Saturday, 28 February 2015

A Man Walks into a Cafe....

It sounds like the beginning of joke.  A man walks into a cafe and....
but the punchline isn't punchy.  I look at the man as I sip my coffee and grin to myself as I think "aha, you are a lumbersexual".  What the heck is a lumbersexual?  I would have asked that same question about a week ago but I read so I am wise.  There are many of them where I live so I don't know if it is easy to tell which are deliberate and which are just a case of dressing for your environment.  After all I live in the land of normcore too but I doubt any of them are doing it ironically or as a statement.  Many people in my part of the world dress like they are about to go on a hike or tree planting or like they have just come back from such activities.  Tree planters are an extreme though, and real ones are generally only seen in the summer.  Loggers and fishers (yes that is the new gender neutral term) abound here and I am sure their clothing choices are largely practical.  Then there are the environmental types.  This is a variant of hippie and I have been a borderline environmental type myself.  My ex husband has such leanings and I was going in that direction too though my illness made hiking and camping and saving the creek activities I could not sustain so there is no need for me to shop at Mountain Equipment Co-op though still like their non-hiking hippie environmentally aware person clothes from brands such as Timberland and Patagonia. Oh my goodness that was a bloody long run-on sentence.  I think I will leave it just like that and call it an artistic statement.

 Oh how I want these boots.

                             Timberland  Earthkeeper's Boot  Source

                              I'm always going to be a sucker for a hemp dress.

Now back to those men!

Tree planters might look like this, and when they come into town they don't look much differently.


Fishers might look like this and there are plenty of commercial fishers living here.  These guys are further north, up the coast in Alaska.

Loggers might look like this.


All of these men are now style inspiration.

The idea of the lumbersexual uniform is a form of male dress (and forgive me if I am leaving out the female form of it, which I have no doubt exists but I am uncertain if the same term is used) that is meant to suggest rugged manliness even if the man is more of a computer wrangler than a salmon wrangler.  More likely to grow dahlias than to cut down trees,  he may or may not have employment which requires different dress of him, but on his own time at least, he tends to favour hiking boots or work boots, high tech materials known to wick away sweat or trap in body heat, and if he is really slumming it, grey woolen socks and a tartan jacket are likely attire.  When I was growing up, these jackets, known at least here as a Mac Jacket which is apparently short for Mackinaw, were the preferred attire of the rough kids.  


These jackets were available for purchase at any work wear store but it seemed to be best to get your hands on an old one and then to cut it up.  Girls liked to wear theirs cropped.  For summer attire boys cut the sleeves off.

Excerpt and photo below from

"Today, the metrosexual is a disappearing breed being quickly replaced by men more concerned with existing in the outdoors, or the pseudo-outdoors, than meticulous grooming habits.
He is bar-hopping, but he looks like he could fell a Norway Pine.

He looks like a man of the woods, but works at The Nerdery, programming for a healthy salary and benefits. His backpack carries a MacBook Air, but looks like it should carry a lumberjack’s axe."

And where I live he may or may not wield an axe at least on weekends but every self respecting axe wielder knows you don't put them in a backpack!    And speaking of weekends, I hope yours is a good one.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Good Day Sunshine

I don't care how 'in' or classic or French dark denim is declared to be, I have a preference for faded denim.  I have been known to deliberately fade newly purchased denim that is dark.  I don't like the trend where denim is deliberately made to look not only faded but also dirty.  I don't wear my gardening jeans as a fashion statement and I confess I have yet to embrace the ripped, torn and distressed denim as well.  I just like it soft, worn in and faded.  Preferably high waisted bell bottoms too.  Can we tell what era I grew up in?  The higher waist has yet to trickle down to lower end jeans available in my small town and although I am not looking for something above the belly button, because I am long in the torso, a high waisted pant will sit in just the right spot for me.  Remember how about fifteen years ago a higher waist was declared revoltingly unflattering by the bossy fashiony people?  Now it is delightfully leg lengthening.  They make themselves look such idiots when they rush to praise the latest trend and trash the passing one.  Ballet flats and leggings may have been declared so over, but I see women quite loathed to give them up.  I am one of them.  I don't care what is in, I only care about what I like, though what is in or out dictates greatly what I can find.

So it was a denim day today and I am sharing with you a photo that perfectly illustrates how to make your legs look shorter.  Just get that camera angled downwards a bit too much et voila!  Short, dumpy legs.

 I read that matching shoes and bag is so yesterday which meant I immediately wanted to do it.  The fact that they match has more to do with my taste in colours than in any planning.

It's not very visible in this rather blurry photo but on the scarf is a flower which I made from a sock and added by sewing it onto the seam of the infinity scarf. If I had any skills I would make a neat little arrow pointing to it.  I have few skills but I am really good at making rosettes from socks.

