Thursday, 31 March 2016

Finding the Sweet Spot

When I was in elementary school I used to enjoy simplifying fractions.  Not as much as I enjoyed reading and writing, and most of the time maths frustrated me because of the only one right answer issue, but simplifying fractions was sort of satisfying.  Another of my favourite activities was tidying up, rearranging and re-organising my bedroom.  When this mood hit me I rearranged all of the furniture as well.  Thankfully my bed had wheels.  When it was all done, sweaty and satisfied, I would invite my parents upstairs to admire my work.  Years ago, while living in a quite small and poorly designed house, I constantly rearranged the living room furniture much to my then husband's chagrin.  The problem there was that the perfect solution was not possible.  By this time I actually did want just the one right answer, the solution that solved the problem, but I never found it.

Time progresses and simplifying fractions, re-organising my bedroom and irritating my ex-husband are all in my past.  The pleasure of simplifying is still with me, though.  I am a natural seeker, I think, though I would not describe myself as restless nor dissatisfied most of the time.  I'm looking for the sweet spot in all areas of life, and find it more readily for some things than for others.   Every mountaintop has more than one path to it, some steep and direct, others longer and winding.  There is more than one mountaintop and I am the type to enjoy the hike at least as much if not more than the view from the peak.  Sorting through objects stored in closets, or photos filed on the computer as I did recently, is a reminder of which paths I have hiked.  Sometimes I think in amazement, why did I want to go there?  Why did I take that particular path?  It does not bother me that there is no exact answer.

I cleared out tons of photos taken over the past couple of years for this blog.   There were lots of outfit selfies and I remembered how fun it was to play, and how much I just don't want to play that way any more.  I saw clothing pieces I no longer have and combinations I never repeated.  I saw things that were cringe-worthy and others that made me think, oh that's kind of cute.  I look okay.  I saw my hair change, as I can never really settle on a style and usually find fault with even the ones other people like on me.  I looked at that woman in the photos and wondered what she was trying to achieve.  Probably, it was that same old thing, that cliché, looking for myself in middle age.  Gah!  How I loathe being a cliché!

Middle-aged divorced woman with grown child, career change and a new home seeks herself.  

 I have more than one self, which I assure you is not a psychiatric condition.  Or perhaps there is a better way to describe it....I can imagine myself having become slightly different versions of myself, I can imagine different types of lives in which I would feel happy, and a big life change temporarily seemed to make them all seem like options.  Then I remembered something.  I remembered where I am right now, and who I am right now, and that no looking is required at all.  I only just had to be and being me is fairly simple.   I aim to live like a simplified fraction, this kind.

3 = 1         7 = 1        492 = 1
3               7              492

Closet Makeover Update:

It was a mirrored closet in the foyer and I hated it.  So I changed it to a coat nook and no, those are not drips of paint on the right-some strange shadows.  I'm crazy about the greyed blue paint colour I used, which is more matched to the blue in the rug than it seems in this photo.  It's Behr 'Atmospheric', not to be confused with 'Atmosphere' which is white.  There is a missing strip of carpet where the track for the mirrored doors were but my favourite little rug covers that up just fine and dandy.  The navy umbrella in the corner was bought and used by Ally when we all met up in Vancouver last summer. 

It's a simple arrangement quite suited to a home where one person lives.  I've got three other coats for different seasons which are hanging in a spare closet.  I want the hooks to look inviting so that anybody who visits feels free to hang their own coat there.  The striped canvas bag is utterly useless but I like it.  I should say, not that it is inherently useless but that I never use it for anything.  I am considering adding a few more single hooks and a narrow shelf above the hooks but for now it all works just fine. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

What Makes me Buddhist

What makes me a Buddhist?  There are many branches of Buddhism, some more a religion than others.  One of my favourite books is What Makes You Not a Buddhist, by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse.  In the beginning of his book he says ....’wisdom is the primary concern of a Buddhist.  Morals and ethics are secondary.’  For me, finding Buddhism was very much like coming home.  Honestly, I am not sure I can believe in past lives and reincarnation, and I am also not sure that I need to, but I can see how this feeling of coming home might seem like an indicator of a past life.   Buddhist thought makes sense to me, although the more it veers towards religion the less it appeals.  I have been a wisdom seeker my whole life, and always believed that morality and ethics are within us, not something imposed from without.  No threat of punishment or promise of reward in an afterlife is needed to develop morality and ethics.   The teachings of the Buddha were a philosophy on how to live the best life and they grew in an environment that was influenced by Hinduism.  What fascinates me is translating it into other cultures and keeping religious dogma out of it.

A Buddhist accepts the following statements as true.  The wording is my own.

Nothing is permanent............... also understood as everything changes
All emotions can lead to pain
Nothing actually exists
Nirvana is beyond concept.........Nirvana is often thought to be heaven but is actually better translated as inner peace and it is not a place nor an after life.

