I’ve never been much for New Year’s resolutions. I see that whole year stretching ahead of me and think: Probably not.
Then, last year I read about Drynuary, an idea embraced by slate.com columnists and several British health groups. It’s simple: Give up booze for the month of January.
Of course, by the time I read about it, the first week of January had passed and I’d continued to have my daily glass of wine. I’ve been a wine drinker my entire adult life and it is the vice I find the most difficult to give up. So, I decided to commit instead to Sobruary. I wouldn’t drink for the month of February.
I knew I’d be more likely to stick to the plan if I had company and accountability. So I created a private Facebook group and invited my 800 Facebook friends to join me. Six did, three of whom lived in the Triangle.
For the next month, we posted our successes and lapses— no one made it the entire month without a drink. Four of us had a glass of wine on Valentine’s Day and another lost her job in the third week and went out for consolatory drinks with friends. We all did manage to abstain for most of the month. Three of us promised to do it again this year.
Over the next 10 months, I thought about what I liked about Sobruary. I liked the smallness of it, the doable demand. I liked the honesty of the discussion in the posts and the supportiveness the group members offered each other. I liked that, with the exception of two days, I did indeed give up alcohol.
In December, I put up a new challenge on Facebook. I call it A Year of Small Change. In 2016, each month, those in this group would take on a self-improvement challenge. This time, I had 16 people join, all women, half of whom live here. This first month we are doing Joy in January. The intention is to write down, each day, a thing that brought us joy. Some do so on the Facebook page, others privately.
Our joys are profound — Etta’s son and daughter-in-law asked her to be at the birth of her first grandchild — and mundane — Susan savored “the pumpkin cornbread at Acme.” Laura, who just finished a course of radiation for breast cancer, wrote one day of the “special joy of hearing a large flock of geese high overhead in the early night sky.” Emily was grateful for “spending a few hours with a close friend I hadn't seen in a while. One of those friends you don't have to clean your house for.”
Is this making me more joyful?
Yes, although not for the reason I’d planned. I am, maybe, a bit more cognizant of the pleasures in my life. It’s possible that without this challenge, I wouldn’t have taken the time to be happy that our middle son cleaned up his room and bathroom before heading back to college. But what is really working for me is seeing all this, well, joy. Every night, I pull up the A Year of Small Change page and read 10 or so posts about comfort and cheer. These shared snippets are an antidote to the fear and sorrow I also see in my world. They remind me to hope.
In February, we will embrace Sobruary. After that, it’s March Mindfulness, then Active April. That’s as far ahead as we’ve planned. I plan to keep writing down my daily found joys. I hope the other group members do too. It’s a presidential election year; 334 extra days of large and small felicities would be a welcome gift.
Dabney Grinnan has lived in Chapel Hill for 25 years. She may be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DabneyGrinnan.