I have been alternating between crashing in bed for a day or two, and managing to get up and shower and dress on some days.  I have even had a few minor outings such as lunch with my parents or a trip to the grocery store.  I know it is an exciting life I lead and this is lifestyle inspiration blogging at it's finest.

Here are a couple of outfits I tried for those outings.  I have discovered that I love this blue skirt as an underskirt and wish I had three of them.  It makes all my cotton dresses comfortable for winter. I wore this purple dress and blue skirt twice this month!  It's a favourite.

This outfit was a bit of a miss but it has potential.  I had tried on a few things and after awhile I just had to go so as not to be late so this one had to do.  I feel that the turquoise dress is a bit too bright as all the other colours are muted tones and I would have liked to pin it up so as to better show the brown skirt underneath. 

 Since I am essentially doing a summary of February here, not including photos of me in pyjamas and in bed, I will add a painting-not quite finished but nearly there and lots of cat pictures.

              Matty-Mouse and I are wishing all of you a little patch of sunshine.

Linking up to Visible Monday with Patti

Sunday, 22 February 2015

In My Head, It's Only In My Head

I have a busy brain and one of the more challenging things for me to do is to meditate.  In fact, concentrating on only one thing is a great enough challenge, never mind letting all thoughts go.  My brain is a border collie, rounding up thoughts, nonsense, anything that seems to be going astray and should be neatly corralled instead, packed into the dense herd of all my other thoughts, all the snippets of songs, ideas, overheard conversations and philosophical thoughts that refuse to leave me.  Many of my thoughts get repeated over and over the way a slightly damaged vinyl record might have way back in the dark ages when I was young.  If this is inevitable, I prefer them to at least be interesting thoughts.  I prefer them to be things I can somehow deal with by writing them down.  If my brain is the border collie, then writing is its master.

I was making myself a meal.  One of my latest regular meals is poached eggs atop some ham and cheese I have melted together under the broiler.  I cracked three eggs into a small saucepan and since my brain is often narrating my activities it said to me, "three eggs."  Then it said, "three little eggs" and then it got really fancy and said "three little eggs from school" and sang the words.  This was fun.  This needed repeating.  Three little eggs from school, three little eggs from school, three little eggs from didn't take too long before I was tired of that but would brain stop?  No of course not.  Master had to signal to the dog, change it up.  "Three little maids from school, three little maids from school"  This time it is sung in an accent that sounds like Anna from Downton Abbey with particular emphasis on the way she would say 'maids'.   The meal was ready, the tea was poured and I sat down to eat.  Anna, still singing in my head that same refrain, "three little maayhhds from school"  I looked at my plate, took a sip of tea and the song changed, now a chorus of Von Trapp children singing "tea with ham and eggs, ham and eggs.  Tea with ham, ham and eggs."  I eat, I wonder vaguely when my brain is going to shut up or at least come up with something more interesting.  I didn't get much sleep last night so I suppose I must be charitable.  I must forgive my brain for being so uninspired.

I try to think of other things.  I think of the sweet little cat who has just come to live with me this weekend.   She is an older cat.  She is twelve and has lived her whole life with my ex husband's step daughter.  Changes in circumstances lead to her needing a new home.  Changes in my circumstances lead to my missing a little furry bundle of love.  It was meant to be.  Her name is Matty.  I already love her.  How can I not?  She is small and sweet and purrs like a jet engine.  She comes to me tomorrow and I am certain that snuggling Matty will be like meditation, will calm down my brain, will probably help me stop petting my son's leg every time I see him.  That sounds so much worse than it is, actually.

Matty and I need each other. We can sit together and think deep thoughts, as everyone knows all cats do.

Friday, 13 February 2015

A New Desk

I have been searching for a table or desk of about this size for a long time,  years essentially, though even more determinedly since I moved to this location.  I had my heart set on something old, a second hand find in part because I simply prefer older furniture, but also because I did not want anything precious but I did want solid wood.  I found this desk, solid wood though not fancy, marked down to nearly half price in a local furniture store that is downsizing and moving.  Other than not being old it was what I had been looking for and gives me twice the surface area that my previous table did.  In my opinion it is furniture of quality materials that looks best when it develops the patina of age and use and heavy use is the destiny of this desk.  This is my painting spot.  This is where I do all artsy craftsy, doodling, things and now this is also a good place to write.  There is my easel in the corner but sometimes I work on a flat surface.  I will probably initially protect the surface with butcher paper but in time this desk is going to look well used.  It already comes with a bit of faux distressing, which normally I am not fond of but in this case will make it a bit easier for me to inflict my own first marks in much the same way I had expected a second hand piece would.  In many ways I look forward to the day when it is well distressed by my own hand.  I have bought this desk to be used, enjoyed and well loved, not to hand down to my heirs in pristine condition.

