My Outlet

I’m not talking about shopping or electrical ones. 

I began this blog because I needed to write for pleasure, express my ideas, and blow off frustrations of life. 

Lately I feel very light, mentally speaking. My frustrations, creative and otherwise, have lifted. For now, at least. 

My fight against my depression and negativity have provided fodder for hundreds of my blog posts. Now I need to learn how to write about being happy without being cloying, content while making sure readers know my life isn’t perfect, and about good things without forgetting the bad. 

This is sort of like when I had to relearn how to cook after I decided to live as a vegan. That hasn’t turned out amazingly well (so far), so let’s hope this transition is a bit easier. 

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Travelling Changes your Personal Aesthetic

Courtesy of Jezebel:

backpacker

When I quit my job in New York to go backpacking in South America, I agonized over what to pack. I couldn’t, for instance, not bring my Ferragamo flats, even if it meant ruining their soles on dirt paths and crumbling cobblestones. I certainly couldn’t leave behind my beloved red lipstick—I wanted it for nights out salsa dancing, or when I needed to feel myself. It was a reliable pick-me-up, an armor against insecurity. But I left behind everything else: my makeup bag full of OPI and Essie nail polishes in shades of red and gray and green, expensive top-coats with specks of gold glitter, black eyeliner and mascara and dozens of tubes of lipstick—neutral to crimson to pretty in pink. I’d left my satin gloves and pearl necklaces and flapper dresses.

Consciously, I’d decided to leave behind the New York fantasy I had built for myself, a fantasy built in no small part on clothes. Still, I refused to buy a pair of hiking shoes. I couldn’t stand the way they looked: clumsy, heavy, ugly mud brown.

I wore a v-neck t-shirt, jeans, and an old cardigan at the airport. I did not feel myself. I sat across a perfectly coiffed Colombian woman with a Hermès Birkin in her lap. I frantically texted my friend: I feel so underdressed. My hiking backpack, with its countless, messy straps, didn’t lend me an air of sophistication.

I love clothes. I always have. In the earliest days when fashion blogs were just beginning to sprout, I posted daily outfits to a Flickr group. Fashion was novel and exciting, and it was a way to distinguish myself. I loved losing myself in editorials, in beauty and glamour. I loved the transformative power of clothes, how changing your outfit meant changing your persona.

On the road, my aesthetic changed. It was a slow, subtle process. It became looser and easier the longer I was away. In New York I loved silk shirts and tailored blazers and pencil skirts. In South America, I bought feather earrings and macramé necklaces made from natural stones. My single pair of jeans became worn out with holes. I never put on my red lipstick. And I learned the depth of my mistake about the hiking shoes: I went hiking for the first time in the rocky, jagged mountains of Colombia wearing gym shoes that had tractionless white soles. It was completely miserable.

So I stopped worrying about it, and I got hiking shoes. There was so much more to do. There were hikes to go on and waterfalls to swim in and cities to explore. If anything, I wanted to play down my Western clothes. It was easier to explore Latin America as a young woman alone if I was less conspicuous, and so it was jeans and t-shirts and a local bag. On the nights I did go out with fellow travelers, everyone else was rumpled too. At least I had my Ferragamos. That was the only thing that tied me to the past, my fancy New York persona. Once, someone recognized the brand and laughed. They became worn down, too, holes on the toes, the heels. I took them to a cobbler in a small Peruvian city, and afterwards, the shoes looked industrial. I could have cried. I desperately missed my favorite cobbler in Williamsburg, who worked miracles restoring the shoes once every couple of months.

Still, there was a certain joy in abandoning myself to the world around me, which meant becoming a hippie. The travelers who dressed very well—the girls with heels in their backpack—were a different kind of traveler: prone to dancing and drinking in hostels full of Westerners, and not so much exploring dusty, neglected towns and mountains with unmarked trails alone.

After seven months of backpacking in South America, I came back to New York for a visit.

I felt shocked by the style all around me. I kept staring at clothes of strangers. I admired the gold buckles of boots and the sharp silhouettes of coats. I looked at stylish haircuts and dangling earrings. I’d been lost for so long in a world of Keen sandals and alpaca sweaters.

“You look exhausted,” a friend told me at dinner. We were at a West Village restaurant that served complicated classics: tiny corn dog appetizers paired with curated sauces. I felt the sting even as I smiled and said, oh, I’m not.