I’m going to examine how I relate to these statements.  Some of them are easier for me to put into words than others.  First I’d like to add a few more aspects of Buddhist teaching, words attributed to the Buddha who taught around 500 BC.  His interest was in alleviating suffering and as he share and taught his wisdom he said that his words must not be taken for granted without analysis, individuals must think for themselves, examine what he says and decide if they think it to be true, meditate and live life, walk your path and seek your own wisdom.  The Buddha* was not a Buddhist, he was a teacher and calling oneself a Buddhist is a simple way to indicate that you agree with his teachings and attempt to live life in accordance with them.  It is not necessary to identify as a Buddhist publicly or privately and some people even find ways to layer Buddhism onto their religious beliefs.   I tend to layer mine with other philosophies that allign with it and calling myself Buddhist sometimes is really just a matter of allowing others to have some idea of how I think and try to live my life. 

The realisation that nothing is permanent is an easy one.  It doesn’t take much living of life to find out that everything dies, changes or can be worn out, worn down, damaged, or destroyed in some manner.  Some things can last a very very long time, but unless what we know as things-whether they are of nature or are man made-do not permanently stay as we know them.  I have never met anyone who would argue this point, though when a person consciously realises it may vary.

The idea that all emotions lead to pain probably troubles some people.  They will argue, but how can joy be pain?  Surely there is pure joy and happiness in the world also.  Yes.  There is.  But we can lose it.  It can be taken from us and the loss of it becomes pain.  My intuitive understanding of this lead me quite early in life to develop a strategy whereby I always mentally prepare myself for the worst, imagine how I will cope with it, then hope for the best.  Typically I am an optimistic and glass half full sort of person but I know how easily that makes one vulnerable to pain.  Knowing that pain can come of anything allows me to be prepared for it and not as bowled over by it if it does come.  It also allows me to really appreciate all of those moments when it does not come. 

Nothing actually exists, or as it is sometimes worded, all is emptiness.  Okay, this one is certainly more difficult to wrap my mind around and it seems so negative so I’m giving it more space.  There are negatives in life, but understanding them and preparing for them helps to face them.   We reach for things, we grasp, we are perhaps disappointed by an illusion or we take hold of something which we then fear losing.  We develop an idea which turns out to be wrong and are devastated.  All things are empty and do not really exist, is a way of saying that we give meaning to things, we put it there and it is not inherent.  Everything can and does change.  Even mountains disappear, albeit over very long periods of time.  If life is truly empty then it is there for me to fill up with meaning, and I can grow, change and adapt, letting that meaning expand or letting go of parts that I find don’t work.  To me this is a wonderful thing although perhaps the hardest one to practice.  If you see criticism as empty you have to also see praise as empty. 

Everything that we believe exists depends on something else to explain that existence,  seeming to be the sum of it’s parts and yet it is not any of its parts alone and those individual parts can change so then what is it?  By the time we get to atoms we have not got the things we think are there.  This is not to say that the illusion of things being things is not useful for every day living, but to understand their true nature-nothingness or emptiness- is perhaps even more useful.  It allows us to stop grasping and to let go but it does not require that we adopt an ascetic life.  There is always a chance of becoming attached to that too.

I have noticed that there is something about the current trend towards and all women are beautiful campaign that irritates me.  Beauty and non-beuaty are subjective, in the eye of the beholder as common wisdom tells us.  This should actually make it at least somewhat irrelevant.  Aside from my objections to assigning women value based on physical beauty, I do not object to the desire to be beautiful by one’s own standards or to enjoy the fact of someone close to us perceiving us to be so.  Those generare positive feelings which are certainly nice to have but remember, they can so easily be lost and thus result in pain.  It is better to understand that beauty is an empty concept that humans like to fill up with their own beliefs.  I imagine a large bucket into which people are constantly pushing, pulling, dragging heavy concepts and dropping them with a clang.  When I look inside that bucket I know it is actually empty.

There is a saying I hear used by followers of Abrahamic religions.  I do not know it’s origin but I like the concept although I do not believe in a God.  The saying is:
Let go and let God.  This easily translates in my mind to a different concept of God-God as the universe, not a divine being, dictator, creator parent figure or tyrant, simply the forces that are the universe.  If I have any concept of a God at all it would be a pantheistic one which seems to fit well enough with  Buddhism.

*I am not concerned with whether or not the story of the Prince, Siddharta Guatama who became Buddha and taught his wisdom is a myth or based on a true and historical person.  It does not matter as we are not intended to worship him as a man or a god.  The wisdom is the same, regardless of its origins and a good story is an effective way to teach it.

So is our entire world a collective delusion?  Perhaps somewhat, but also somewhat not.  It is a relative truth.  We are here to perceive it, to attribute meaning to it, attempting to understand it and label it.  That is the human condition.  If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is everything else.  Often, many people agree on what they are seeing and this allows us to share ideas, to use language, to live in harmony.  It’s not a bad thing, but it’s also not a permanent and entirely real thing.
How do we know which is the dream and which is reality? Often we need to wake up from our own dream. Are we just all part of the Matrix?   We entertain ideas like this sometimes because subconsciously we are aware that what we see might not be the way things really are.  Or they might be.  But we don’t really know.  Neither can we know exactly if what you see and what I see are the same because we only have our own eyes.