This photo was taken about fifteen minutes after the desk was delivered.  I was so excited and happy, so there is not a lot of styling going on here but an attempt to set myself up for immediate use.  I am sitting at the desk now as I write this.  As you can see I do not have a fancy chair, but one of a set purchased second hand and of which the other three are in storage.  They exist in case I ever get the urge to feed dinner to more than myself and thus need to actually seat people around my table.  Normally I just find the chairs to be in the way and I am inclined to partake of my own meals while sitting on the sofa.  Now perhaps, I will be eating at my desk, enjoying the view.  Anyhow, here is the one chair, metal, painted white and with white vinyl padded seats I always assumed I would change.  Vinyl seats make me sweat but they are at least washable and relatively paint-proof.  The chair is not ergo-dynamic nor is it even particularly comfortable for long periods of time but then for me, few chairs are.  I have difficulty sitting upright and like an infant just learning to sit, given a short period of time I begin to slump.

As a child I had excellent posture, enhanced, no doubt by years of ballet lessons.  By the time I was in my twenties, I was beginning to be told by people not to slouch and was highly offended by this.  I didn't know I was slouching, I did not see myself as a slouching person, and what I also didn't know at the time was that I was already struggling with CFS/ME and that the simple act of attempting to hold myself upright was exhausting and I was losing my ability to do so.  It did not matter how much I worked out and strengthened my core muscles, in time I found that the demands placed on me by the general upright world, were too fatiguing and my exhausted body could not always engage the muscles it had.  I could not stand for any length of time, though moving around, walking was easier to sustain than actually standing.  After half an hour of standing I would be nearly in tears and ready to sit or lie down on the ground.  But even sitting in a chair became difficult.  I slouch in a chair too.  If it is a soft chair or a sofa, I look merely like I am louche and lounging, though my slumped posture is simply the best I can manage.  If I am forced into a situation more formal, if others are present or I need to make an impression, I will make super-human efforts and I will succeed but at a cost.  It takes adrenaline reserves to sit upright for long and this is in part why even an outing to a cafe leaves me exhausted the next day.

So all of that means I will have difficulty sitting at my desk for long periods of time, but my particular manifestation of CFS/ME is a waxing and waning one.  My condition varies not only from day to day, week to week, month to month and year to year, but even on a daily basis it varies from hour to hour.  I believe this is partly because I have been living with it for so long and have learned to pace myself enough not to have major bedridden- for- months types of relapses too often.  In thirty years of living with it I have definitely cycled through relapses and remissions many times, but to some degree I have learned how to play the game.  As I sit here at my desk I am beginning to slump.  It is probably hard on my back but I don't have much choice.  Even a special support chair would still require me to use some of my own muscles to hold myself up and eventually those muscles would get tired.  But there is nobody here to point out my unlady-like slumping, my unattractive slouching.  Nobody to shame me for something I cannot help and no need for me to explain myself as my back begins to take on a C curve.  I can lean on my desk.  Later I will do some gentle stretches and attempt to bend myself back in the other direction.  I have to do the same thing every morning when I wake up, as gradually over the night my body has begun to curl in on itself like a sensitive fern does when touched.

I'm off to do some downward dog.  Have a lovely weekend everyone.  If you have any tolerance at all for my first draft fiction writing, you can now find all 15 chapters written to date linked at the top right in my sidebar.  My process is currently about working out plot and characters, with the writing being absolutely first draft and unrefined.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Cafe Musings

I am sitting in the cafe again, having forgotten how hot it gets in here and being bundled for the outside weather.  I could have forgone the tights with the denim skirt and the tee shirt underneath my thick cotton sweater.  I should have worn a summer dress under my big wooly coat but it wasn't warm enough at home for such an outfit.  Oh the challenges of my life!  It is Family Day, a relatively new statutory holiday in this province.  I don't know if the same holiday extends across the country but here it means about half the shops downtown are closed and people not sure what to do on this rainy day have come to the cafe, children in tow, sometimes the grandparents too.  I usually don't feel too guilty sitting here taking up a table for a few hours but that might be different today.

I am not only an observer, but a shameless eavesdropper.  Insatiable curiosity and interest in daily life makes these snippets of other people's lives endlessly interesting to me.  In many ways it is those words and actions that remind me how alike we all our.  How we say all of the same things to each other, how our body language, our movements and actions and gestures, tell a story.  Although Canada is a very multicultural country my small town is still very white, very middle class, very much a small town culture.  Travel to other cultures is not readily available to me.  As much as I enjoy being a student of human nature I really only get to study my peers.  I am a stay at home amateur anthropologist, but I suspect that there are many aspects of human nature that transcend culture, and perhaps they are even more apparent as the modern world increasingly shrinks.

