Killing the Want

Between last week’s post contemplating time in the cave, and then subsequently (serendipitously) stumbling upon this fantastic blog, and specifically, this article, I’m taking on an experiment. Starting June 1st, through August 31st, I am entering into a mini “depth year,” where I’ll spend the season digging down into what is already available to me instead of acquiring anything new. The whole article is so worth a read, but here’s a snip:

...take a whole year in which you don’t start anything new or acquire any new possessions you don’t need.

No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started.

You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more.

You read your unread books, or even reread your favorites. You pick up the guitar again and get better at it, instead of taking up the harmonica. You finish the Gordon Ramsey Masterclass you started in April, despite your fascination with the new Annie Leibovitz one, even though it’s on sale.

The guiding philosophy is “Go deeper, not wider.” Drill down for value and enrichment instead of fanning out. You turn to the wealth of options already in your house, literally and figuratively. We could call it a “Depth Year” or a “Year of Deepening” or something.

This is a really fancy way to say: I’m going to spend this summer in the cave. Since having not missed a day of meditation in thirty-one  days and feeling some strange behind the scenes rewiring at work, well, if I were the type of person who said the universe is trying to tell me something, I’m pretty sure that something would be PATIENCE.

Like writing about boredom, I have no idea how the hell to make this interesting, or I don’t know, aspirational. I want sobriety to be aspirational. I want to write about the beyond our imagination gifts that become available when we do the work to unravel the why of our drinking, the vital, necessary work of creating a life we don’t have to run or numb from.

I also know that waiting sucks, and that along with any gifts come a lot of pain. We have to face stuff some of us have spent decades running from, numbing from, ignoring. We, who became masters at killing all the wants inside us, of dimming down, shoving desire under some rug and then forgetting where the fuck we rolled it out.

In the current cultural landscape, when we don’t get what we want immediately, or with a few flicks of a finger, we think something is wrong, either with the software or the service, or, like, our souls. Which then of course points me back again to what had me land on Slow Motion Sober as the name of this place: because in order to do our work we cannot put it on a timeline. We can’t map it out on a spreadsheet, or a project management app, we can’t predict the timeframe of healing, of killing an old want and creating new ones that give us more life than not.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be a writer. The best summer was the one where a library finally opened up in my newly developed suburban town—the grand feeling of walking out with a stack of books under my arm, of discovering YM and Seventeen magazines (and also Sassy, may she rest), of turning the dial on the microfiche, of flipping my way through the Dewey Decimal System cards even though I had no idea what I was doing. At the time I couldn’t understand what a big deal it was when I won a contest in eighth grade, for an essay I wrote on Madame Bovary (it wasn’t even an assigned book! I picked it! Still have no idea why…) until I saw it listed on my first semester syllabus of my MFA twenty years later.

I can’t pinpoint an exact moment, but it was around this time that I began to walk away from myself. I trained myself to want something different. None of this was particularly conscious in my fourteen year old girl brain, more of an accumulation of many many small decisions over time that ultimately killed the vision I had for my life until then. It was then I stopped creating, stopped viewing myself as a creative being. I’m sure it surprises exactly no one, especially those of you with similar stories, that this was when I started smoking weed, and when that stopped working, drinking. And now as I dig down I see that it was this turning away from myself, from my truest desire for my life, that contributed to all the ways I went on to numb myself over the next two decades.

When you live your life constantly pivoting away from your gut, or when things happen that sever that connection, you have to stay numb to keep going.

Drinking kept me in a surface level life. I got so good at jumping from new-to new-to new, at scratching all the surfaces, at staying barely afloat, just numb enough to never dive, to never get in deep with anything. Now that I don’t do that anymore, now that the pink cloud has officially evaporated, the work of emotional sobriety is calling on me to stay with the discomfort of the cave even as my long honed instinct kicks up its engine, the familiar inner scrambling urging me to flee. If I was, if I am to continue to grow into the life I’m only beginning to taste, I can no longer stay on the surface of anything. I can’t fake this anymore.

Slowing down and digging deep in a world that tells us we are not worthy if we are not producing something is subversive work. Sobriety is subversive in a world that tells us we deserve to drink, that we can’t have fun, have sex, be a mother, celebrate milestones, be social, wihtout it. Pushing back on the systems that seek to keep us numb at best and oppressed at worst is fucking subversive. Becoming more fully who we truly are and deprogramming ourselves from the bullshit our culture tries to enforce on us is subversive.

And, none of it happens over night.

So I’m starting with three months. If anyone wants to join me, there aren’t precise parameters—you get to decide what this looks like for you.

If you need me, I’ll be over here, cozied up with a dusty old copy of The Brothers Karamozov (because writers are supposed to read Dostoevsky, right?), drinking too much coffee, paying down debt, drawing on walls.