A rose, is a rose, is a rose....and by any other name it would smell as sweet.

Nirvana, is often understood to be the Buddhist heaven, a final afterlife.  This is not the case, though the teaching approach most Buddhists take is a meet you where you are approach so if heaven and hell are your reference points, they will teach Buddhist concepts in that language and with those metaphors.  I’ve notice that they will not always tell you that they are metaphors.  This is let for the individual to discover, as part of her own path, because Buddhism is not intended to be prescriptive.  So Nirvana, is essentially reaching a point of inner peace that sticks and the individual at last has Buddha nature or is a Buddha.  Essentially it is that simple, although reaching this point is not simple.  I suspect that for some, it is better to believe in reincarnation in order to believe that one has many chances to try for this Buddhahood and eventually get there.  For people like me, it’s okay.  I am not grasping at Buddhahood, only intending to live the best life I can while on that path.  I make mistakes, I slip backwards into attachments but my practice helps me to pick myself up and go on again, and to forgive myself for making mistakes.  They are merely moments of learning and I live for learning.  With that in mind, I might really want to consider taking joy in all of my mistakes and ignoring those moments when I get it right the first time.  Oh happy thought!

May all beings find peace.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Letting Go of Thoughts

Attachment to mental constructs is a significant source of potential pain, our thoughts, ideas of ourselves and others and of the world accumulate and we hold onto them believing that they are who we are.  In some ways this is true.  We do act according to our thoughts, our beliefs, our understanding of the world and where we fit into it, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t flexible or that there aren’t thoughts we can and should let go of.  Usually, if we consider letting go of thoughts we target those that are obviously giving us trouble, and sometimes this is pointed out to us by a counsellor or therapist, who can quickly identify a thought that is self harming.  Most of us can easily see that thinking “ I am not good enough” is the type of thought that could land us in the therapist’s office or lead to tragic ends.

It seems to be human nature to develop an endless set of mental constructs and quite likely it has it’s uses, such as navigating our way through life and many of these thoughts and ideas are seemingly harmless.  Letting go of the thoughts themselves isn’t always necessary but letting go of an attachment to them can be quite helpful.  If I am attached to my idea of who I am and build up a definition of myself around it, what will happen to me if some of those ideas are challenged, or if they completely disappear?  We grieve the loss of something that we thought defined us, perhaps it is a relationship role, a job title, a political or religious affiliation, maybe a nationality or cultural identity.  We believe that all of these things make us who we are and we hold tight to them, lest we should simply float away.  If the fear of floating away from these identities is strong enough to make us cling in that way, the loss of them will be very painful and difficult and life always brings with it the potential for loss. 

So how do we cope?   Awareness is the first and most important part of any growth.  I am aware that I have created ideas about myself and others, about my world.  I am aware that they might be wrong, or fragile or that they could change.  I pay attention to times when I know that this happened, when something changed or was not what I thought it was, and I recall that I survived it, perhaps even grew better because of the experience.   As far as I know I have only one life and I want to make the best of it.  I want to support other people to make the best of theirs.  I would not be human if I did not make mistakes, experience suffering, develop attachment to ideas, people and things, and there are many many things I cannot have control over or even influence, but life is about learning when to hold on and when to let go.  For me, my Buddhists practice helps.  It’s a simple philosophy for living, not a religion, not with dogma.  I do what works and strive to cause no harm, to myself or others.  Everything changes, is impermanent, so learn from the past, prepare for the future, and remember to live NOW.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Can Stuff Bring Joy? My Buddhist Perspective

Yes.  It can.  Some people proclaim that they prefer experiences to things but quite often these experiences require things.  If wandering the world with nothing but a backpack and a few possessions is your idea of bliss and you can do this forever, then you may be one of the few people for whom life is truly about the experiences.  For most people, I would suggest it is finding the right blend of possessions and experiences that is the key to enjoying life. 

Know yourself and where you find meaning, what activities lift your heart, what makes you feel energised and what makes you feel relaxed.   While these may be activities, chances are they require a bit of stuff to support them.  This is the stuff to focus on, to put money towards, to consider accumulating. 

I spend a lot of time at home, in part because I have a restricting illness but also very much because I prefer it.  I prefer time alone or one on one with certain people.  I like to feel rooted to a comfortable and comforting place, whereas some people like to feel unrooted and free.  One is not better than the other.  I have other ways of feeling freedom. I am sure we all like freedom, but how we define it and experience it is probably quite varied.  I typically don't like rules imposed from the outside but will often make rules for myself.  Since I am a benevolent dictator I am quite free to break, bend or change these rules.  In my time alone at home, I want and need to feel cosy, to be surrounded by things I appreciate and enjoy,  I like certain colours and textures and patterns, I like books and plants in abundance.  I have more purely decorative items than your typical minimalist and yet I do use some of the same principles minimalists use to guide their lives. 

