Walk the talk.

silverware

In my family, we spend New Year’s Day doing two things: brunching and hiking.  My parents and my sister’s family drive up and we spend the morning eating all kinds of yummy things, and then we head to a nearby state park for the First Day Hike.

I don’t normally host a lot of get-togethers at my house, but when we do, it’s always been so easy to rely on disposables: plates, napkins, plastic silverware.  I keep a pretty minimal kitchen, so my excuse has always been that I don’t have enough of any one thing; I only have 8 large plates, for example, so when all ten family members are here, what choice do I have?

I’ll tell you what choice I have: put out the 8 small plates I have, too. So someone has to eat on a small plate – they’ll survive!  And the same thing goes for silverware: can’t some people use tiny forks and some people use normal forks?  They all work the same.

So yesterday I challenged myself not to use anything throwaway.  To make up for a shortage of bowls for fruit and yogurt, I set out a bunch of small jam jars.  I washed up every cloth napkin we own, so we had plenty.  Glassware was mismatched, but who really cares? And the three people who ate off small plates still got plenty of food.  At the end of the meal, nothing was thrown away; we just washed everything up and put it back in the cabinet.

Even though this is such a small thing, I’d been letting my discomfort with things being a little hodge-podge and scruffy stand in my way.  But if I say I value making sustainable choices, I am absolutely required to make myself uncomfortable in order to live in alignment with that value.  Because if you draw the line at your own discomfort, then the truth becomes that you don’t really value that thing you say you care about.  And I want to hold myself accountable.

I hope 2020 holds even more discomfort for me.

(photo source Pixabay)

On being materialistic.

sewing machineToday I spent about an hour at the thrift store.  I’ve been on the hunt for a new cardigan in a happy color, but I had rules: it had to be secondhand, it had to be made of natural fibers, and it had to be worth repairing if it got damaged in any way.  The thrift store I was at is huge and combing through literally hundreds of sweaters took time, but it felt like time well-spent; if I could find the right sweater, then I wouldn’t have to look for another sweater for a long time.

Combing through the racks was a little disheartening.  So much acrylic or polyester or nylon.  So many bad seams and pilled fabrics.  So much, for want of a better word, junk.  But my patience was rewarded and I found a pink merino wool cardigan with embroidered flowers and good seams.  The buttons and button plackets were reinforced with grosgrain ribbon.  The button holes were sturdy and well made.  This sweater was a keeper.

Now, it wasn’t perfect.  The buttons were quite loose and one was missing altogether.  But perfection wasn’t the goal.  I wanted a sweater I could develop a relationship with.

So, five dollars later, I brought my new sweater home.  I resewed the buttons and moved the bottom button up to replace the missing one.  I haven’t decided yet if I’ll replace that bottom one, because I won’t use it and it’s not really noticeable that it’s gone.  We’ll see.  I can decide that down the road, because this sweater is going to stay with me a long time. Just the very act of sitting down with needle and thread and taking the time to fix the sweater had that magical effect of endowing it with value: I love it more because I spent time on it.

I also spent a couple of hours this week patching some overalls.  I have a pair of overalls I love madly, but they were “destructed” when I bought them, and those holes make them difficult to wear in winter and also mean they just won’t last as long.  Every deep knee bend threatens to make the holes much bigger.  So I patched the two largest holes and will fix the others over time.  Already the overalls feel sturdier (because you know I wore them literally the next day) and also, they feel even more special to me because I invested my time in them.

I want to only bring things into my home that I truly love, things that bring me pleasure when I use them or wear them.  It seems like the only right way to honor the resources of time and materials and human labor that brought those things into existence.

 

Facing facts and faces.

camera-2598507_960_720I don’t post to Instagram all that much (though heaven knows I love to scroll through it), but when I do, I always feel a little cognitive dissonance.

The profile picture on my Instagram account is one from, like, 8 years ago. It’s a picture I took right after a haircut and everyone said I looked good (for me?), and so it became my profile picture.  And because I am so deeply self-conscious about my face, I just kept it.  For years.  Even though I don’t really look like that anymore (and shouldn’t, in that years pass and people change).

Sometimes I’d like to change it.  And I take a bunch of pictures of myself and I find them all deficient in some way, and so I stick with the old bathroom selfie.  It’s like a tiny lie I tell about myself on social media, and while there are no shortages of lies on social media, this one really bothers me.