Right now it feels like the cafe is shrinking.  There are three times more people in here than usual when I come on a Monday, all of them shedding damp coats, draping them over the backs of their chairs, adding to the visual bulk in the room.  I want to be happy for the cafe owner.  It is good to see her business doing well.  I am also put out at the invasion of what I think of as my own space.  Yes, you can tell I do not live in a city.  I am not used to crowds though I don't mind them as much when I have chosen them.  This one feels imposed on me.  Add the crowd to my being overheated and I am not as relaxed as I might be.  

Harry Stiles just walked in.  Perhaps the Boy Band is performing in Courtenay on a rainy weekend.  Waldo is over in the far corner in case any of you are wondering where Waldo is. If any of my British friends have lost Wally, he is here too.  In fact, he probably hitched a ride with Harry.  Someone has left behind her purse but a patron pointed it out to the owner and the purse has been rescued.  I am feeling rising panic on the purse owners behalf. Where is she?  Is she desperately trying to figure out where she has been today?  I waited for the crowd at the counter to die down before ordering my sandwich.  They have to make me a gluten free one which takes them away from the pre-made sandwiches at the counter.  I don't want to make the people in line angry with me.  I had a large coffee and a cookie when I arrived, forgetting that I had not eaten lunch and so now I have shaking hands.  If I am going to perform well during my scrabble date, I will need some food.  I'd take a photo but I am too busy eating my sandwich.


I have already shown you my cafe outfit-two posts ago.  Following this logic I will show you a dress I wore about a week ago when I went to dinner with my parents to celebrate their anniversary.   It was a bad hair day, and rest assured that after I took theses photos I fixed the hair as much as possible.

This is a dress over a skirt and I think there is a tee shirt layered under it too.  The dress features velvet and embroidery, two of my favourite things and both the skirt and dress are thrifted.  The bag was made by me ex-mother-in-law and the boots are a Christmas gift.  I added a navy cardigan with some fringe, which you can't really see in this photo, and had several fringe accidents.  The fringe is in loops, which I had better cut.  I constantly caught the loops on things and got myself tangled.  I required rescuing a few times.  Thanks very much to my lovely son for that!  We had a very nice pub dinner and then I came home around eight pm and crashed into bed.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

New Label, Same Thing

The Institute of Medicine, an American group, wants to rename CFS/ME and have declared it to be a real illness, a disease that needs serious attention.  Perhaps the most astounding thing is that there actually was a need for them to declare that patients need to be believed and not told that it is all in their heads.  The Americans are a bit late to the party, with Canada, Australia and the UK having done studies and complied reports some time ago, so to have American authorities suddenly declaring this a real and legitimate thing can be somewhat annoying but I will look past that and focus on the good news.  The US is big, loud and has money.  Does anybody know that better than Canada, their neighbour and cousin?  Now that American doctors are being urged to recognise, diagnose and support people with CFS/ME perhaps soon to be known as SEID (Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease), perhaps now money will be put towards studying it and finding the cause and some day a cure.  At this point, if like me you are lucky enough to have knowledgeable doctors who can at least diagnose it and know it is not a psychological condition, you may or may not have experimented with various potential treatments.

There is disagreement amongst the experts, and there are too few experts in the illness, as to what treatments work best and desperate patients are at risk of at best spending money on treatments that may work for a short period of time and then stop working, or of finding some treatments that address some of the symptoms some of the time.  Although their numbers are diminishing, there are still some who condone the idea of graded exercise as a treatment but it comes with great risks.  The very nature of the illness is that exertion of any kind, physical, cognitive or emotional, puts too much stress on the body.  More than it does to a person who does not have the disease.  One of the defining symptoms is that the person with the disease is no longer able to perform physical tasks that were once easy.  The person with the disease is not able to perform tasks without experiencing profound exhaustion that is not relieved by rest.

Having lived with this disease for most of my life, I know that graded exercise does not work.  When I am in a remission stage I can perform physically, and I can even push myself to do things such as take up a vigorous sport and my ability may last a few months or even a few years if I am not pushing too hard.  Then I will crash.  I have yet to meet any exercise therapist who understands the limits and even as the afflicted person it can be very difficult to know where your own limits are.  What you can do today and tomorrow you may or may not be able to do next week.  Exercise professionals all want to take you to the next level.  Oh you can do a walk around the block comfortably now, okay you will now go round the block twice.  This is what graded exercise is, steadily doing more.  This is how you train a normal, healthy person to get fit.  This is not what you do with someone who has CFS/ME or SEID as we may eventually be calling it.  At some point this graded exercise will only result in a relapse unless the patient finds the point at which he/she is not being overtaxed and can maintain the activity level.  A maintained  activity level is not graded exercise.  I have been trying to find my maintainable level for the past thirty years.  I do not yet know what it is. I have so far, been wrong every time.

