Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Middle of Me

I'm standing stock still amid throngs of people.   The DJ's music is blasting, women clad head to toe in sparkles whirl around me, laughing, clutching their drinks.

On the dance floor hundreds of people gyrate to the pulsing music.  I'm at Sparklecorn, a notoriously raucous party held on the second night of BlogHer.

I don't know how this celebration of frivolity has become a place where I experience epiphanies, but it has.  Last year at Sparklecorn I danced sober for the first time

This year my good friend and sober running-mate, Heather, is back in the room tending to her adorable two month old daughter, Elsie.  Heather's need to be with Elsie has kicked me out from under the safe protection of her wing, forced me to spread my own wings and try to fly solo.

I debated for a long time if I should even go to Sparklecorn.   I have always been someone who likes to be in the middle of everything, and I was puzzled that I didn't feel more of a compulsion to go.  My fear was that I would feel left out, other-than, sober and serious amongst all the party-goers.  I wasn't in a particularly fun mood.  I was tired from the time change, and my feet hurt from walking all day.  On some ancient level it felt cowardly not to try, so I squared my shoulders, donned a sparkly top, and set out for the party. 

I didn't know if I would be brave enough to enter the party alone, but thankfully I ran into some friends on the way over, and we walked in together. 

Somehow I become separated from my friends.  I find myself standing alone, on the outskirts of the dance floor, clutching my club soda and cranberry.

Here I am, experiencing one of my worst fears, I think.   I'm alone, sober, in a room full of people who seem so fluid, so relaxed, so lubricated. 

I wait for the fear, for that stomach-churning feeling that I am no longer fun, that I don't fit anymore, because I can't drink.

It doesn't come.

I sip my drink and observe the room, bopping my head slightly to the music.  Everywhere I look I see people I know, good bloggy friends, waving their arms over their heads and gyrating to the beat. 

Good for them, I think.  I'm so glad they are letting off steam, having fun. 

I realize I have a choice - if I want to be included, all I have to do was step into the circle and start dancing.  Nobody is shunning me, nobody is deliberately leaving me out. 

I'm tired, I think.  I want to go back to the room. 

I realize, with some surprise, that I really do want to go back to the room. I'm not running away.  I'm not fearful of missing out on something.  I don't need to be in the middle of anything.

I'm my own middle, I think with a smile.

This seems like such a small thing, but for me it is huge.  For so many years I searched  for the center of me outside of myself - in throngs of dancing people, from the validation I thought I received from other people accepting me, inviting me in.  My ticket to entry was a drink, or two, or five.  Alcohol greased the skids, propelled me into confidence, manufactured a feeling of belonging. 

I set down my drink and wander out of the party, onto an outdoor balcony under the stars.   I close my eyes and breathe in the cool night air.  

I am free, I think.  I am free of the self-centered fear of rejection. 

I don't have that nose-pressed-against-the-glass feeling anymore.  I don't know when it went away, but I am so very grateful it is gone.

Without looking back, the two of us - my middle and me - head back to the room.


  1. Just beautiful, Ellie. I know exactly the feelings you describe here, as well as the epiphany (which is new for me, too) that I can choose my own company, or to leave an event, as a proactive decision rather than in flight. xoxo

  2. Love you Ellie. So glad you are joyous, happy and free.

  3. I'm so glad you headed back to the room. While I was reading this I thought "Oh go back! It's better up there..."

    Good for you, you toughie! xoxo

  4. This is amazingly huge and wonderful. I have done many new and amazing things sober that I had no clue I would do or feel comfortable doing sober, that is a huge new step and I love the idea of being in your own middle, great, great post!!!

  5. I saw you. But I was too caught up in my anxiety to just come up and chat. Still pressed with my nose to the glass, then trotting my way back up to my room. My brief "hello, quick chitter chatter" with Heather and yourself was even a toughie.

    Love your soul and I read you All. The. Time. Coulda told you that in person, and all. Say thank you for sharing a piece of you with the world. But here I am. Saying thank you.

  6. This brings a huge smile to my face. :) Most excellent realization, Ms. Ellie!

  7. Wow, just wow. I was hoping for a happy post from you today and this one was excatly what I needed to hear. I often feel the need to be in the middle. And even when I am in the middle of something I often wonder if it the "right" middle, if there isn't a better middle I should be in.

    "I am my own middle" - I will remeber that phrase and hope I get there someday too.

  8. Ellie I am so thankful to have you in my life. I learn so much from you, and just love you and love being around you.

    You know what my motto on the dance floor is? You can do whatever the hell you want as long as you COMMIT yourself fully and unabashedly.

    That's exactly what you just did.

    BTW I don't think I'll be taking my downstream necklace off any time soon.

  9. Your decision-making capabilities grow stronger with each of these opportunities. Good for you; I hope you snuggled some with the two-month old baby-that’s where I’d’ve been all weekend long. I am still scared of a room full of grown-ups.

  10. Oh Ellie, This is just beautiful. Stunning. I too, am glad we are on this journey together.

  11. I love you and everything that you teach me.

  12. I don't know how I found your post today, but it is just beautiful and love the message of it. (And by the way, I love the jewelry in your ETSY shop I just discovered as well.) :)

  13. I love this part: "For so many years I searched for the center of me outside of myself..." I think everyone does this in some way and so we can all relate.

    I just love that you knew you would still be accepted no matter what and that you made a decision based on that, among other things.

    Am I making sense?

    Anyway, love this post and your writing and well, you. xo

  14. It's such a hard lesson to learn. I'm still learning it all the time but I felt as though I did pretty well about just listening to what I wanted to be doing not what I thought I was supposed to be doing. And one afternoon I realized I wasn't paying attention to the session I was in so I wandered into the Chill Out Suite (what was it called? no idea) and I got to meet you. So all in all I think it worked out pretty well.