Endings and Beginnings

There is the most beautiful, gentle snow falling outside and there is a cardinal at the bird feeder out in the back yard. I'm sitting in my quiet, pre-dawn house, thinking about the past decade and wondering about the one approaching fast. (And watching the puppy peel a tennis ball. He's very talented.)

I'm not the same person I was on the last day of 1999, partying on the beach in Galveston, drinking Dom Perignon for the first (and last) time in my life. For one thing, I now have TWO children and a mini-van and the lines on my face aren't there because I slept with my face smooshed into a pillow. I've earned them.

Also? I'm not living in Texas anymore. And living in New York will change a person, fundamentally in some ways. In fact, I'd wager that I changed more in the past two years than in the rest of the decade combined. Some of that has to do with experiencing life with chronic pain. I cannot state strongly enough how terrible that is --on one's psyche, on one's spirit, on one's spiritual connection with the rest of the world. It's sort of like being encased in a dark box, with only a small shaft of light. You keep staring at that light but you can't really see anything because you're so overwhelmed by all of that darkness. Still, you know there's life out there if you could only see it.

Anyway, my pain is managed, for the most part. And it's New Year's Eve and we have our good friends Mike, Sherry and Jesse (also Texas ex-pats) coming over to celebrate with us.  It's very different from the big party we used to throw every year in Austin --most people up here have large extended families and they've grown up celebrating with them on every holiday and that's what they're doing THIS New Year's Eve, too.  It's interesting to me that this is the most densely populated area in the United States and I have the smallest social life I've ever had.  I don't THINK it's because I talk (or smell) funny, either. I don't THINK it's a personal thing.  I think it's just that the greatest difference between Austin and Long Island (and I've thought about this a lot --in fact, I am working on a book about it) is that Austinites are almost all from somewhere else and looking to connect, and people up here are from here and have plenty of connections, thank you.

But I digress.  (I may be changed but I am still ME.)

Another big change for me this year is that I won't be toasting the New Year at midnight with anything alcoholic to drink.  Yes, the reason the wine industry has fallen on such hard times of late is because I have given it up. Here, take a minute to sit down and put your head between your knees.  I know it's a shock. 

Initially, I gave it up because someone I love was having a very hard time with that particular demon and because I am so far away from this person and unable to do anything at all to help, it sort of made sense in my own Fuzzy, Squint-At-It, Barb Way to stop drinking FOR this person.  So, I did.

But there were a few things I forgot. One is that I actively battle depression even on my good days and alcohol does not help in this fight.  It's a depressant.  (Smacks self on head--Doh!) Also, while I don't think I have a problem with alcohol, per se, I really do have a problem with MODERATION.  Um.  In everything. So, trying to simply cut down was not especially successful.

I don't know if it's forever (here, breathe into this bag--you look a little shaken) and I'm not working some sort of 12-step program.  I'm just not drinking.  I don't care if other people around me drink and I'm not saying this choice is right for everyone.  I wouldn't even mention it except, y'all, I feel FREAKING FANTASTIC. It's hard to describe, actually. I just feel... MORE. Which is a scary concept for most people but it feels really, really good to me. I have energy and patience and creativity -- I even started taking guitar lessons. Plus, my sense of humor seems to be about three times as big. Gosh, I'm having such a good time with my kids and even my husband has commented that I just seem more like my old self--positive and happy.

(No, I haven't lost any weight.  Sigh.  That moderation thing again.)

So, you know, I feel so amazingly good that I wanted to share. That's all.

I'm looking forward to this new decade so much and I think that 2010 is going to see some wonderful, giant blessings for all of us. I think we'll all grow and change and that we'll find connections with each other on levels we didn't even suspect existed. Thank you all for staying on the ride with me.  I'll see you next year.



Mokihana said…
Fabulous column, Barb. I really appreciate your candor. I don't drink either. I have a good friend who says, "I'm a fun person to be around without alcohol... I don't need it to make me more fun or to have more fun." I love that.

Maybe the move to NY is good in one way (I'm sure there are others) in that since everyone else seems to have their own connections, yours will be with yours... and that could be a really good thing, considering how few years you have left with your girls. Sorry for the reminder, but I've been through it and I know. Trust me.

You're making a wonderful investment in your family, and years from now, when the girls are grown up and married with in-laws' places to go to, they will remember what Christmas and other holidays were like with Mom and Dad and want to be there.

