Awakenings are where you find them. One minute I was in control of my finances (and myself) and the next, I found myself getting sucked in. But .... I believe my reasons for wanting to look more dapper are valid because, let me just say, sweats are not the thing.
This morning, after visiting a relative, I am sitting here feeling inferior in every way and $500 poorer to boot! And I was only gone for 48 hours. My weekender was not cheap and I am sorry to say that we ate in restaurants for every meal. And the restaurants, they were not cheap. And my relative, she does not cook.
Let me start at the beginning of my weekender.
I picked up my rental car, paying $135 in total for the weekend in rental charges and gas. Hey! At least I got to drive a new car amongst all the other new cars that surrounded me over the weekend. I mean, where else could one get to park next to a Bentley at Trader Joes? At least when my dressed down, overly casual self was hidden behind the wheel and the tinted glass of my rental vehicle, I looked just like everyone else. And I was happy about that!
Each and every time I left the safe confines of my leather interior, I was a fish out of water in my sweats (oh god, did I just type that?) and 80s scrunchy, a throwback to a time when it was chic to wear workout gear and fleece to the mall. Well, honey, it ain't chic no more.
I have always had the family cavalry to back me up, but now I have no one but myself and, having spent too much time hiding behind said cavalry, I can see, now exposed, that I am indeed coming up woefully short in the self confidence, purpose and panache departments. I placed all my time and energies into raising the cavalry and they have galloped full speed ahead and left me in the dust! I bring up the rear... the Water Boy, ungainly and lacking. So, you see, even my own kids are embarrassed by my appearance.
I have to LOL here because even I can't quite believe the sorry transformation that the past 20 years has wrought upon me. I've gone from fair California chick to an old turkey and this weekend, being around the Beautiful People, has reinforced this, my inner dialogue:
"I am an embarrassment to myself, a shadow of the woman I believed myself to be and, even though I know that I have struggled quite valiantly with some of the bullshyte that life has bestowed upon me, I can see more clearly than ever that my baggage has all had quite a negative effect upon me."
Just in looking at myself in the mirror, I can see that my poor attitude shows. I don't know what has happened to me, where have I disappeared to? I don't even know who I am anymore, who I'm supposed to be, what happened to my place here? If I'm not Mama, controlling my kids' lives, who am I? When did I get so lazy?? So directionless? How much longer can I allow the after effects of other people's bad behavior to define me? When am I going to take full responsibility for some of the negative things that I did? When am I going to break out of this self imposed prison and start living again?
It doesn't have to be ALL or NOTHING. I don't need to have a closet full of designer clothing. I also don't need to have a closet full of outdated, ill fitting clothing and sweats.
No stranger but me knows ... about my health struggles, my 10 year battle with keeping cancer at bay that ultimately ended in major surgery and the fact that the Big C could return at any time. That doesn't mean that I have to stop living while I 'wait and see'.
No stranger knows ... about my legal struggles, or about the asshole who decided to stalk me and turn my life inside out and upside down. While he can never come back to assault me again because he's locked away for life, the toll on me overall has been tremendous. But when am I going to fully overcome this event and move on? It has been almost 15 years since this asshole's path crossed mine but yet I have only just begun to be able to discuss this event openly. I have kept it bottled up inside all this time. My spouse and the kids dare not bring it up. And when/if they do, it's a tippytoe into the ocean, so vast was this ripple effect.
The stress ... of raising a large family alone with only the spouse for support ... well now I know that it truly does take a village.
And of course there is more .... much more .... but I guess my point is that slowly, slowly, all of these events have chipped away at the person I strove to be and tried to be above all.
What has brought this on? Well, yes, I had a very nice weekend. My relative lives in one of the most affluent and influential neighborhoods, not just in SoCal but in the world, and this affluence is reflected everywhere because, of course, my relative has money to spend and luxurious and glamorous shopping malls in which to spend it. Recession? What recession? If there is a recession going on in this country it sure as shyte ain't happen' here.
My relative lives in a bubble, one in which 11 year old snooty boys sport Rolexes and a sneer. The atmosphere is one of luxury, decadence, out-of-season tropical flora and more money than people know what to do with. It is fueled by materialism and a consumer culture so blatantly in-your-face that out-of-town bumpkins like me, who live in the middle of the Mojave, lose our social footing as soon as we touch down and never quite regain it until we arrive back home again to our own private and familiar 'comfortable' schlep.