There are the vitamin pushers, the special diet enthusiasts, the oil pulling, alkaline water drinking, acupuncture enthusiasts who believe these will cure all diseases and I have had them all urged on me by well meaning people.  I have people praying to their god or goddess for me and encountered people who say to me, 'Oh yeah, I am really tired too. It must be nice not to have to work.'  If I really want to, I can find people on the internet who think I would be cured if someone just made me toughen up and stop whining.   Sadly, that is not the case and if not for my culture, time period and family, I would not be here.  I would not have survived life, not being among the fittest.  There is much I can be thankful for, despite my not believing there is a deity to thank.  Tonight I am mostly thankful that our big, loud, wealthy cousin to the south is finally getting onto this illness.  It's time for consistent diagnoses, treatment, and just plain understanding and acceptance of the disease.  It's bad enough living with it.  There is no longer any excuse for patients to be told it is all in their heads and have to deal with disbelief from family, friends, co-workers and the medical community.  Nobody who knows me can watch me and not know that my illness is real, but I am fortunate and grateful to have had medical support all along too.  Everyone with this illness should be so fortunate.

There are news reports all over the internet at this point.  Here are a few links.

 Excerpts from this site-   -had me nodding my head.

...Most people with ME/CFS suffer from extreme exhaustion, made worse by even mild physical or mental effort. After a crash, known as postexertional malaise, recovery may take days or weeks, and sleep brings no relief. These symptoms are recognized as key defining characteristics of the disease, according to the new criteria. Problems with speaking, thinking and remembering, known as cognitive impairments, are also widespread among patients.
Some sufferers have good days and bad days; others are confined to bed for months or years. Many people with the disease experience severe headaches, muscle pain and sensitivity to light and noise.
“It really is a hidden illness,” said Troph. “A tricky point is that people tend to see you when you're feeling your best. When you're feeling crummy, you're hopefully home in bed.”...

And this bit succinctly states what my first reaction was when my dad called me to tell me of the news report on the committee findings.

...In a 2013 open letter to Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services at the time, dozens of experts signed a letter stating that groups like the IOM “lack the needed expertise to develop ‘clinical diagnostic criteria’ for ME/CFS,” adding that “this effort is unnecessary and would waste scarce taxpayer funds that would be much better directed toward funding research on this disease.” They argued that a set of criteria known as the Canadian consensus criteria already give an accurate description of the disease.

Still,  as I said at the beginning of this post, if the US is going to start making noise about this disease and that leads to better understanding, funding for treatments and perhaps some day a cure, then I won't complain too much about the IOM being a bit late to the party.  A little bit.  Maybe even twice.  But mostly I am hopeful.  When you live with CFS/ME you have to be.

Endless Guilt and Exaggeration

I admit I am prone to a bit of hyperbole at times, and apparently I recently described my feelings over my wardrobe as involving endless guilt.  There is certainly a grain of truth in that and probably more than one grain, nevertheless I do allow myself a bit of poetic license.  Still, with some people responding to my feelings about clothing by telling me that they find clothing fun, a creative outlet or a form of entertainment, I am realising that for the most part I don't.  What I would like is a life sized Barbie.  A dress form would do.  I enjoy making outfits, I do enjoy the creativity of putting things together, but often I do not actually wish to wear them.  Enjoying this process, playing with clothing while it is on the hanger or coming home from the thrift shop with a great find, is not translating well into my daily choices.  I am an over-thinker and the more clothing I have the more it encourages my over-thinking.  I thought it would be the other way around.  I thought lots of options would make getting dressed easy or fun but for me, it doesn't.

Of course, that is in part because of some of my admittedly weird ideas.  Ideas I cannot seem to shake.  A full closet looks cluttered to me.  Clothing that goes unworn for months at a time, unless it is really out of season, bothers me as though it is my neglected child or pet or I am somehow a failure for not wearing it.  No, I don't think I need therapy for that.  I have a blog.  I have blogging friends who can say to me, Shawna you are a bit strange but it's okay.  In this way I will get on with things.  I will leave you with an outfit photo and now I must go and hit the booze because my neighbour is massacring good songs over and over and over, hitting only every fifth note accurately, and I might as well pretend I am at a karaoke bar.  And that, my friends, is NO exaggeration.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, I present a cafe outfit.  The cafe post comes later because putting the words and pictures that belong together in the same post, well that is for normal people!