How does one make peace with their appearance? How do you arrive at a place where you can see a picture of yourself and just think, “Yep, that’s my face”? Intellectually, I don’t believe I have a responsibility to be pretty; none of us do.  And yet here I am: pretending how I looked for 2 hours in 2012 is how I really look all the time.

I know the work of making peace with my face is the exact same work I have to do around my body; it’s all patriarchal bullshit that we’ve been buried in our whole lives.  I want to unlearn all those messages.  I want to feel at ease with my appearance; I daresay I’d even like to love myself, though to begin with I’d settle for neutrality.  I want to not feel a quiet sense of shame, like I owe my husband and son an apology for how I look (that right there hurt to type).  I want to feel at home inside myself.

I guess it’s like anything: you begin by beginning.  Speak your truth, and see what happens.

Thoughts on clothes, and the bodies that wear them.

shirts

Over the summer, I lost some weight.  It wasn’t accidental; I started intermittent fasting in May and while I may have said I wanted “health,” I really wanted weight loss.  It’s so hard not to want weight loss, you know?  Every message we get says smaller bodies are more valuable, and when anything in your life feels uncomfortable or painful, it’s easy to think changing our bodies will change our lives.

Of course, that doesn’t work.  All that happens when we lose weight is we get a fresh set of problems: our shape still isn’t right, or the work we have to do to maintain smaller bodies is soul-crushing, or literally not a damn thing changes and it feels like all the deprivation was pointless.

I stopped fasting a couple of months ago and I’ve been working hard on healing my thinking about my body and bodies in general.  This isn’t my first go-around with disordered eating and exercise; I’d worked through damaging behaviors several years ago.  But the former English major in me appreciates a good theme, and I know that numbing behaviors are a theme for me (spoiler: probably for all of us).  So revisiting this one again feels somewhat expected.

It’s not easy work, confronting all the cultural messaging while also trying to recognize all that you’ve internalized; it feels like there’s no respite.  One thing that I’m struggling with right now is clothing my body.  I haven’t really gained back any of the weight I lost but I expect I will; I know where my body naturally seems to settle and my current weight is about 10-15 pounds below that.  And given my body shape, that’s enough to change my pants size by 2 sizes.  So while I have clothes that sort of fit now, it won’t take much before they stop fitting and I have to make choices about what to replace them with.

I routinely have a hard time with clothing; the idea of personal style escapes me.  I have an idea of how I’d like to dress and I know how to sew, so that should be within reach for me, but I so often feel self-conscious.

I got described as “quirky” recently and I’m still unpacking that one.  I was kind of an odd kid and I guess I’ve grown up to be an odd adult, and the truth is: being different, especially in terms of my appearance, feels really unsafe.  Losing weight was just another way of seeking the safety of fitting in; getting dressed is an extension of that.  Add to that my very short hair and my general makeup-free face and I don’t exactly fit in with all the other moms at school, you know? And here’s another thing: my sweet son is also on the quirky side.  He dresses in his own style and I’ve always supported that because self-expression is healthy and natural, but I also carry of lot of fear about the vulnerability he’s risking by being true to himself.  Also, ugh – being authentic shouldn’t be dangerous, damn it.

I’m not going to be able to wrap this all up in a final, enlightening paragraph.  I am stumbling through it all right now and needed a place to put my thoughts, however disjointed they might be.  I will end with this: my birthday is Friday and I’ll be 43, and 43 years seems like plenty long enough to worry about presenting myself as an object.

Buy Nothing.

dining roomBack in August, I started a Buy Nothing Project group here in my smallish city.  It’s been slow-growing; I think a lot of people shy away from a gift economy because they don’t entirely understand it.  Our culture tells us there are only two ways to get things.  Either you buy them, in which case: yay capitalism.  Or you are given things, in which case: sad poor.  The haves give to the have-nots, and the haves just keep buying more new stuff, and everyone is left wanting and grasping and seeking all the time.

It’s exhausting.

That’s why I love the Buy Nothing Project.  It asks you step outside that thinking and understand that everyone has things they need and things to give and that if we learned to trust our neighbors (and, you know, bothered to notice each other and learn one another’s names and show up in our communities), so many of our needs could be met without anyone have to walk into a store. And most of the time, I’d rather do anything else than walk into a store.

What has been interesting for me as I nurture my group’s growth is that, some days, I’m the only one giving things away.  To keep things lively there, I gift things pretty often, sometimes multiple times a day.  But the thing that is crazy is, no matter how much I give away?  I always have more stuff I could gift.  When you start to look around yourself, at the things you own but never touch, the things that you used once and never picked up again, the things you bought and then forgot about – my heavens, there is so much of it.  I could give away something every day for the next 1000 days and I doubt I’d even get close to the things I truly care about.  And I think that’s probably true for most people.