I was in the middle of a technological and scientific hub over the weekend, among people who are the biggest movers and shakers in these industries. Glass steel towers, sleek concrete buildings, an enclave of polished wood, natural stone and art installations. In my sweats!! LOL Fish out of water. And I didn't like the sensation of having become so out of touch and out of style, standing out for all the wrong reasons. I felt lazy and looked lazy.
You don't know what's going on You've been away for far too long You can't come back and think you are still mine You're out of touch, my baby My poor discarded baby I said, baby, baby, baby, you're out of time Well, baby, baby, baby, you're out of time I said, baby, baby, baby, you're out of time You are all left out Out of there without a doubt Cause baby, baby, baby, you're out of time You thought you were a clever girl Giving up your social whirl But you can't come back and be the first in line, oh no You're obsolete my baby My poor old-fashioned baby I said baby, baby, baby you're out of time Well, baby, baby, baby, you're out of time
Generally, I'm not a conformist but I don't like to embarrass myself and I certainly don't want to embarrass the people I am with. No one forced me ~ I didn't have to attend the champagne brunch to which I was invited, an invitation I should've turned down. My relative wanted to show me her work environment and to introduce me to coworkers. The spread was gorgeous and deserving of my own best efforts. The ladies who put it all together were charming and did a wonderful job and I felt like an ungrateful pig as I scarfed down canapes in my sweats, standing in a newly constructed billion dollar building that was so high tech, it did everything but admonish me itself about my attire. Everyone else was smartly dressed and had made the effort to match the surroundings. I did not. And for the first time in a long time, I was 100% aware of my clothing choices.
There is no good reason for me to look so overly casual to the extent that a pair of sweats are regarded in my mind as a 'good' outfit. I mean, really, we all like to look good and feel good but I was as out of place among the gorgeous leggy women and smooth smart men as I could've been and I was embarrassed and uncomfortable. I realized yet again just how far I have let myself go, while all the while I've been kidding myself that I haven't. Oh yes, you have.
I have a closet full of old fashion, none of it wearable and all of it has to go. Why am I hanging onto this crap? In hopes that the 'me' of yesteryear will return to wear it?? Well, she isn't going to return because she's gone and she has been replaced by the latest version of "Me", the embattled mama who needs to find a new direction, purpose and attitude. I am most certainly not the same person I was 15, 20 years ago. The last 20 years in particular have been hard on me in every way.
We moved to the Mojave. We became isolated. I garnered a stalker. I became embroiled in the legal system. Then I got sick. So I acted out negatively. Got fat. Nurtured my addictions. Formed ludicrous relationships with dubious people.
I am so ready to move beyond this.
My relative is everything that I am not but it's OK! She too has had her rough patches in life but she has chosen to rise above and boy has she risen above! She put me in the guest room that overlooks the ocean and the coastline and, while it was certainly a beautiful view to awaken to in the morning, it wasn't without its blight. A layer of smog hung over the horizon and the amount of traffic on the roads was tremendous over the weekend. Like a turd rolled in glitter, everything was bright and shiny on the surface but .... well, you get the picture. It's not just me being negative either! I would imagine that the level of stress involved in keeping up a lifestyle like this would be tremendous. I also imagine that most of the people I saw flashing plastic in the malls have substantial debt levels too ..... I mean, they can't ALL be uber successful, can they?? Well, at least they weren't wearing sweats I suppose ....
I guess, more than anything, I realized just how far removed I've become from being a part of the consumer culture and while, for me, that is a good thing, it doesn't come without its drawbacks.
I used to be the woman trawling the mall, buying tons of stuff and living with high debt levels. I used to be the woman in the Gucci sunglasses with leather boots and long crimson fingernails. I used to wrap the Hermes scarf casually about my shoulders .... LOL
Now, sweats and fleece are a 'resort outfit' in my mind and, while I have no intentions of ever returning to a debt fueled materialistic lifestyle, I do see the importance of taking care of myself and of feeling good about the way I look. After all, the way I feel about myself is going to affect the way I deal with everyone around me. I've sacrificed a lot for other people, namely for my kids, in making sure that they had/have everything they need, that their needs continue to be met. All the while, cliched as it sounds, I have been neglecting my own needs and those of the spouse too, especially over the past 5 years or so.