I was happy, actually, overwhelmed by the sudden return to the city, the Western world, but blissed-out from my travels. But then again: I wasn’t wearing makeup. My t-shirt had holes in the neckline. My woven bag from Colombia was tattered and pilled.

It shouldn’t have mattered. But so much of my identity as a New Yorker had been built around a certain attitude, a certain look. It alarmed me that, so quickly, I’d become a stranger.

So I left again. Traveling in Asia, I became fully unrecognizable in comparison to old selfies: me with lush bangs, cat eyeliner. On the road, sometimes I’d dig up the photos and show them to the people I met. What happened, a man in China exclaimed. He was not enthusiastic about my short hair, my makeup-free face. In big cities in China, it set me apart as an outsider, where most young women looked like dolls in pastel-hued dresses. Sometimes, I got the hippie approval. A rock climber in Yangshuo told me it suited me better. Mostly, I agreed.

Nearly two years after I first left, I moved back to New York. I didn’t think I’d stay—I only intended to visit before heading off on another trip. But then I fell back in love with the city, and I couldn’t go.

This time, I had only my backpacking clothes (all of it fit inside one tote bag). For the winter, I bought just one new thing: a black wool coat that I wore every day. Remarkably, my backpacker clothes served just as well in NYC.

This time, I found the balance between two worlds that once felt contradictory. Now, I wear clothes until they are absolutely undone. Half of my wardrobe comes from my travels: oversized cotton shirts and long linen skirts, pashmina scarves and wool shawls from China, Peru, Nepal. I’m still fond of clothes that let you walk long hours and sleep on couches, clothes for grass and sand and mountains, clothes that are quickly washable and not so delicate. And I’ve also grown fond, again, of my city shoes and fancy jewelry: leather oxfords and loafers with intricate beading, a ring of diamonds and rose gold.

The only thing I’ve left behind for good is the performance of beauty. When my friends tell me about new hair treatments or shopping trips to Sephora, I listen blankly. But then, still, some days, I curl my lashes, sweep on blush, and put on tinted lip balm. But I don’t spend too much time before the mirror. Instead, I go for long walks in neighborhoods I don’t know, and turn my face up to the sun.

Laura Yan is a writer, wanderer, and sketcher of strangers. She does not know where she is going next. She tweets @noirony.

Photos via Laura Yan.

How can mere mortals have any hope of ever being attractive?

Celebrities are groomed within an inch of their lives. When you see photos that are high-res, it’s just so obvious:

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 07:  Hosts Alan Cumming (L) and Kristin Chenoweth pose backstage during the 2015 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 7, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 07: Hosts Alan Cumming (L) and Kristin Chenoweth pose backstage during the 2015 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 7, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

 

 

With that in mind, when you see an attractive civilian, you should be impressed. After all, she doesn’t have layers of spanx and specially-tailored clothing that’s made to be flattering, and she probably doesn’t have a personal cook. She might have a trainer? And a skin care regimen that everyone should be doing but so few of us are. She probably washes her make up off every night and moisturizes and avoids the sun like she’s a vampire. Good for her. Seriously, amazing discipline she must have. A virtual standing O is what I’m giving her.

Do you know who you are?

In the past year or so, I have been gradually gaining more and more free time. I don’t know what to do with myself because this amount of free time might be temporary.

My youngest turns 12 this weekend, and my other child is 14. We are entering the parental home stretch, and aside from helping with school projects, making food, and driving them places, they don’t need me very much (not physically, anyway). I strive to cultivate our common interests, just to keep a connection with them. But even these activities don’t take much work, especially when compared to 3 years ago.

I’m not the same person I used to be. Most of my free time was gobbled up with mundane tasks and I got used to that. As a result, my personal interests withered quite a bit or were modified to keep me at home minding children outside of school hours. I hardly ever leave the house anymore, except to walk the dogs, go to work, run a few errands, or have a meal in a restaurant. Very rarely do I head out just for the heck of it. I’m simply unused to having that option and I’ve been domesticated. I am also aging, and therefore have a lot less energy than I used to. (For example, I am hiring a gardener to dig up our tiny front lawn and replacing it with gravel.)

Some weekends whiz by with very little interaction with our offspring. Girl midget cleans her room, collects her allowance, and vanishes. Boy midget often has a group project to work on, or he is off playing games at friends’ houses. I spend a significant amount of time cleaning the inside and outside of our house, but its appearance doesn’t reflect that. One can rearrange only so much furniture and purge only so many belongings; I feel like I need most of the items that now reside in my home. But maybe I could do more, right after I have a glass of wine.

