Embracing Boring Sobriety

Right now, I’m sitting in a big comfy chair in my boyfriend’s living room, sipping a LaCroix, while he and a few of his friends sit around the kitchen table playing Hearthstone, Rocket League & Diablo. Trampled by Turtles is playing on the record player (yes – record player!) and I can’t help but think how delightfully boring this night is.

One of things I’ve been learning in my sobriety is the value in the ordinary. It’s hard sometimes to be reminded of the fact that not every day of my life is going to contain something new, exciting, or dramatic. While drinking, I often sought to be out and about, even if I didn’t have anything to do or anyone to see. I just wanted to be out there, just in case something was happening. I did’t want to miss it.

But here I am on a Saturday night, and even though I’m young and free (legally speaking), I’ve got no plans to go out, no plans to “make something” of the evening or have an epic adventure tonight.

Because honestly, the stress of creating such an epic, adventurous, exciting life often outweighs the benefits of having that excitement or newness. There is a certain, subtle joy in allowing yourself to be boring. There’s a certain lightness to be felt when you remove the expectation of always having something to do, having somewhere to be, needing to be seen, or needing to have your existence validated by external sources (such as Instagram likes, or Facebook comments). Sometimes, the boring night in is just as necessary and important as the epic Saturday night out, the Instagram-ready photo adventure, or the life-changing road trip across the country. Balance, you see, is something that is unusually hard to obtain, but it really makes all the difference in having a good life, and a great one. The important thing is recognizing that there is a struggle for that balance, and it’s not always going to be fun.

I’ve got this friend. She and I are alike in a lot of ways. We’re both cancerians and write very flowery, overly-descriptive narratives from the heart. We’re both emotional and sometimes dramatic. We both know how to rationalize our emotions down to the bones. We love adventure, and creating meaning for ourselves in our lives. We’re also both romantics at heart – we love the idea of love, and we love falling in love, chasing love, and even to some small degree, we love the dissolution of love, because it always means a newer love is somewhere on the horizon.

This friend of mine recently moved to Italy. Want to know why? For love. She moved there to live with her long-distance boyfriend of over two years, a young, handsome Italian man who pursued her for a few months before she finally gave in and gave her heart to him. They met on a beach in Greece while she was traipsing around Europe for six months in 2014. Want to know why she was traipsing around Europe for six months in 2014? Because she was taking a break from working in California at a non-profit, and she needed some inspiration to help her complete the novel she is writing.

I love this girl to death. I’ve known her for over a decade, and we’ve shared a lot of ourselves with one another over the years. As wonderful as her life seems from a Facebook perspective, she seemed to feel a little differently about it offline. I learned more about her struggles with the in-between time she spent here in America, while she was busy working her ass off as a waitress in order to save the money she needed to move overseas.

All logistics of moving to Italy aside – the visa process, the new language, the cost of flights, researching possible jobs and  figuring out a place to live – this friend of mine was all over the place, emotionally. She lived in a state of constant ups and downs for the year and a half she spent in America between her 6-month trip to Europe and her recent, more permanent move to Milan. A lot of the time she spent here was… well, it was mundane. It was ordinary. It wasn’t the great rekindling she’d hoped for. It was just life. She worked two job at a time, lived in a tiny studio apartment, and as a waitress, she rarely had time off when her 9-to-5 friends did. She took two trips to Italy to visit her boyfriend, and he took one trip to America to visit her, and she always talked about how much of an emotional toll it can take to ride the roller coaster that is international romance & relationships. The leaving is the hardest part.

When we’d meet up, she often talked about how difficult it was to be in such a state of transition here in America, without anything exciting keeping her attention in the present. She wanted so badly to collect happy memories of her time here, but often felt like she was always looking toward her future in Italy. She didn’t feel like she could establish a real social routine with her inconsistent schedules and having to put every extra dollar towards savings. The time she spent in Italy felt more like a vacation, and the time her boyfriend was here was almost an anomaly, not at all an accurate representation of what their life would look like once they actually lived together.

Now, she’s living in Milan, half a world away from here. She’s been there for a couple weeks and seems to be getting what she has been hoping for for so long: a routine, a place that she knows she can call home, at least for now. She’s taking Italian classes and exploring her new city. She’s got an apartment that she shares with her boyfriend, and she’s taking weekend trips to gorgeous lakes and mountainous villages. She’s found a home, for now. She’s found a place to be.

In all of this, when I manage to push the little twinge of jealousy aside, I can feel genuine happiness for her, knowing that she has found a place to just be. Her story is important to me because of how similar she and I are; in her, I recognize my own dual-desires for adventure and normalcy. She spent a year and a half slaving away and making money, saving for the future, keeping an inconsistent routine in an apartment she knew she was bound to leave, so she could move halfway around the world, where she would finally find some kind of normalcy.

Were I still drinking heavily, I’d probably look at her life and feel sorry for myself. Why, I would think, why does she get this beautiful European adventure with a gorgeous Italian boyfriend and a chance at a new life, one she gets to create? Why not me?

Were I still drinking, I would probably encourage her kindly and feel some sort of happiness for her on a surface level, but not really sincere or heartfelt. I’d just be upset, really, and jealous, and indignant. I’d start wondering what the hell was wrong with me, that I was still stuck at my stupid office job, in my stupid city, doing nothing with my life, simply letting opportunity pass me by.

Now, sober, my friend’s story is truly important to me. I’m honestly so happy to bear witness to her story. Not everybody can do what she has done, and she has done everything on her own to get herself where she is today. She’s done the work, paid the money, and taken those first steps by herself. That courage alone is something I’m grateful to witness.

But in another way, her story is important because of what it has helped me learn about living a normal, every day, average life, especially as I move through this new adventure: sobriety.

She powered through the every-day and mundane because she knew that even the most average days were building up to something great. She didn’t need to seek adventure, prove herself, or seek validation. She just did what she needed to do. And sometimes, she was too tired to go out with friends, or she was scheduled for a double-shift on a Saturday, as well as the brunch shift on Sunday, so she just couldn’t go out.

But, there she is. Living in beautiful Milan, with the love of her life. And my guess is that when the sense of newness and adventure wears off, she’ll find herself reflecting once again on how ordinary life seems, how routine her trips to the market have become, and how wonderful it is to have those weekend trips to the lakes and mountainous villages where she and her boyfriend/fiance/husband can hold hands and be thankful for the quiet, beautiful, sometimes boring, often very fulfilling and yet quite normal life they’ve built together – one day at a time.

 

Day 64 complete. And now I’m off to bed 🙂

 

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