My Buddhist practice reminds me constantly that it is attachment to these things, to my life as it is, to the life that I want, which can potentially bring me suffering instead of joy.  I make it my practice to emotionally let go of them, to remind myself that I could lose them at any time and life would still have to go on.  I do not wish to carry on in misery so how can I prevent the chances of that misery?  I must not identify myself with these things.  They are things I like, enjoy, some of them have sentimental value, but they do not define me.  When I left my husband several years ago, although he was mostly amenable to the process of dividing up our belongings 50/50 I knew I could not actually take 50 percent of what we because I was going from a large house to an apartment and I did not know what my future held.  I left behind things that had sentimental value to both of us, because it would not be fair to take them all.  Because I did take some that means he also experienced loss.  We had begun with the idea that anything that came from one person's family (heirloom and antique pieces of furniture or other items) was rightfully that person's but most of what we had came from mine, and I just could not take it all.  There are things I regret not taking sometimes but I can't wallow in regret.  It's pointless.  My garden was full of trees, trees which I had carefully chosen and typically received as birthday or Christmas gifts.  I miss my trees very much, but I could not take them with me. 

I do not have to toss out everything I own in order to immunize myself against suffering, and Buddhism does not teach that this is the right strategy.  I need to maintain awareness that there is always the potential for loss and it will hurt.  I can minimise this potential by having fewer things and being mindful of my emotional attachment to them.

I made a list of what brings me joy.  I'm sure it's not complete but these are the first things that come to mind.  Some are experiences, some are possessions, and often the two are intertwined.

People I love
Close Friends
Good conversation
Quiet alone time
Quiet time alone with a special person
My home
Specific Art Supplies
Browsing in Book Stores
Buying new books
Feeling comfortable in my clothes
Good food, prepared with love
The view out my windows
A walk in fresh air
The seaside
Flowers, trees and shrubs
A fire in my fireplace on a stormy night
Being alone in a smallish crowd of happy and friendly people
Pine nuts
Goat cheese
Sun-ripened tomatoes

The more I put on this list the more I think of, but making it also made me think of some things I can no longer put on it.  Having celiac disease and a strong sensitivity to cross contamination there are some foods that I love which are off limits to me. The gluten-free replicas frankly do not match the original no matter what people say.  Real bread, including pizza dough, pie, oatmeal-raisin cookies.  But the list of what brings me joy is long and could get longer.  Most of it does not require much spending or accumulating though there is certainly some of both involved.  It's clearly the list of an introvert with a comfortable, if not abundant income.  I've faced starting over and while I always had a safety net in the form of family I also faced much uncertainty about my health, abilities and income.  I made it through that time and learned much.  I value my independence highly but I have also learned to value and appreciate having people in my life who want to help and I have learned to sometimes let them.  It's not a flaw to need others sometimes, it's a gift.  What better way do we have to connect with others than to help each other.  Sometimes you pay it forward instead of paying it back.

There is no living without pain and suffering, but I am determined to survive, learn and grow from it as well as minimalise it.  A great deal of luck is involved and I can take no credit for the country I was born in or the parents I was born to.  I am not a Buddhist who believe in reincarnation and the associated karma.  I am a person who believes in the effectiveness of Buddhist philosophy, and in that sense I walk the middle path, I am a mediumist and not a minimalist or maximalist.  This is the way that works for me.  If it can work for you I am happy to share my experiences and thoughts.  If it isn't right for you, let's just have a cup of coffee and talk about our different experiences.  No agenda, other than such a thing is on my list of what brings me joy.

Friday, 25 March 2016

I Have No Advice To Give

I have no advice to give, or at least nothing I would make public and attach my name to.

I have not got a beautiful life to offer you carefully curated glimpses of

And yet you come back. 

If there's anything I want to accomplish in my life, it's connecting with people

In a meaningful way.

It's harder to do that when you are an introvert lacking energy

And your idea of fun is being alone reading something.

But I try,

And I offer little bits of myself in case it helps;

In case in some way I can show you that you are not alone  and-

You are not doing it wrong.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

NO....Yes, Maybe

Capsule wardrobes have been popular, at least on the internet, for the past couple of years-or maybe more I don't really know and I'm just making this up as I go along.  I have noticed them for the past six months, and was curious enough to read a variety of blogs and articles and as with anything I take an interest in I wanted to understand just what it is and how it's done.  However, I am not intending to make one.  Or two.  It's not that I think capsule wardrobes are a bad idea and it's not that I am a lover of abundance and variety (apparently when it comes to my clothing I am not but ask me about books and plants).  It's just that the capsule concept doesn't work for me because I am approaching minimalism anyway without a capsule.  I had not intended this but actually this is close to what I have always done with my clothing.  I probably had a work capsule and a weekend capsule in the past, without really knowing that I did.  The capsule concept is not really a new one.