                                     Featuring The Joni Scarf

The boots I am wearing are black.  I have gotten rid of black clothing but still have a few items, boots and shoes, which I love and happen to be black.  I will keep them until they are eventually replaced with something similar but not black.  I often wear dark brown and it can be indistinguishable from black in the photos.  That's kind of irrelevant but I just thought I'd add it.

hat, skirt, sweater-thrifted
boots, bag-retail

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Sunday, Blogging Day

It's Sunday and currently this is the day I try to get caught up in reading blogs and choose which of my many pre-written ramblings I might post, or perhaps I will ramble afresh.  I am eating an enormous vat of ice cream right now, having embarked on a new strategy.  At least half of my fall/winter skirts need taking in and I just don't see myself doing it nor do I ever get around to taking them to a tailor.  If I eat this vat of ice cream the problem may be solved and the skirts will fit.  Speaking of fit, I cannot seem to decide what I want to wear today and keep putting on perfectly nice outfits and taking them off again.  It's cold and stormy, so I don't know why that inspired me to eat ice cream.  Actually it didn't inspire me, it's just that I made the mistake of buying ice cream and I am a sugar addict.  If it is around I will eat it.  That's why I don't usually keep it around.  But let's get back to the clothing.  I have tried on three different skirts, pairing them with sweaters and earrings and scarves and boots and all of the outfits were pleasing to my eye but none felt like something I wanted to wear today.   I ended up in my jeans.

It annoys me when this happens.  It annoys me that I like wearing jeans because jeans are boring.  If I go shopping I buy skirts, I don't buy jeans.  I hate shopping for jeans nearly as much as I hate shopping for bras.  Skirts and dresses are pretty and attract me immediately but for sitting around at home all day, which is what I mostly do, it's just the jeans I usually want, with wooly socks and a thick sweater.  Inevitably, after putting on three different skirt outfits and finally ending up in jeans, I question my wardrobe choices.  Why do I have a huge closet full of skirts and dresses, far more of them than I have jeans, when I don't wear them all of the time?  Should it not be the other way around?  Should I not have ten pairs of jeans and two or three skirts?  Why am I so fixated on my clothing, and what I have and think I should not have, in comparison to other things.  Do I ever worry about having too many towels or not enough dish cloths or way too many books?  No, I don't worry about those things at all. 

It has something to do with personal adornment, I'm sure of it.  I am trying but I have not yet let go of the idea that caring too much about personal adornment, having too many options, is somehow a bad thing and makes me a bad person.  I do get the urge to simplify in other areas of my life and make regular attempts to purge, though I must admit I still have plenty of things I hardly ever use.  I am well prepared for more than just my regular daily life in so many other ways.  If I suddenly had to cook Christmas dinner for 20 people I could do it easily.  I have far more kitchen appliances, utensils, serving crockery and wine glasses or coffee mugs than I actually need and in addition to those I have pieces that are decorative only.  Why is it that I feel very little guilt and confusion about that but endless guilt and confusion about my wardrobe?  Every time I think I have conquered those feelings they eventually come back.  I wonder if there is something I am not hearing.  Could I possibly be trying to tell myself not that I have too much but that I want less? 

The only difference I can find in the daily approach to my wardrobe that is not the same as all of the other possessions I have in plenty, is the the fact that daily decisions are involved.  I have to get dressed, or usually I do get dressed, every day, choosing clothing appropriate for the weather, the plans of the day, my mood and my desired comfort level.  It is certainly nice to have choice, but the alternative is that too much choice can be overwhelming.  I have been blogging for roughly a year and in that time, I have learned some things about my clothing choices and perhaps what interests me most is the areas where I am ambiguous.

1.  I care about looking nice, but comfort comes first as does clothing suited to a day spent writing or painting.  I know what I like, but I am perhaps not completely adjusted to the realities of my daily life and still instinctively choosing a teacher wardrobe.

2.  I am neither a minimalist nor a maximalist and this seems to tie in with comfort.  I like the look of maximalism but often find myself uncomfortable with it.  It's all relative though and I usually have on more layers, more jewelery and fancier boots than my peers.

3.  I am too inclined to purchase what is just good enough because I have been scared that if I hold out for only what I love in top quality I would hardly have any clothes or I would end up only wearing jeans and sweaters.

4.  I am addicted to shopping in thrift shops and probably shop for entertainment purposes.  That's not good when the available selection is not high quality.

5.  I care less about what I wear than I did when I began examining it all a year ago.  I have other creative outlets and do not need to express my creativity in clothing daily.

