. I want to go backwards in time to a solo, selfish life that swung from partying too much to hermit TV marathons.
But if I did that. If I went backwards, a few things would happen.
First, I’d realize that my old partying friends have moved on with their lives – they’ve had kids or moved away from Seattle. I’d have to seek out new drinking girlfriends, likely much younger, and probably would start with women at my new job which is technically in San Francisco. So, as I play this out in my head, I’d probably build a secret life of drinking in San Francisco on my extended work trips, while my husband sits at home wondering if I’m alive, getting madder and madder at me. That would lead to a shitty marriage and probably divorce.
Second, all my new sober life things would fall away. My sober brunches with amazing women in Seattle. My budding friendships in that circle of women. My new sewing hobby that I want to turn into a clothing line one day. My renewed interest in theater and opera. My blog writing. My progress with accepting my body as is, and feeding it good things. The peace of waking up rested every single day. The absence of a daily refrain of paranoia and anxiety.
I won’t do it. I won’t do it just because I feel sorry for myself one week out of 492 sober days. That’s ridiculous. I know it’s ridiculous.
Thanks for listening. I feel better already.