I was taught that the way to build a wardrobe was not to buy outfits but to buy something that goes with a few things you already have.  I was taught how to look for quality and I have always gravitated towards a small number of favourite colours that go together.  I never had a lot of money to spend on clothing and second hand offerings were minimal locally. At some points in my life I wore homemade clothes quite often and I spent much of the first twenty years of my life in skirts and dresses.   The experiment with abundance came only recently, when my lifestyle changed dramatically and the availability of clothing both new and used increased.   With only myself to support and only myself to explain any new purchases to, I had options I'd never had in my life before and I wanted to play.  Some of the results made their way onto this blog and there were a variety of hits and misses which are easily doubled or even tripled if you count the many things I've worn that I never photographed. 

Then I got tired of it.   I've written about that.  While it might be temporary, as we all make style changes and our needs evolve, I am inclined to suspect it's not temporary.  I like clothing and personal style in theory and I can have a great deal of fun putting together outfits but often I do not want to wear them.  I would rather dress a mannequin.  I grew tired of poor quality and tired of too much choice.  I began to feel overwhelmed by colour and pattern.  None of this made sense to me, since I typically love textiles, I have a home full of colourful things, albeit on a neutral background.  I don't even have a colour scheme in my home, it's just an if I like it it's here sort of rule.  For reasons I cannot really explain I found out that I did not want to dress that way.  I wanted to express my creativity in my home, my art, my writing, but not with what I put on my body. 

So I went back to dressing the way I'd dressed as a university student and I found myself avoiding colours and seeking, taupe, grey and soft white.  I wanted soft, light, comfortable and usually neutral. (I'm so drawn to light colours now I even hesitate to wear my typical navy blues) I have so few formal occasions in my life I probably only need one summer dress and one winter dress in case of such an event and could expect to wear them only once every few years.  My inner hippie kept asking to come out, with faded jeans and bare feet and my tendency to cut my own hair-I can't stay away from the low-key, minimal effort person I seem to be.  Maybe, instead of indicating a lack of self esteem or style, it instead means I know who I am.   A swipe of lipstick, messy hair and Men's Levis.  I don't know what message it conveys, what impression other people get, but I've discovered that I don't care.  And so my wardrobe keeps shrinking.  I've let go of many things I didn't love or which were in poor condition but now I am at the challenging part.  I crave simplicity and I've already gotten down to a small number of items and thus no need at all to create capsules.  That would be pointless and imposing needless rules and restrictions on myself.  Still there are some items I find myself torn over, wanting to let them go and yet hesitating.

Perhaps I need to put them away without giving them away.  Just see if I miss them.  In most cases it's clothing I really like and yet still find myself not wearing.  Why am I not wearing it?  Often it's the colour.  I put it on, and think okay I know this suits me and it's a really pretty colour but I just want to wear something taupe!  Some items are too formal or fussy for my lifestyle but I wonder,  what if I need this at some time in the future?  And in some cases, though fortunately not many, the purchase was fairly recent, maybe within the past six months and I would feel guilty getting rid of it.  Of course logically, not wearing it is wasting money just as much as giving it away is and while it sits in my closet reminding me every day that it exists and I'm not wearing it, guilt is not going to go away.

Awhile ago I wrote and pondered the strange conflicting taste I have, where in terms of home decor I love both a colourful boho/eclectic style as well as the French Country look of lots of stone, grey, white, taupe, bits of blue and lots of linen.  The Epiphany, I think, is that I want the boho/eclectic home and the French Country look on my body.  I suppose that's one way to address this weird dichotomy.  While my wardrobe might be going minimalist, my home is not.  At last count there are at least forty-five house plants and roughly five hundred books.  This hydrangea came home with me today from Home Depot where I went to buy paint....

......for transforming this space from ugly mirrored closet to cute nook with coat hooks.

That gap in the carpet is annoying.  A rug will cover it but I haven't got the perfect rug yet.  This will be a simple makeover, in the make-do and mend spirit.  I will share pictures when I have finished.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

I'm In the Pink

Every year, without fail, right around the end of March, I crave two things.  I want pink and I want to get my hair off my face.  I can be certain that anything pink will flatter me, but the hair, well let's just say it's obvious I am less concerned about that.

I like dusty rose pinks and mauve pinks best of all, and this tee shirt is certainly a mauve-pink. Getting the colour accurate in the photo meant some compromise regarding my face.  I look a bit like I've got an orange spray tan in some of the photos I took.  In the photo below everything, hair, skin and shirt, all look a touch darker than reality but it's the closest I could get.    This tee shirt colour is pretty much identical to my natural lip colour.