I have listed these lessons in the order which I actually admitted them to myself and in that sense, I think they are listed in increasing importance.  Following all of this reflection I have made a plan.  I am going to take everything but my jeans and casual tops and put it all into the closet in the spare bedroom.  If I want an item it comes out and after the first wearing it goes into my main closet with the hanger backwards.  If I wear it again in the next couple of months it stays and the hanger goes right way round.  I need to stay out of thrift shops for awhile, consignment shops are a treat for once a month only and anything I buy has to be a wow item, something that feels like it is really  me and an amazing find.  I will ask myself if I would consider paying full price for it.

This plan is not going to be easy but I feel excited about it.  I have written it here to help myself stick to it.  Wish me luck!

This leather and faux fur vest was a recent purchase at a consignment shop.  I wear it often and find it practical as well as enjoying its style. It works with everything and here it is going grocery shopping with a comfortable pair of jeans and a sweater, and some other favourite thrifting finds, the scarf and the boots.  Denim and brown is always one of my favourites.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Living Dangerously

I like to take risks.  I have three identical containers each holding either dishwasher detergent, sugar or salt, side by side on the counter, right at the spot where I make tea and coffee.  Given that I frequently catch myself about to put the cream away in the cupboard, this arrangement of white powders is quite dangerous.  I am quite worried that I may have given my cleaning woman a coffee with salt in it last week, but keep telling myself she would have said something.  Living with a neurological illness which I have had most of my life, I do not always know where my personality ends and damage begins.  I can be very graceful if I think about it and took years of ballet and other dance lessons as a child, but since I am usually not thinking about it I tend to be more accident prone.  I fall.  I bump into things.  I am the one who hits the table leg with her own leg as she sits down and makes the table shake and spills everyone's drinks.  I cannot navigate my way through a doorway properly.  I believe this is because my head is elsewhere, my thoughts are miles away and not on what my body is doing.  Sometimes my thoughts are not on what my hands are doing and this could lead to salt in the tea.

There are many ways of being, ways which are technically considered syndromes or disorders and which are difficult to sort out from personality.  Some people balk at labels, insisting that we are all our own unique selves and should be loved and accepted, which I would certainly agree with.  Others say oh just be you and get on with things, which is a perspective that has its merits also.  But both miss the point a little bit.  When behaviours interfere with daily living so as to make an individual struggle, when they stand out and cause some sorts of discrimination or teasing, the result is pain, and if they put the person at risk of harm whether emotional or physical, then they need addressing.  This is when it helps to label things.  To identify and give a name to something allows ownership of it and ownership is power.  We so often associate labels with a negative perspective but that only comes about if we view the behaviour as negative.  I have no objection at all to attaching many labels to myself.  In fact, I would argue that I am a complex person and am covered in labels.  I add new ones and some fall off.  Some, like the label 'wife' are ripped off quickly so as to cause less hurt, just the way a parent quickly removes a bandage from her child's knee.

For some people, some labels bring them shame and they do not wish to associate with them.  It is their choice, though it may be medically necessary for a doctor or family members to recognise a label,  so they can offer appropriate support, yet it is needing this very support that can lead to people rejecting labels.  If we live in a western culture we are encouraged to be individuals, to be unique, to be ourselves, to take pride in that.  We want to be unlabelable.   We do not want to ask for help; that is a sign of weakness. To need support, the support that may come more easily if one has a label, is to be the weak member of the herd and the lion is going to get you.  I think this is all a bunch of bullshit but it's a pervasive attitude.  Empires are built on it.  Empires all eventually fall though.

Among my many labels, particularly the ones that could be classed as a disorder or syndrome is a mild version of Tourette's Syndrome.  My son was diagnosed with it when he was a child and it is a hereditary condition.  The psychiatrist asked me, "Which parent does he inherit it from?"  I answered that I did not know and she replied "I think it's you.  I have been watching you."  I was not offended but fascinated.  Suddenly so many things made sense.  Tourette's is on a spectrum as so many things are.  We all have a tic or two but it is a particular type of collection of them that makes Tourette's Sydnrome.  Popular media likes to portray the shocking version of it with an individual who cannot control swearing, potty language or otherwise inappropriate comments.  This is the extreme end of the Tourette's scale and neither my son norf I do that, which does indeed make us more socially acceptable.  Some people with Tourette's have tics which cause them physical harm or pain.  It is only for these extreme cases that people are likely to use medication to stop the tics.  The rest of us with a mild to moderate collection of them just get on with things but having the label helps enormously with self acceptance.

