Dropping Out vs Tuning In

NOTE: This was a post I wrote back in November-ish of 2017, but it felt a little too personal to share. Life has changed in a gazillion ways, mostly for the better. Much of what I worried about fell into place once I gave up the anxiety & tried to DO LESS. When I came across this post in my Notes, I decided it was time to share it. It really does help to surrender our need for control and all the ways we numb ourselves. It also helps to tune into the truest station of your soul. Just be there for a little bit. Do nothing, and be more. Listen. There’s probably a lot to hear. //

Lately I have been writing more and drinking less.

This is quite the opposite of former years, but I just cannot be this tired anymore. Too tired to do the work. Too tired to fight for dharma. Too tired to steer my own ship. Avoiding, avoiding, avoiding.

My youngest will be in kindergarten one year from now. For five years, I’ve had anxiety: when he goes to school full-time, I’ll have to have found my PATH or else get stuck working a job I don’t care about to fill the time and to contribute and to be an upstanding citizen and a good wife and an example. For five years, I’ve tried all kinds of little solutions: garage saling & e-baying, craft-making, mass marketing, part-time working. Anything to be able to feel I’m contributing, never letting my role as a stay-at-home mom feel like enough.

The thing I want to do is write. But it’s so elusive, so big, so important, so nothing anyone around me understands or gives me permission to commit to. Thus, I sneak my writing sessions. I try to squeeze writing in between making snacks, while listening to kids whine at me (like now). I do it for half of nap time, because the other half I must do something that would be tangible to my husband (vacuuming! dishes! laundry!); I wake bleary-eyed and cram in a session after packing my husband’s lunch for work, before the kids wake up for school. I promise myself I’ll write during the three hours of preschool, and I head off to squeeze in a few hours of work instead (my real-world part-time paid-hourly gig) because that’s what I’m paid for, that’s what someone can watch me do and measure me by.

I wondered what comfort I was finding in a glass of wine at the end of the day. I noticed (of course!) the correlation between anxiety and drinking, but just now—during a quick yoga session in which i held my breath and prayed not to be interrupted for fifteen minutes—it came flooding over me: panic that soon both kids will be gone through the afternoon and my role as their mother will demand less of my time–time I quit full-time work over five years ago so that I could spend it both with them and with cultivating my own future to better our family. Panic that my husband will have had enough of being the breadwinner. Panic that I’m not any further along than I was when they were born. Panic that I’ll do something—again!—out of desperation and the need to please the people around me. Panic that I’ll fail. Panic that I’m selfish for wanting to do something that is so solitary and unproven and not guaranteed to be lucrative.

For so long I have tried to juggle so many balls. This has only left me with guilt, so little do i have to show for any of my endeavors. That maxim of motherhood: mom comes last.

Little comments and suggestions sting. “When the kids go back to school, you should do THIS! Or THIS!” I know in my heart what I want to do and am meant to do and have never quite given up the dream of doing even during the driest of spells, and I STILL feel compelled to please and impress people who aren’t even in my daily sphere. I do not want to be the selfish wife who works on her dream while her husband works on not-his-dream 90 hours a week, just to support our family.

Drinking wine assuages the fear of hurting or angering people, the fat hole of lack at the center of my soul, the pain of never feeling enough of a mother or a wife or a person or an artist or an earner, the panic that I will pick the wrong thing to focus on, the nagging sense of time piling up at the bottom of an hourglass, the shame that my biggest dream since I could hold a pencil was to write books and that I am still hiding my true self and my deep longing just because nobody else cares about it the way I do. I have turned into a ceaselessly panicked woman, someone my early-20s, fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants, creative as hell counterpart never could have imagined.

Side note: I love to read about writers, and I have read about many who also manage to have families and even other jobs. But it is always the tales of writers who leave it all, abandon ship, take a journey, find themselves in Italy alone and unencumbered, free to take courses at distinguished colleges and colonies in stunning locales, somehow discovering reserves of money along the way, that hit me the hardest—because I have already chosen to throw my anchor down in a way, and I love my family immeasurably, and I do not know how to be the person I want to be when I have already chosen to be this the person everyone else NEEDS me to be.

I don’t drink to what MOST people would call excess. But a few times a week, the wine will come out of the cabinet and I’ll have more than a glass and feel a rush of relief and eventually a total catastrophic hell of guilt: I didn’t mean to do that again; I didn’t mean to leave; I meant to stay. I mean to stay with my feelings, to feel them through, but it’s so much fucking easier to forget and pretend I’ll deal with it at some elusive later date. With wine, I feel sparkly and motivated—“Tomorrow I’ll write my heart out AND do crafts with the kids AND do an hour of yoga AND clean the shower AND cook an amazing dinner AND.” Without distraction, it’s just me. The real thing, the pain, the questioning, the conflicting desires (to please and help others/to please and help myself/to find out how to do both), the grasping faith.

I don’t have it figured out. I might not even have it figured out a year from now, when I feel I MUST. It hurts hard.

A little voice bubbled up during savasana: one day at a time. This time, without a glass of chianti when I’m sad and stuck. Maybe life is ABOUT feeling the guilt, feeling thwarted, feeling jealous, feeling unaccomplished, feeling our way through the shit, feeling gratitude for every sober moment of true relief and beauty in between, feeling okay when we don’t feel okay, feeling anything; just staying awake to feel.


2 thoughts on “Dropping Out vs Tuning In

  1. Courtney Hanna-McNamara says:

    Hi there Lindsey – I just read your poem on Literary Mama and decided to click through to your bio, then your blog, and I don’t usually leave random comments on blogposts of people I don’t know. But your story – of not knowing what’s next, of wanting so much to write but not feeling it is enough, of realizing how you are numbing yourself instead of going through the difficult parts – is very much is my story, too, and it made me want to reach out and say hello, and thank you. Thanks for sharing your struggle – and your beautiful poetry, too.


    • Lindsey Forche says:

      Courtney, this completely made my day. Thank you so much for your comment. That blog post was particularly difficult to share, but I know there are so many other women (& men too!) going through something similar, & the impulse to connect was somehow stronger than the impulse to hide. Just remember–you are enough. Somehow it all comes together, even though many days can feel like treading water. We are really all in the same boat, doing the best we can. Wishing you lots of happiness on your journey!


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