Our wardrobes SUCK. I can honestly say that we do not have ONE decent outfit, not one. I'm not intending to empty out my closet, only to fill it up again with crap, but I am going to make an effort now to put together a few really nice outfits, clothing that can carry me from a resort weekend, to a cocktail party, to an art event, to a weekend spent shopping with family in high end malls. I mean, OK, this is not the pinnacle of accomplishment but, if I am to fit in with my own family and be a part of their pursuits, I have to make changes. I don't plan to ever return to my hoarding ways but I am still alive and I do receive invitations, most of which I turn down but some of which I accept. It is possible to build a stylish wardrobe on a careful budget, n'est pas? Because I am no match for reality TV and its far reaching effects into our collective consumer psych. Shopping as entertainment. It is real.
I came to realize this past week that I am, in fact, coming back to life ..... returning to life. I know that sounds stupid but it's not as stupid as it sounds. The legal system, the dealings with a crazy person and the attention that situation generated almost killed me. It devastated my family. I became as if mute when it was all over, silenced, in shock, grief stricken, depressed and it has taken years for me to move through it. Of course, I didn't handle the situation properly, believing that stoicism and isolation were the answers to getting through it, but I was wrong about that too. I should've taken the help that was offered to me. I was too young/embarrassed/shocked to take it. Instead, I was worried about the impact on my family and believed that not talking about it, not drawing attention to the situation, believing that everyone could forget about this massive upheaval in all of our lives, was the best way to handle it. It wasn't.
One of my favorite observations comes from the movie "The Descendants" and it goes like this:
“My family seems like an archipelago. We are part of the same group, but we are still islands – separate and alone. And we’re slowly drifting apart.”
I love that so few words can sum up what seems to happen as kids grow up and move on with their own lives, leaving us ~ their parents ~ behind, to pick up where we both left off years earlier. It ain't that easy.
Perhaps that is another part of my grieving process .... not only am I grieving the loss of a childhood to violence and the loss of my 30s to a different kind of violation, but I am grieving the loss of my one true anchor. My kids always gave me something to hold on to, even as the waters around me grew ever more choppy and dangerous. I wonder though, was I the best parent I could be? I wonder. I consider the actions of my kids today and I wonder.
If Mama ain't happy, no one's happy ...
This is what I think to myself as I move through high end stores carved from polished stone wearing sweats.
I have become far removed it seems from the mainstream but I am not happy as an island any more. That mindset has served its purpose, probably for me alone I guess. I don't know that it has helped anyone else in my family. It allowed me to focus on survival at a time when my survival was critical for everyone around me, but those same people that depended upon me then for their own survival don't depend on me in the same way anymore.
I accompanied my companion on her quest to find an evening gown for an upcoming event and, even though she certainly never said anything to me, I felt as if I was an embarrassment to her. I looked so out of place commenting on the dresses she picked. I felt and looked shabby. And not even shabby chic!!
So, my goal this week is to empty out my closet and sell/donate/trash 80% of what is in there.
Then, I'm going to give some consideration to what my actual style is/has become.
And then, I am going to hunt for the pieces that will comprise my new wardrobe.
All of it mix-n-match. All of it good quality, high end, well cut, not skimped.
This past weekend clearly demonstrates the dire need for a wardrobe revamp.
It is a necessity not just for me, but also for the spouse. His wardrobe is just as bad. He has his work clothing but really he has nothing to wear that makes him feel good. He has nothing to wear that would enable him to stand on a yacht nonchalantly quaffing champers and, yes, we do know someone with a yacht LOL
I'm sure that this post must seem counter intuitive to our goals, a flip to our frugality's flop. But the reality is, we dress like poor college kids and we are NOT college kids. We dress out of place and we LOOK out of place and where's the fun in that? We have been dealt devastating blows and I, especially, have been hiding out for years now. This is not living. Is it wrong to want to feel like a small part of the herd again? I received a lot of condescending looks over the weekend and, honestly, I deserved it. I looked as though I was batting with zero self respect. And therein lies the problem.
"Hi, my name is Quest and I am overweight, I dress in shabby sweats because I don't like to draw attention to myself (haha!) and drawing attention to myself only ends up in trouble and ...and I believed up until recently that sweats make a perfectly good, smart outfit for any occasion. I've been too busy surviving to remember that looking good can actually make a person feel good too .... pardon my shallow."
I'm making a change and I'm making it for the right reasons. Please hold off on that invite to the Hamptons while I go look for some style.
I hope my relative invites me back for a weekender again .....
I promise not to base my entire 'look' around sweats ....
On a quest to bounce back from job and financial loss. One of my biggest dreams in life is to own my home free and clear of any and all bank loans. To no longer be a slave to the lender would be GREAT!