Slight Digression:
Awhile back I was sorting out my best colours according to PCA (personal colour analysis) and determined I am Summer, most like Cool Summer.  This is working quite well for me though I notice I am still quite drawn to many of the Soft Summer colours.  As long as they remain obviously cool they seem to work for me.  The Soft Summer palette does include colours that veer towards something a bit more neutral, adding just a bit more yellow/warmth to many of the colours and so I stay away from those ones.  I look for cool, soft, slightly greyed or muted looking and I feel my best in the colours that are present in my own body colouring, which leads me to mauve-pinks, taupes, off whites, greys, blue-greys and green-greys, with a little bit of brown making sure it's not too yellow.  Sticking to these colours makes shopping and dressing easy and makes me feel my best no matter what I'm wearing. 

Wearing a slouchy, soft tee shirt  (this beautiful mauve- pink -let me just gush over it again) and my men's Levi's, and I've got comfort and a sense of something pretty.  I'm content, feel like me in my clothes and can get on with other things. 

I bought some scarves at the Thrift shop recently and they feature my Spring Pink as well.

The scarf on the left has a neutral stone coloured background and then a widely spaced and lose pattern of pink roses and green leaves.  I love pink and green together and although the pink in the scarf is a bit brighter than what I'd wear in clothing, it works in smaller doses and with this sort of sumdgey look.  The green is also a bit bright but in small doses it's fine.  In patterned fabric it's rare to find exactly all of the colours I'm looking for but the overall effect can still work.  Overall the scarf reads as cool and soft,  The pashmina on the right is wide stripes of various pink tones and in the mix are pinks I wouldn't look my best in, however the pink that ends up closest to my face is a good one and that allows the scarf to work well.

Many of my scarves are blue so it's nice to have added these pretty pink ones to my collection and scarves are the best way for me to add pattern too.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Style Musings-Yes, It's a Bloody Long Post so Skim It

                        Style Journey Musings-The Picture Part and another Grimace

I call this look Androgynous Professor on casual Friday. If I add my glasses then it’s Androgynous Grandma Retired Professor.   The hair is in it’s usual state of no particular style but off my face so that’s good.  The jeans are Men’s Levi’s which is my latest favourite thing.  The shoes are Hush Puppies, oxfords thus man-style but actually women’s shoes.  Shawna signature style= cardigans and cross body messenger bag.  You can't tell by the photo but I'm wearing silver earrings, necklace a few rings and my usual tiny nose stud, also ubiquitous for my style.  So here's a quickly snapped close up to show my new favourite necklace. 

Style Journey Musings-The Babbling Part

I have mentioned before that I have essentially come full circle in my personal style journey.  At first that seems a bit disappointing but I suppose it is also reassuring.  I was getting it right before, I strayed, I got confused, I explored and then I found my way back.  It sounds a bit like marriage issues but it doesn’t surprise me at all that I would have deep emotional connections to what I wear.   Some of what I wanted from clothing, or at least thought I wanted, was a bit conflicting.  Some of it was just unavailable or required too much effort.  If money were no object or I possessed a magic wand, what I wear might certainly be a little different from what I have settled into but I have neither the wand nor the large bank account.  I also find that I have little interest in putting much thought into putting together outfits to wear on a regular basis.  I would love to style someone else. I would enjoy dressing mannequins and creating window displays.  I could be one of those people dressed in head to toe black jersey who works in fashion with wild colours and quirky accessories.  I want to create the art but I don’t want to be it.

Black is not my best colour though so although I briefly did consider dressing in nothing but black and found the idea of a goth-witchy look rather appealing, it wasn’t quite going to work for me.  I am already sensitive to the fact that I can look a bit pale, grey and tired due to living with the plague and wearing black makes me look that way even on a good day.  I made note of the appeal of the simplicity of an all black wardrobe and moved on.

I also tried dressing in mainly jersey fabrics.  I love the comfort, the easy movement and the draped effect they provide but I disliked the way I ended up covered in cat hair and lint within five minutes and how they could look a little too similar to pyjamas.  Head to toe jersey was not the best option but I still wear leggings sometimes and I would like a good quality jersey dress.  Thin, poor quality jersey clothing looks cheap, wrinkles easily and is sometimes expensive despite these drawbacks.

I prefer natural fibres and these are harder to find, especially if I am also being picky about style, colour and fit and I do not have the extensive shopping options a city provides.  With these preferences informing my buying, I just naturally buy less and have a smaller wardrobe.

I have a very casual lifestyle which equates to my mainly needing casual clothes and leisure clothes.  I spend most of my time at home and either sitting down or puttering around my home doing chores.  I go out to the grocery store, I might go for a walk and I have no more than five social engagements per month, usually an hour or two at a cafe.  I like skirts and dresses and wear them whenever I feel like it, which is more than most of my peers, but I am also quite content to live in jeans and sweaters or well made tee shirts.  Cardigans are my best friends.  I still tend to layer my clothing as a damp climate can be chilly.  We don’t quite have four seasons it’s more like three with the potential for four in some years, so my wardrobe has to accommodate that.  It also has to accommodate lots of rain.   When I find something that is comfortable and works well I wear it often and am tempted to have more than one of it if that is possible.  Sometimes I panic thinking I am never again going to find a soft, well made, scoop-necked, long-sleeved tee shirt in just the right shade of off white. 

