Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Happy May Day

“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.”
Meister Eckhart

Way back when I was a young girl we would spend the first day of May making cones out of whatever material we could find, sometimes it was the construction paper from one of our old kindergarten masterpieces that we'd decided to sacrifice in honor of the day, or sometimes it would be a plain white paper plate with fluted edges and barely detectible smudges of ketchup and mustard.

We'd get out our cigar box of broken crayons and decorate the outside with emblems of springs,  yellow daisies and rabbits and the iconic 70's smiley face, then we'd attach a handle to the cone and stuff it full of whatever spring flowers we could filch from Mom's flower beds, usually the early blooming roses and iris's.  With baskets in hand, we'd stealthily prowl the neighborhood, looping the handles of the baskets over the doorknobs of our unsuspecting prey, then we'd knock on the door, or ring the doorbell, and run like heck around the corner of the house, waiting for the inhabitants  to come to the door and find the May Day surprise we'd left for them.  Most of them opened the door and looked out and a scowl would form over their features right before they slammed the door.  It seemed, the Hickey kids had played this game one too many times without leaving a surprise.  But in the jubilant spirit of spring and the exuberance of youth, we persevered with the knocking and running until our beleaguered victim finally flung open the door to give chase.  It was then they would spot the dangling basket of posies.  I tell you, it would stop them in their tracks and we'd have to stifle our giggles as the angry expressions on their faces turned to chagrin and finally to a wistful nostalgia as they remembered their own days as marauding May Day basket hooligans.

By the time my boys were of appropriate age, the May Day basket tradition had been mostly abandoned and forgotten, but I decided to revive it.  On May first, I'd force them inside away from their games with the neighborhood kids and I'd sit them down with all the construction materials and they'd whine but then finally give in, I'm sure thinking the sooner they got the "stupid baskets" finished, the sooner they could go play.  Afraid not.  My yard was not as bounteous as my mother's in spring flowers, but I was not about to be thwarted.  (I'm pretty sure my unflagging enthusiasm for resurrecting this dead tradition was fueled by a couple of Jack Daniels and Diet Pepsi's) I'd have the boys pile into the car and we'd drive down the alleys of our local florists. The boys would cower in the backseat of the car in embarrassment as I dumpster dived for flowers whose stems were broken or whose petal's edges were just starting to turn brown.  The boys would stuff the bedraggled flowers into their "stupid" baskets and we'd ride off into the night in search of victims.  (They liked this part.)

Today is the first day of May, May Day, and several of my friends on the Moderation Management Mainlist are embarking on a 30 day abs period.  Today is Day 1, the most difficult day of all.  For today, that is.  Tomorrow, tomorrow will be the most difficult day of all.  It is woefully easy for me to look back and remember what got me through those first days of not drinking,  I was usually coming off of a bender, and sickeness, physical and spiritual sickness, is what fueled all the early days of abstinence for me.

I wish it hadn't been that way.  Instead I wish I could have laid careful plans for my first day and the days that followed.  I have often been asked how I quit drinking, the simple answer is, "I just quit drinking." but that is not the answer they're seeking, and it's not completely the truth.  "I just quit drinking." lots of times but "just not drinking" wasn't enough to keep me from drinking again.  What finally made me able to not drink again, was to find more and more things in my life that were more important than my drinking, and then I had to nourish them until I loved them enough to not want to see them suffer from the neglect and apathy that went hand in hand with my drinking.  It wasn't one single thing, it was a basketful.

So if I'd been lucky enough to start a 30 day abs period, or a forever abs period on May 1, without my usual hangover, I'd look at those 30 days as if they were a giant May Day Basket and I'd pack it full of things I could fall in love with. Writing, biking, gardening, knitting, painting, charity, my kids... are just a few of the things I might put in that basket.  If I ran out of things that I thought I could fall in love with, I'd go dumpster diving until I found something, even if I had to dig down to the very bottom past all kind of rotting stinking garbage, even if it's survival was doubtful.  Then I'd pour all my efforts into saving it.

That's what I'd do. I'd spend this month doing my damnedest to fall in love with something. Anything. Lots of things.   I'm sure, in the first few days, I'd be like my old neighbors and I'd keep  opening the door with a scowl to see nothing there, but  I'd keep answering that knock on the door until I found the gift that was waiting for me.   Just so that on May 30, if I'd tried my hardest, if I'd given my utmost best effort, I would be holding in my hands something precious, something that I loved more than drinking.

 Maybe more than one thing. 

Maybe a whole basketful of things.

Maybe just myself.

P.S. Best wishes for all you, MM May abser's, you can do this if you keep your basket full.  If any of you want to share what things you're finding to fall in love with along the way please tell us about it in the comments. In addition, if any of my fellow bloggers would like to share what got you through those first few days and weeks of abs, please do. 


  1. Something, anything, find what you love and do it lots! So hard, those early days. I used to just grit my teeth a lot, put rubber gloves on and clean, go to bed at 7pm.. and just remember remember remember why I wanted to stop drinking. Lovely post my friend xxx

  2. What a great way of looking at it .

  3. Sleep. I know there must have been more in my basket at the time (what a wonderful analogy by the way), but the fact that I could sleep, deeply and long, kept me sober and coming back for more.

  4. Thank you! You just filled my heart with joy! I so needed this today.

  5. You write so well. Finding things in your life to be passionate about is what my daughter finds so hard. She can't find meaning, she says. Do you know what 'clicked' for you? Was it just not drinking any more? Once that happened, did you start finding things or did you have to push yourself to look? I need to hear from the perspective of someone who has felt this and gone through with it. My opinions are not valid enough, since I'm not struggling with an addiction. Thank you.

  6. Signe,
    I started writing a response and it grew to blog length, so I'm going to write a blog about this. A couple of other people that are struggling with alcohol have written me and said, I made it all sound too simple. The fact is, it is simple but you can't see that until you distance yourself from alcohol and it starts to lose its power over you. For me, just to quit drinking wasn't enough because I had let go of everything in my life that gave me self-worth, so I had to push myself to find things that would give me back my self-worth and that would give me the incentive to not drink. But I gotta tell ya, I was scared shitless, I hate failure, and alcohol had robbed me of all of my confidence, it paralyzed me with fear. And when you're paralyzed, it's so much easier to just sit there and let life happen to you.

    Oops! See what I mean, I've almost written a blog. I'll try to get this out in a more cohesive thought pattern today or tomorrow.

  7. This is such an awesome post, full of all these great visuals. Ding dong ditch, dumpster diving...great details.

    Really love how you tied the many little ways sobriety transforms our lives into may baskets. Beautiful.

  8. How utterly beautiful. I loved this post. The digging down, the basket, the bouquet of gifts we give ourselves and more importantly, to others. The basket makes the day, makes the life, makes the spirit soar. And every bouquet is different...unique. We fill it the way we need it filled, fueled by the guidance of the Creator and where we need to go. and I really dug what you said about the first day being the hardest. Then tomorrow being the hardest. Because those first few days are hell. It's not until we start finding a way to not see alcohol as a solution any more, that it becomes a bit easier.

    Lovely stuff.


  9. This is beautiful Kary. Happy May to you too!