Don’t Die Wearing a Cardigan


Do you remember when you were a kid, and people would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And you just knew, without giving it a second thought, that you could be anything you wanted. It was your choice. Nothing was off the table. There was this huge array of things to choose from, and you had the fun of deciding what you wanted to be.

My dad asked me this when I was about eight years old, and I said, “A hippie. Just like Laurie on the Partridge Family.” My dad, who has never gotten a traffic ticket, was dismayed. “You’ll change your mind,” he said. I was indignant. “No I won’t!” I shot back, angry that he would suggest such a thing.

He was right. I did change my mind, but now I’m changing it back. I still want to be a hippie. After decades of “mom wear,” including matching sweater sets, I’m going to reinvent myself.

And why not? Sobriety gives you that chance. But there’s a trick to it: You have to withdraw who you were while drinking to allow the real you to emerge.

But change can feel dangerous and heartbreaking. I recognize this in some of my earlier blogs, as I wrestled with giving up that woman at the party — the “fun” girl who was reliably late, forgot you name, and rambled on enthusiastically with the other drinkers. That woman seemed like who I was, and I played her part for twenty-five years. That’s a lot of time to establish myself as that person. I really thought that she was me.

Guess what? I’m someone better now, though I feel endless compassion for the women at the party. She seems like someone I used to know, who stumbled along like the rest of us, trying to prove something she never had to. She only exists in photographs now, like someone who has gone on to a better place.

So after mourning the party girl, I get to choose again who I want to be. I no longer have to blend in to the woodwork as someone labeled “woman with a drinking problem” anymore.  I have no drinking problem. I very wisely chose not to drink. No problem there. It’s more like a rock star asset, if you ask me.

So now, at a little over two years’ sober, I’m going to buy some loud clothes. I’m going to practice being noticed, after years of only feeling worthy of notice after I’d had a drink or two. It will be so much fun! I’m going to get some weird earrings, the kind that scream “I’m into some crazy shit!” (I am, by the way.)

So there is opportunity in every seeming calamity. My decades of drinking were an invitation to rise above it. I was given this invitation every single day that I drank. Sometimes I listened; more often, I did not. But every day is a rebirth, and I’m continually being reborn now, without offering myself another lesson in pain.

What seemed like pain at the time, I recognize now, was just me at a crossroads, choosing the road of pain over and over again. Now I see the gift wrapped inside the pain of the crossroads … I get to choose again.

22 thoughts on “Don’t Die Wearing a Cardigan

  1. Lol
    I’m wearing a cardigan right now!
    I completely understand!
    I am a twinset wearing banana republic shopping engineer. I drive a mini van. I grew up to be exactly the daughter my parents wanted.How cliche!

    Once I got sober I embraced my other side. I tried it all on. I teach yoga. I buy flowy clothes.
    I am going to meet Slayer on Wednesday and then to Columbus to rock on the range for the weekend. I didn’t even know I liked heavy metal!

    I have tattoos. The shock. My mom still hates them. I am 46.

    And guess what! I actually find I like cardigans. Lol they are me. And I like being an engineer too.

    So now I wear what I like, and it’s often a cardigan! . I am me the way I always wanted to be. I like my mini van. It’s comfortable and I can carry around my yoga stuff and a bunch of kids. I can drive the kids anywhere, any time, because I am sober!

    I won’t wear a cardigan to slayer. But I also don’t blend in, I often think it’s because I am happy. I have stillness and peace. That’s a valuable thing.

    Try it all! Find yourself. You might be surprised!


    Liked by 8 people

    1. Thanks, Anne! I’m pretty sure Slayer cancels out cardigan. Also, I think Banana Republic twinsets are pretty cool, as opposed to the prissy pink one with flowers I tried on this weekend. Normally, I would have bought it, but something made me rebel.

      And as an editor, I’ve worn an editor’s “uniform” for years — khakis and a cardigan. Since I stopped going into an office, I started dressing like what Oprah calls a shlumpadinka. (Google it if you want. It’s hilarious.) For example, right now I’m wearing sweatpants, a t-shirt, and a hoodie. All are grey. I did not put these on to exercise. Do you see the problem here?

      But you’re right, of course. It’s not what you’re wearing, it’s just giving yourself the opportunity to play. I can’t imagine me giving up my “comfortable” style too much, but I am feeling the need to break the mold entirely. I think a tattoo might do the trick. My mom will HATE it. But my daughter might think it’s kind of cool.

      OK, I’m going to spend some time googling Slayer videos. Thanks for the encouragement! 😀


      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ha ha ha. I have never heard that word. I am clearly out of the loop. I turned on Oprah when she bought into weight watchers and told us that there is a happy person inside every fat person, waiting to lose weight.
        But I do know what it’s like to wear the same sweats for days lol

        My first tattoo was sooo liberating.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Anne! My brother went to Igorrr. They are effing very strange and an effing creative metal band. I could even be into metal with them.
      And yes to the no cardigans to Slayer…. 🙂 I’m still on the same outfit I have been wearing for about 7 years now: jeans and a black t-shirt. I still feel it is the only one outfit that expresses my inner me. Not sure if that means simplicity and no frills or that I am utterly boring. 😀

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I laughed out loud at your “crazy shit” comment😂😂

    This post reminds me of our first conversation. Wait, our only conversation, ha ha! You were just on the verge of not giving a shit about people finding out about your crazy shit. We’ve come a long way, baby💕💪🏻🦋

    Liked by 1 person

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