Jeans can be challenging and while most people have some difficulty finding a good fit I think I have slightly more difficulty than average.  I am higher -or is that longer-in the rise so low rise pants are not an option, mid-rise is low rise and most things being sold currently as high-rise are just barely mid-rise on me.  Mid-rise gives me muffin top and in most cases just slides down.  I also hate the way most jeans these days are a blend of polyester and cotton with the polyester content increasing rapidly.  I don’t know how these can be called jeans but they are and now one has to look for something called ‘denim’ jeans which means they are actually made of cotton.  Cropped jeans are a thing right now and really don’t suit me, but regular length is cropped on me anyhow so not only do I need a longer rise I need a longer leg length.  I’ve got one pair of boot cut jeans that are nice and long and the rise is reasonable-just reaches my belly-button (I think this is the first time I have mentioned my belly button in this blog!) but I’ve not been able to find another pair like them and I’ve even tried shopping straight from the manufacturer online.  Everything I like seems to get discontinued. So, I’ve been sticking to men’s Levis which I can get in the length I need and which are at least a generous mid-rise on me.  They are also significantly less expensive and come in a basic slightly faded blue which I like, straight leg and no polyester. 

Earth shoes, combat boots, granny boots or mary-janes are still my favourite footwear, though at home I am barefoot.  I have a pared down boho look but I eschew the overly contrived, Mall-boho look which admittedly I like but find too predictable, cheaply produced and mainly screams “I’m a twenty year old California girl or I wanna be.”    I might wear cut off jean shorts and a peasant blouse but I can’t add the cowboy boots and floppy hat without feeling like I’m wearing a costume and I don’t wear Navajo-inspired anything.  This is a whole other topic-ethnic prints and how I love them but feel weird about them at the same time.

Well that’s a fair bit of rambling about clothing.  It’s not a subject I spend as much time thinking about as this blog might make it appear, but I try to keep the topics here light which means I censor myself often.  I get into trouble when I talk about religion or politics or social issues although those are the topics that occupy most of my mind space.  (My love of literature is connected to my love of philosophy and psychology and that is what occupies most of my non-creative time) I think that is why the experimenting grew tiresome after awhile and I realised that clothing was not where I wanted to put my energy or the way I wanted to express myself.  I do that in my writing (whether you see that writing here or not) and in my painting.  I also grew quite weary of taking and looking at photos of myself and either I was not wearing an outfit that had not been seen before and thus no photo needed to be taken, or I was wearing something different but the taking of a photo was too troublesome.  I rarely wear anything now that I think is photo-worthy and I wear the same things over and over.  I am developing something that resembles a capsule wardrobe or a minimalist closet without really aiming for that.  I’ve got roughly 70 items of clothing, not counting underwear and pyjamas, and some of those are for warm weather and some for cold weather.  I’ve pared down my scarf collection to three or four favourites and the same with hats.  I have not counted boots and shoes lately but it’s around 12 pairs altogether.  It’s more than I’ve owned at previous times in my life and it feels like plenty. 

The daily uniform:

jeans, a neutral coloured tee shirt and cardigan, or a light weight merino sweater


a couple of blouses, two skirts, three dresses for warmer weather

hot weather: shorts, tee-shirts or blouses, cotton tunic dresses with leggings

Most things are taupe, fawn, off white, brown, grey or blue.  Something in a soft pink, green or mauve sometimes makes it’s way in but everything goes with pretty much everything else though I may not like every possible combination.  I’ve got one pair of red shoes I still love and they are essentially summer shoes.  I wear more colour in summer as it seems to come naturally to me to work with the environment. 

I find myself no longer wanting things, no longer desiring to go shopping trying to find something to make a creative outfit with, trying to find the right layering pieces.  I have a few things in mind that I am looking for, but not desperate for.  I will just keep an eye out until eventually I find them.  I have yet to find my ideal cardigan, so I’m always looking for that, and long sleeved scoop necked tee shirts are hard to find locally.  I’ve got it into my head that it would be good to have a really good cashmere sweater, but I could be fooling myself.  I’ve got light weight merino wool knits, frustratingly moth nibbled recently so they are not dine-with-the -Queen quality, but then I remind myself that a few holes or darned spots certainly don’t bother Matty and she is my most likely dining companion. 

