My partner, E and I are trying to teach our daughter to sleep through the night in her own bed but like most things with toddlers, she is superbly resistant to the idea. Most of the time, he puts her down for the night in her bed and then I’ll move her to ours when I go to bed between 12 and 1am. If I don’t move her, she gets up in the early morning hours (usually between 3 and 4am) and wails until we bring her to our bed, where she proceeds to whine and sing and chat until the sun comes up. If she’s been moved in her sleep to our bed, she will stay asleep until 7:30 or 8am every morning without fail.
So. I move her.
In all honesty, part of the reason that I move her is because I’ve noticed that I cannot handle a sleep disturbance in the middle of the night and I’ve long thought this was part of the whole getting-older-and-not-handling-my-liquor-so-well change of life. If I don’t get enough sleep (about 6 or 7 straight hours), I feel sluggish and irritable and unable to express myself clearly at all.
It turns out (spoiler alert) that I was right about my sleep being more affected by liquor now than when I was younger. Last night, E and I left our toddler in her bed and she got up calling for dada at 4am. He got her and then she lay on me wiggling, moved to the bed to kick her legs around, sang “Five Little Ducks” softly, told a story to herself, lay on E for a bit while we whispered, “Shhh,” and “Go to sleep,” to no avail. At 5:30am, E got up to take a shower and he took her downstairs with him when he was done. They had breakfast together and at 6:15am, she came back upstairs and promptly fell asleep next to me until I woke her just before 8am.
I woke up at 7am, exhausted from being up for so long in the middle of the night but the feeling was manageable. I washed my face, got dressed, and checked my email while I let her sleep for a bit longer. By the time I woke her, I was fine.
This realization about alcohol and sleep seems very mundane and almost mind-numbingly obvious and it is. The inherent humor in a former alcohol researcher realizing the extent to which her sleep is affected by alcohol is also not lost on me.
The reason that I’m mentioning this here, in this vaguely public sphere, is to record how easy it is for me to get trapped in a mindless pattern of alcohol use. (I am not talking about dependence here, and I firmly reject the idea that thinking critically about your alcohol intake is a sign of a problem.) I am thinking instead about the ways we get trapped in cycles of consumption, be it alcohol or food or shopping or going out or whatever. It’s almost easier to keeping doing what you’ve always done than to take a step back and assess whether or not this is really what you want to be doing. Do you really want a drink every night at 5 o’clock? Do you really want that adorable pair of sandals? Do you really want to go out every Friday night?
I think a lot of the reason that it’s difficult for me (and maybe you?) to think critically about these things is because there are almost no examples of how to live mindfully without engaging in acts of deprivation or abstinence. There is a pervasive belief that the simplest way to cut out unnecessary habits or patterns of consumption are to ask yourself if you “need” it. Obviously, you don’t need much of anything. You never need a cookie. You never need a pair of gold shoes. You never need a cocktail. Framing an analysis in this way just sets up failure from the outset, doesn’t it? Here’s how this “all or nothing” approach to analysis usually plays out for me: In order to assess my drinking, I need to CUT IT ALL OUT for a set time period. In order to see whether what I eat is good for me, I need to abstain from everything that is supposed to be bad for me (Whole 30 comes to mind here). If I’m questioning my social life, I need to stay in for a month and see how I feel. Predictably, all that ever happens as a result of deprivation is a pervasive itch to just get back to IT, whatever it may be.
So this experiment in mindful drinking is about my wants. I want to keep drinking wine. I also want to establish a career as a writer. I want to work from home where I’ve created a lovely workspace. I want to learn how to work efficiently. I want to enjoy my time with my family. I want to be productive when I’m working. I definitely want to eat cookies forever.
So at the end of my first half-week of work without nightly drinks, I can say unequivocally that I’ve been more productive during the days, writing and researching and reading more than I have in weeks past. Does this mean I’m NEVER going to drink during the week? Not at all, but it’s nice to know that I should have some work options ready that factor in my decreased creativity the day after consuming alcohol.
Not bad for a first week, right?