I arrived in the heart of Napa Valley feeling fully committed to the pledge that I have made to my dry year. My destination, Yountville, is an absolute paradise. Really, it is perfection. The streets are full beautiful and seemingly happy people. (Literally every person I talked to was pleasant.) The natural beauty rivals anything I have seen: mountains, gardens and flowering trees everywhere. The homes are meticulously well kept and I had no sense of any sprawl or McMansion within the city limits. Oh yes, and then there is the ultimate dining experience that one can achieve at Bouchon, Ad hoc or The French Laundry.
Upon arrival, I parked the car and headed straight down Washington Street to find the French Laundry. Walking past shops and restaurants, there was at least one wine-tasting room on every block. By the time I reached the gardens at the French Laundry, I felt myself starting to vacillate. Refocusing my energies on the beauty of perfectly groomed rows of leeks and baby arugula amid the back drop of mountainous vineyards enabled me to get grounded and temporarily drop the inner struggle.
After a long visit with the chickens and a satisfying meditative rest on a garden bench, I set out to visit more of the town. I felt as if I had been set down in the middle of some strange and wonderful land. Being completely on my own (traveling solo) and feeling so far removed from any familiar surroundings, what came next surprised me. I began to indulge myself in considerations of drinking wine with dinner. I supposed, “I could have a drink here, in the middle of nowhere and no one would know except me—and God.”(And believe me God is definitely hanging out in Yountville.)
I must have pondered this indiscretion for a couple of minutes—long enough for me to develop a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. That is when I brokered a deal with myself making a promise to return after December 1st with Philip to indulge in the full wine and food experience. I began to feel right with myself again.
The passing notion of breaking the declaration of a year of sobriety and the subsequent vow to stick with the plan brought up an interesting question. If no one would know then what is it that really stopped me? Why did my gut feel so sick at the thought of this transgression? The answer is simple and yet at the moment it felt somewhat profound. It boils down to being truthful with the people who believe in me and truthful with myself. Looking back at this year, I would know that I failed in my mission and for the first time; I would have lied to my husband.
I know that there is some deeper reason why some people tell the truth and some do not. It is philosophical in nature and articulating it here seems impossible. But this experience of making a choice between giving in to my immediate desires and keeping my behavior “in check” touched on something that I cannot put into words.
As I was planning this trip, there was another scenario that could have played out while visiting wine paradise–issuing myself a “get out of jail free card” for one day. I considered this alternative approach for a while —informing my husband and my readers that I was going to permit myself the full dining adventure at Bouchon. After all, I have been waiting years to feast at a Thomas Keller restaurant and here I was finally having my big chance. Would you all judge me for this?
I ran this idea past a co-worker who reminded me that there would be no subject matter or point to this blog if I just issued a pass to myself. He was correct, of course. I was missing the whole point of this research. There are going to be times when this is really, really hard and I wish that I had not decided to take this on and that is a reason to stick with it. The root of this year-long committment is to observe, especially when I starting trying to wriggle my way out of it.