Saturday, 19 March 2016

I Am a Barnacle

You know that saying, ‘Go big or go home’ as it’s been around for awhile.  I’ve never liked it much.  I make a face when I hear it, a sort of scrunched face followed by a scowl.  I think that’s because I’ve always associated it with showiness and in your face bravado, which is something I am not particularly fond of.  It seems like something Donald Trump would say and I find the man repulsive.  However, I’ve lately realised that in some ways it is my own personal motto.  I don’t apply it to other people.  I have always been a believer in celebrating everyone’s best whatever that looks like and not believing it all has to look the same, but I set the bar high for myself.  Then I berate myself for such arrogance and step back for a bit and then I replace the bar high.  I carry deep inside me the belief that I must give 110% if I give at all, in addition to the belief that there are many areas in which I must give.

Because we are in the realm of shoulds here I need to attempt to clarify that it is not something externally imposed on me.  I don’t feel external pressure I put the pressure on myself.  It is my own set of personal values, my own expectations that do this.  And thus I tend to give all I’ve got plus more or I completely back off.  I recognise this is not really a good strategy, to put it mildly, but I also recognise it as a lifelong instinct.  It’s deeply ingrained in who I am and changing it takes a huge effort and is nearly as exhausting as attempting to reach my own standards.  That’s a dilemma.  I am trying to change though and of course the minute I am trying to do anything that has to do with improving myself the more I am going to be inclined to set the bar high again.  Now I arrive at expecting myself to become perfect at not expecting too much of myself.  Yeah, it hurts the brain. 

I have tried sternly berating myself.  Just who do I think I am to even imagine I could achieve perfection?  What arrogance?  I have tried gentle kindness too.  Just be gentle with yourself, go slowly, take a breath, do what you can and know that it is enough.  Do either of these actually work?  Not really but I suppose every little step forward is a step somewhere. 

I write to deal with my thoughts and my feelings, as they are overwhelming otherwise.  In many ways the purpose of my blog was to take these writings, my self-talk and any progress I might make and offer it up to anyone else who might be like me.  When I do this I always risk unsolicited advice.  I’ve learned to live with that though I can’t deny it’s irritating.  People mean well, I know that.  But as someone who has thought of and tried everything, who spends her whole life engaged in thinking or trying, it is rare I am ever offered advice that is a new idea to me or that I haven’t already tried.  Often, the writing about my thoughts and feelings is a result of my having gone already through the process of working it out, making a plan and resovling an issue.  Sometimes it is just very cathartic venting.  There are metaphors about vomiting cats in my head right now but I will not share those with you.

So lately I have been unwell, physically and mentally exhausted, just getting well enough to do something social or practical or in general something that involves going out and I am soon set back again.  I have two auto-immune diseases so I don’t know why I am endlessly surprised by this but I am.  There have been good days, but often I feel like a hamster on a wheel, getting nowhere, doing the same things and not progressing, wearing myself out in the process.  I cannot imagine going through this without writing, whether I write about my experiences directly or about other things as a form of distraction.  I cannot imagine how else to cope with how full my head is other than dumping some of it out onto pages of private journals or into this, my public journal.  Why even have a public journal?  Despite being highly introverted and I am also passionately relational.  I love to connect with people and feel a strong, warm, sense of connection to all people everywhere, to the universe in fact, and I need regular confirmation of that.  And yet I pay a high price for it.

In my head is a little critter, a sort of negative Jiminey Cricket who puts his hand on his hip and sarcastically says to me ‘Huh, sure sucks to be you.’  He is useful because of course I must immediately argue with him and tell him how I am quite happy being me, thank you very much, despite my hamster wheel brain.  I am sure hamsters are very fit.

In the all or nothing spirit I am prone to, the go big or go home, give 110% or give nothing, I have retreated from this blog because I could not be a blogger/blog-reader/blog-friend anywhere approaching my own standard and when I think about it, that really shouldn’t surprise me.  I have asked myself if I should stop and the answer seems to be no.  I have asked myself, what exactly am I trying to do, hoping to achieve, what do I want from this.  One thing I know is that I sometimes have so much to say, so much to empty out of my head that I can only keep up with the thoughts if I use a keyboard.  But maybe I should just maintain a computer journal.  Why would I put it on the internet, out in public?  The answer to that seems to be in my strong drive to connect with people, to reach out in some way, perhaps I am shouting out into the great void, Hello, is there anyone else out there who is like me?  Does anyone get me and even more miraculous, does anyone   get me and still like me?  I am used to not being understood, to being told I should just stop being who I am, to being asked things like ‘why are you so..?’  and to being valued mainly for what I have to give, not simply for just who I am.   I am shouting out into the void to find out if there is another way, if there is anything other than what I have known most of my life.

I am not broken.  I do not need fixing.  I am stronger than you imagine but I am also very fragile and I know it.  I have been wounded and I have  learned that I can keep going despite that, just as many others have.   Why am I writing here?  I am writing because I have to just like I have to breath, and it’s public because I am like a barnacle.  I will stay in my shell, stuck on my rock but dammit if I don’t have to keep sticking out my feelers and reaching for what is out there.  It’s just what I do.  It’s just how I do it.  Would you tell a barnacle to be an oyster instead?