And here’s the second crazy thing: every time I give something away, every time I send something off to live a life of use and service in another household, I’m rewarded two-fold.  First, I get the frisson of joy from sharing what I have.  And second, I get more space in my home, space to breathe and rest and remember that things never bring meaning.

People do.

The first step(s).

road edgeI live exactly one mile from a big box store.  One mile isn’t really very much.  I like to get out and go for walks and runs; one mile would be barely a start when I’m talking about getting movement in.  But I never walk to the store, because there isn’t a single sidewalk between my house and the store.  So, I get in the car and drive there, probably cursing under my breath the whole time, because ugh.  Who drives one mile when they don’t need to?

I live in the heart of a smallish city and it makes me crazy that I can’t easily get anywhere on foot.  Once I’m out of my (sidewalk-free) neighborhood, I have to walk on the shoulders of roads, which perch precariously on the edge of deep ditches. It makes walking anywhere feel like an act of desperation, a last resort, instead of a sensible, sustainable choice.  Every time I pass a gym, I cringe a little – all those treadmills lined up inside, and all the pointless walking and running being done on them.  What if we had sidewalks? And we could just walk to the store or the post office or a restaurant?  Maybe we wouldn’t need to set aside specific “walking/running” time if we could just incorporate movement into our lives.

But how do you change a car culture? Especially here in a place like Oklahoma where things are pretty spread out and having a car is a necessity? Do we give up and accept that means we don’t get to walk anywhere?

I don’t plan to.  It may not be easy or comfortable right now, but until I get out there and do it, I can’t discover what the real issues are and learn if there are any simple things that can be done to make things better and more walkable.

This morning, it was pleasant and I planned to take a walk before it got hot.  And I also needed to go to the store for 3 things.  So, I did it: I grabbed my shopping tote, my wallet, and my good attitude, and walked there.  The whole round-trip only took 47 minutes.  A goodly section of the walk was through parking lots and crossing the main street in town was Frogger-esque due to no crosswalk, but I made it.  And it actually wasn’t as bad as I feared.

So, I’m going to keep doing it, and maybe try to discover other ways to get to nearby places without using a car. After all, if I want to have a walkable community, the first step is to get out there and walk it.

(photo source Pixabay)

 

A bowl of cereal.

cerealWhen I was seven, we moved to the same street as my grandparents.  My grandfather Poppy was dying of lung cancer and most of my memories of him come from that time.  I remember spending the night with them once, and getting up early while the house was still quiet.  I went into the kitchen and found Poppy sitting at the old oak table.  He smiled at me and invited me to join him in a bowl of raisin bran.  It was his favorite cereal, or at least that’s what I thought as a little kid, and so we sat there letting the flakes soften in the milk before scooping it up.  It feels like my last memory of him.

Poppy was the only person in my childhood whom I felt like completely loved and accepted me – his death when I was young meant that we never had the inevitable disagreements or disappointments that come with family.  He remained a smiling, gentle man in overalls who showed me the special seeds in persimmons and let me comb his pomaded hair into swirls and waves.  He was safety and he was love.  After he died, I prayed to him instead of Jesus for a lot of years.

Raisin bran is my favorite cereal.  But I almost never eat it, because years of dieting and disordered eating and restriction often removed it from the menu.  For the last few months, I’ve been doing intermittent fasting (ostensibly for “health,” but I know my secret motivations) and so breakfast hasn’t even been a thing.  Most days I wouldn’t eat until well after noon.

But I’m so tired of being at odds with my body.  I’ve lost weight and while that is easy to feel good about, it also feels uncomfortable, because I don’t need to lose any more weight and yet I don’t know how to not want to.  The truth is, I always want to lose more.

It’s time to make peace with my body and start treating myself with kindness and compassion, and that means intuitive eating instead of intermittent fasting.  I’m hungry this morning, and specifically hungry for raisin bran – normally I’d say no because it’s too early and also shouldn’t I eat something with protein like eggs or yogurt?

Today, I’m not going to listen to that voice. I’m going to sit at my own old oak table, pour a bowl of raisin bran, let it soften in the milk, and then enjoy it.  And try to remember that I deserve to love myself as much as Poppy loved me.

(photo source Pixabay)