Maybe I need another project? I’m working on finding us a good house swap for Hanukkah this year. Nearly anywhere in Europe is cool with us, basically. We are looking for a cultural getaway, somewhere there are museums or sites to see and we don’t need to depend on a car. I also have to work on organizing our house because we have renters coming in August. That one’s boring, but very necessary.

Maybe this abundance of free time isn’t temporary? Dare I hope? Can I get back to being ‘myself’? Someone with varied interests and a busy calendar of activities for myself? Can I take on a big project without needing buy-in from the other people who live in my house?

I Think These Thoughts Alllllllll The Time!

I fight a near-constant internal battle, and I win more than I lose.

Mom Of Four Is Tired of thinking she is FAT.

 

Behind the Curtain!

On my mind right now, is:

  • making a decision on a house/pet sitter to live at our apartment during our time away this summer (lots of applicants to wade through);
  • find reasonably priced rain boots for boy midget (time sensitive – he’s going camping soon);
  • stop beating myself up over not taking good care of my physical self over the past 6 months of winter (i.e. too many carbs and way too much wine);
  • keep up with the bike riding in the face of cold weather and husband offering me rides to and from work (today was tough but I persevered);
  • I’m slowly ruining my midgets by letting them eat in front of the tv.  Yes, I know! But I like to eat in front of the tv too. I don’t eat the same food as they do, which already presents a mealtime challenge. I’m also very fucking tired at the end of the work day, and on weekends, and at all times during the fucking day.
  • This year was the last one where I could crawl under the back deck to store the Xmas stuff. In 2 years when it’s Xmas time again at our house, once of the midgets will have to dig it out.
  • We are meeting with an accountant so we can get a realistic idea of how many financial mistakes we’ve made and how much we’ve fucked over our present and future.

Well now I feel like shit. So here is a nice list to lift me up again:

  • My kids don’t eat McDonald’s. They actually say No if someone offers to take them there;
  • My kids don’t drink cow’s milk at my house;
  • I’m biking to work everyday that I’m in the office (4x a week). That’s 7.5 km each way;
  • Quinoa is one of my favourite foods; and
  • My midgets will eat any bread, no matter how seedy and dark.
  • We are being responsible and meeting with an accountant.

Do This and Your Home (and therefore life) Will Be Perfect

But be careful not to be too perfect! Case in point: Article from Apartment Therapy.

Seriously?! Who goes around telling people not to be perfect. Now we have to worry about being too perfect?! Fuck and No. I have already been dealing with keeping the devil way down in the hole, the one that tells me I’m not good enough. Now I have an angel on my shoulder scolding me for being too perfect? HFS I can’t deal.

Lately I’ve been so effing tired. I feel like I’m trying to walk through the shallow end of a pool. Husband offered to lend me his brain for the weekend, but I don’t think I could handle having such an even temper. My creativity might be stifled. I’ve been drinking coffee, my personal Hail Mary, trying to get back up on top of my body. Currently, my head is laying on the ground and the rest of me is as inert as one might expect when one’s brain is repeating ‘Two Weeks’ like the costume Arnold Schwarzenegger wears in The Terminator.

This weekend I’m going to visit my parents, sister and her family, as well as my gramma who lives in a nursing home. My gramma used to be a beacon of light for me; she thought I was amazing no matter what I did. I suspect she still does, but at age 91 and after 2 strokes (that we know of), she can barely get the words out. My gramma was not a person to me while I was growing up; she was the physical embodiment of unconditional love. Too busy to listen to my silly stories and dreams? Never. Too busy to cuddle? Impossible. Too busy to notice what I like to eat, play with, and do? Ha, that’s ridiculous. It’s these memories that make her current state so difficult for me to get my brain around. Her latest antics in the nursing home make her seem like a virtual stranger to me. I’m not proud of that feeling, but there it is. I can’t even tell myself that I’m improving her life by visiting her. Sure, she knows who I am. She usually sits and looks at me. She has a raft of nurses, doctors, and attendants, plus my parents, tending to her physical and emotional needs, providing her with all the basics and then some. What does she need me for? She is trying (and sometimes failing) to comprehend what her life has become, I suspect.