Both my son and I have tics centred on our mouths.  An overwhelming need to move lips in a certain way.  I will mention here that tics are not a habit that can be broken but are often treated that way by people who do not understand and children often suffer the nagging and lack of acceptance from parents who cannot understand why their child persists in muttering under his breath, making certain noises, or flicking the tip of his nose.  Before his father understood the tics, my son was always being told to stop doing this or that as it was a bad habit or it looked weird.  He said the same sorts of things to me.  I was told that I looked like a crazy person because I was out in the garden moving my lips.  When I get a song stuck in my head I move my lips silently, mouthing the lyrics.  I also silently mouth imaginary conversations, but the silence was my own adaptation to being outside where a neighbour might hear.  When I am alone and believe myself unheard, I speak these conversations out loud.  I am not crazy.  This is what a tic is.  The words and thoughts fully formed in a conversation exist in my head and must come out and my lips need to feel the movement of speaking.  This is akin to needing to sneeze or scratch an itch.  Often I press my lips together very firmly.  There is a need to press despite my knowing it looks a bit odd.  My son had pressing needs too.  For years he had the sensation that his toes were falling off and he had to push them back on constantly as he walked.  Tics can change, come and go and alter over the years.  Thankfully he no longer has the toe falling off tic.  The sensations are so strong a small child believes they are real.  Before he was diagnosed and I understood more about Tourette's, my son would tell me that he had to rearrange his mouth and put his lips back in the right spot on a regular basis.  For my son and I, most of our tics go unnoticed by people.  They are small and private enough that maybe only one or two are visible and as I stated earlier, most people do have a tic of some sort.  We look 'normal' even if we secretly are performing little motions and sounds our brains are compelling us to do.  A label was enormously helpful in guiding my ex husband to better understand and accept our son's tic behaviours and to stop shaming him by trying to correct his behaviour.  It didn't seem to prevent him from being embarrassed by me though.

Understanding tic disorders and Tourette's through personal experience allowed me to better support a few students who turned out to have it, and in particular to help their parents understand it.  One mother was more inclined to be like my husband was and really struggled with grasping the idea of her son not having control over the tics without great cost.  An individual can suppress some tics but it is enormously draining of physical, mental and cognitive energy.  My son tended to suppress many of his tics while at school and would then come home and explode with them.  He had a wonderful group of friends who were completely accepting and I remember them sitting around the table together eating a snack and chatting lively, goofing around and being silly and Duncan's tics were all just part of it.  He was not ashamed of them and sometimes the boys even tried them out for themselves, almost making them cool.

While the tics involved in Tourette's can be mistaken for bad habits, Attention Deficit Disorder can look even more like a defective personality.  It too tends to be inherited and it is not uncommon for children diagnosed with it to have a parent who struggled with not being diagnosed at all and blamed or punished for  bad behaviour.  There is probably an epidemic of over-diagnosing in the United States, and children medicated for hyper-activity when other issues are actually involved, but I am not addressing that here.  This is a personal story and in this case it is the non-hyper variant of attention deficit that is the issue.  It is less readily diagnosed and my son struggled with it and remained undiagnosed during his school years.  I have wondered if I have it myself, though I am not pursuing a diagnosis as it doesn't matter much in my case.  Given that I have a neurological illness, it could be symptoms of that I am experiencing which could easily look similar.  In my son's case it has been present his whole life and forehead-slappingly obvious now that I have the benefits of hindsight and knowledge.  Diagnosing children with anything can be difficult.  They are growing, changing, forming, and we don't know what is their natural personality, what is caused by environment and what they will outgrow.  The danger of overlooking disorders that disguise themselves as personality traits is strongly evident in my son's story, of which I have only just scratched the surface here. 

On a daily basis I am clumsy, forgetful, absent minded, dreamy, fixated on thoughts and struggling to concentrate.  How much of this is my 'natural' personality?  How much is the CFS/ME?  What other issues are involved here?  I don't know exactly and for me it doesn't matter much.  My life has evolved into a pattern that allows me to function happily and also to not function well still with relative happiness, to work with my limits and to not worry about labels.  Not everyone is this lucky but I have also worked very hard to get here and this is a label I will  proudly wear:  Hard Worker.

Here is something else I will proudly wear.  This is my St Andrew's Day  Burns Day (oops I said the wrong one-oh well) outfit and it included a tartan skirt and a brooch that once belonged to my Scottish Great Grandmother and which I believe was also made in Scotland with local stones.  They don't all show up in the picture.

Skirt and Sweater-thrifted
Boots-new bought with Christmas money

This might look minimalist, but in a cafe filled with people wearing jeans and tee shirts or athleisure clothing, I still stand out.  It is not my goal, but neither does it bother me.  I have always stood out and learned to live with it.  You won't miss me.  I will probably be the tallest woman in the room and unless it is a party, the only one wearing a skirt.  I will also be pressing my lips together like I've just put on lipstick.