Trust me.
Michelle Paterson said…
Happy New Years My Friend. It's amazing how different life is now than in 1999 - I am right there with you on that one! I can totally relate to the social life comment as well. It must be an East Coast vs Texas kind of thing because I felt the exact same way when living in Richmond.

Good luck on those guitar lessons! Love to Coop and the girls as well.
Mrs.Q said…
Happy New Years, darlin'! Here's hoping the next 10 years are 10x better than the last! Love from the Quimby household.
Nice post, Barb, with bang-on observations. Oddly, Austin and London, the two places I've lived the longest, are a lot alike in that social connectability you talk about. London has a lot of folks from somewhere else. But when we moved to rural Wales, we didn't make a single local friend. So far, LI feels very friendly, but people aren't, oh, available in ways that I would have expected.
Anonymous said…
I'm a midwesterner living in Maryland and I find it's harder to make friends here. It's not just me! I've read other posts online about it.

I'm looking forward to reading your blog this year.
DK said…
Love this, Barb.

Hey, I'm all for the no-alcohol thing. I think I drink more now than I ever have in my entire life, but it's still not much by most people's standards (I, however, get anxious about it). But I make a very big point to never drink when I'm feeling anything too strong - sad, happy, or otherwise. Those alcoholic genes don't run in my family, they gallop.

I think your observations about NY are spot on. Chicago's a lot like that, clannish, you know? I do think Mokihana also totally called it with her comment about the girls' experience of it. And that will be awesome for all involved.

Happy 2010, my friend.
Miri said…
First your post made me weepy. Then Mokihana's comment made me cry. In a good way, I guess. Just feeling a little tearful over here. Happy New Year.
Anonymous said…
Happy New Year, Barb. What an inspiring post to kick it all off with...
Mellodee said…
Great column, just the right mix to start the year! Unfortunately, I think the friends-making thing is a lot less about location than it is about opportunity! The older you get, the harder it gets. As people get older they no longer have connections through their children (i.e., school, scouts, little league, etc.) Also as individuals get older and have stayed in any given location for more than a few years, their circle of friends is set. They have found their niche and aren't looking for new friends. I've lived in Florida, Illinois, California,and Texas (Austin, as a matter of fact. In each location in order as I got older I found it harder and harder to make new friends. I'm now 63, have lived in Austin for the past nine years and I have not made even one friend I would call a good friend. Just acquaintances. (and I miss having friends, but maybe its just me!) :)
Kathy Ireland said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathy Ireland said…
The thing that hit me this year, was how FAST the last decade has flown by and the thought that the next one may fly by even faster. Do you realize what a huge decade this is going to be for our '98 girls? This decade they will become and finish being teenagers and then, there are all those "firsts" coming up. Gosh, this will be their 80's and I'm not really sure I'm ready for that.
LaDonna said…
Happy New Year and New Decade, Barb! Love this post, and I can so relate. When I look at how different my life is today as compare to bringing in the year 2000, it boggles the mind.

You know, I think the connections thing might be a "big city" thing. We had the same problem when we lived in Seattle. In all honesty, it's one of the main reasons we moved "home" to North Dakota.

One of my co-workers (former manager actually) moved here to Fargo from Seattle shortly after we did. He'd been in Seattle for alot longer and he said his family had a really hard time with the way that people were so friendly and wanted to connect. He calls it "Midwest Nice" and to this day I don't know if that's a compliment or an insult.

But my point is that when you've grown up around Midwest Nice, it's very difficult to adapt to a place where people are not that way. You crave that connection. Amazing how you can be in such a densely populated area and feel so alone.

Good for you on the not drinking thing. I don't drink often, haven't since I had my girls...mostly because I, too, struggle with moderation and yes, I've had my own bouts with depression. It is pretty crazy how much better you feel, huh?

So, hugs to you as we embark on this new decade. New adventures, and continued changes. How much will we have changed when we ring in 2020? A great deal, I'm sure and it will be a great ride getting there.
Unknown said…
yay for you! I rarely drink but I had 4 large and very yummy vodka and cranberry drinks around Christmas (with Alaskan vodka which ROCKS). think that'll do me for another year...
Dorothy Rimson said…
A Very Very Happy New Year 2010 To You :-)
Anonymous said…
It is very interestingly written, to the author thanks.
Hannah said…
So glad you're feeling so much better!

About the drinking, don't know if you're a Good Housekeeping reader, but I read an interesting personal essay in the current issue by a mom who decided to give up drinking. Your comments reminded me of her story a bit.