Don’t worry, I will suck it up and continue to visit her, and I’ll thank myself for it later when she is gone. I’m nothing if not dutiful, and just in case I’m helping her in some way, it’s worth it for me to see her. Am I being too perfect though? I remember really resenting false politeness, and still do I suppose. I want people around me who WANT to be there, not because they think they HAVE to be there. Want to vs. Have to is a recurring theme for me. As the butt of many jokes in my family while growing up and well into adulthood, I recognize my role is essential. Someone has to be a foil for the hero, and that person is me. Mostly I don’t give a crap about this but when a family visit is imminent, I start to reflect a bit too much. Usually I keep all of that angst/pity under a thick coat of varnish. The problem is I’m no longer a kid, and I don’t suffer fools gladly. But I also don’t like to make waves if there is no accompanying progress. Plus my brain is tired these days. Family dynamics are fun!

 

 

Taking My Concept of Happiness and Putting it on its Ass

Husband runs his own business and loves it. He is gregarious, smart, charming, and witty, and he loves his job. This becomes obvious to anyone who enters his store. I have often found myself to be so jealous of his job satisfaction, because mine seems to ebb and flow. Husband loves helping people and derives a lot of satisfaction from that.

I mentioned that my documents and such don’t help very many people, maybe a maximum of 10, and even then in a very limited manner. Husband replied that to the people in my family, my job helps them quite a bit. I provide a steady income and health insurance, both of which have contributed immensely to my family’s successes big and small. We have a happy, cozy, home, largely due to my beige cube job, and that’s not a small accomplishment. I have held onto my career through motherhood and divorce. I bought my own home and then a rental property on my own. Then I sold my home and with Husband, we bought a cute house in a great neighbourhood. We travel. We drink Starbucks. We do things. We are happy.

So yes, I do make people happy every day, and I do help people every day.

This Fall we are hoping to sell our rental property. Sometimes we think it would be better to sell our own house and move into the rental property, but lately we are leaning toward staying in our current home. This is because our home has a fully separate basement apartment, which provides a nice income stream. Seems like a clear cut decision, except our home has a bigger mortgage owing on it than the rental does, and we would stand to gain much more financially by selling our home.  Aside from that, I hate moving. I hate decorating and getting everything just right, only to have to leave it behind and start all over again. We have tried to take emotion out of this decision, but that’s just impossible.

We still have time to discuss and decide, which we will do.  Meanwhile, I continue making people happy daily.

Short and Sweet-ish.

Sometimes when I click on a link or menu item that I’ve clicked on 100s of times before, I will position my mouse to anticipate where the next link or button will appear. That’s just a little game I play to keep myself amused.

What would happen if I decided I wanted a lower paying physical job instead of the beige one I have now? I call my current job beige because the walls, carpeting, and people are beige. I’m not referring ethnicity; rather to attitudes/acceptance/facial expressions of coworkers.

I’m not a spring chicken (and thank goodness, because I don’t want to get eaten this summer). Physical jobs are for the young or people who haven’t any other options. Of course I’ve seen the toll a physical job takes on a person no matter their age. The young (under 30) generally thrive. They show off their amazingly tight abs, arm muscles, and suntan. Anyone over 40 though, who is doing a physically active job, starts to develop bodily ailments because they are literally wearing out their joints, bones, ligaments, and muscles.

Generally I like trading my brain capacity for money. I wish that capacity was worth more money and required less time, but overall I feel like this is the best I can do. Is that…sad? I don’t think so? I don’t know.

This year will be busy because there are lots of changes coming about.

What a Woman Smells Like

Today I sat beside a woman who smelled like mint gum, floral perfume, and Bic pen ink. These, to me, signify a grown up woman. Add in a little pencil lead and you have just described the scent of my grade school teachers.

My Gramma smelled like that too, minus the pen and pencil smells. We used to sit with her and Grampa at church (the best part of church for me) and she would pass me a candy to quietly unwrap. These days workplaces, schools, and churches pride themselves on being scent-free environments. I had forgotten about these smells and the nostalgic tidal wave that washed over me today was surprising.

Other smells are ‘woman’ smells for me too:
Pantyhose
Coffee with Mint Gum
Hair Spray
Cigarettes partially obscured by perfume
Spray Starch

What a Woman Sounds Like:
Bracelets moving along a wrist, making a faint ‘ting’ sound as they rub together or when a charm bracelet rattles, or a loose watch strap. Usually these sounds would occur when the woman was rummaging through her purse for a pen so she can write a cheque or sign a permission slip.

Throat clearing. This signifies ‘shut up about that topic right now’ and was usually directed at a male relative but occasionally at us kids too.

Yellow (hello). This is how my Gramma always answered the phone. She would have no idea who was calling because no call display, and would always cheerfully answer. My Dad usually answered like this too.