What you do for yourself

I have a memory of an old episode of Oprah. I think Elle Macpherson was on it. And she said one thing she does for herself is wear beautiful lingerie. The point was simple, compelling: I feel beautiful and “more myself” when I do this thing (nevermind that she had/has her own lingerie brand).

“Do it for yourself” has become a powerful marketing message. Don’t get a boob job for a man, do it for yourself. Wear this push up bra, but for yourself. Cinch your waist, become a domestic goddess, paint your nails and find the right shade of red lipstick. Be house proud. Do pilates. Wax. For yourself.

Quarantine has laid the truth bare. The things we’re doing now… those are the things we really do for ourselves.

Every morning, I still put on perfume. It comforts me when I smell a waft of familiarity on a sweater or on the collar of my coat. Or even, sometimes, on Beau’s fur.

I blow-dry my hair and care for my skin. I enjoy face masks and face massage. I will dab a little blush on my cheeks and comb my brows. But I don’t curl my eyelashes for myself. I don’t conceal for myself.

I can now confidently tell you that I do not ever wear uncomfortable shoes for myself.

I’m sad to say that I do not dress up for myself. I have worn leggings every day of quarantine. I have thought about buying dresses. Flowy dresses which are so impractical on streetcars and rolling office chairs might be perfect for these days. I fancy myself floating about in this one.

I crave flowers and will take the supermarket variety over having nothing. I will even take my shears on a late night dog walk and snip a magnolia branch from a neglected park to have it for myself. To watch it slowly unfurl fed in my window. I daily wish I could grow roses for myself.

I don’t bake for myself but I will buy a bar of dark chocolate and eat a square or two after dinner every night. I remarkably cook the same recipes over and over again, though I could choose to try something new from the many cookbooks I own with the time I have right now

I will roll out my yoga mat for myself but only when  body gives me an extra nudge. A back twinge? That will do it. But, I do meditate every day for myself.

I have friends who bake bread for themselves and friends who wear Hermes scarves for themselves. It’s not a competition. I’m intrigued by this individuality opening up. The usual implied ‘should’ seems trivial now. We always all said “you do you”… But is it just me or does it feel more sweetly indifferent right now?

I dress my bed and clean and tidy and arrange and rearrange my apartment for myself. But we already knew that about me, didn’t we...

But the best thing I do for myself is read. I crave it like putting my hands in earth or making a footprint on fresh snow. My mood, when dark, is mended by this most enduring pleasure of all.

I walk for myself. And for Beau too. At night time especially when I think I can see more stars than usual and I can stand on a quiet street and throw my head back. And it occurs to me that the things I do for myself are very simple things. And I want to remember that when the marketing men light the billboards back up and the influencer bloggers stir to tell me there’s some new thing I should buy or try or apply to become more myself.

That when nobody cared and the catwalk of life was paused, I was content to do simple, beautiful things. For myself.
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Grieving...

2-3 months ago, I fantasized a lot about working for myself, from home. I would set my own hours, walk my dog, eat healthier, and exercise. I’d avoid the daily commute and the office ogres.

I keep thinking, be careful what you wish for.

But, of course, I wasn’t wishing for this. Because what I was wishing for was freedom. And this is not freedom. The fact that I’m working from home and walking my dog is not a freedom I’ve gained, it represents a loss of so much.

And that’s just one of the many small mindfucks of all of this. There’s a lot about it that I should ostensibly love. But of course I don’t. Because of course this is all terrible. And even introverted spinsters like me are grieving. Our friends and freedoms. The many small interactions that make up a life.

Beau is forlorn. This is not what he signed up for either.

He witnesses moments of frustration with work. Moments of just staring. Bursts of manic energy, dance parties. More phone calls than he wants. He comes charging when he hears my voice on calls, sure that if I’m talking, I’m talking to him. Confused when I’m not.

I’m working way too much.

The machine continues oblivious in its white, male self-absorption. I have a flimsy detente with this machine at the best of times. It pays my bills. I get to pay for things. We play our roles. My version of it isn’t the worst version of it. But now this feels more ludicrous. I keep thinking “surely not now” when it asks for another powerpoint.

Other kinds of obliviousness feel puckish and reassuring. The spring flowers keep budding like some mischief-maker wearing a ballgown to a funeral. The moon waxes every night and I find its aloofness reassuring.

I am thinking MASSIVE things. But struggling to do the smallest things. I am thinking about dropping out and moving and the importance of building a garden. How have we constructed entire existences that don’t touch saltwater and soil? I need to urgently correct this for myself.

How do I move, how do I reinvent, how do I buck it all?

But also: How do I roll out my yoga mat and just stretch? My back is killing me. Is everybody’s back killing them? How do I read just a few pages of a book? How do I eat?

I might just let my hair be grey when we’re done. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel the same way about a some purse again. A purse for god’s sake. It's hard to imagine that lust now. I’ll be disappointed if we just bounce back to the exact same spot.

I want it to be over. But I also don’t want it to be over until something has changed forever.

Quarantinetunes

I made a playlist for these grim times.
Cover image by the wonderful Shawn Downey.


2020 Goals

2019 was a survival year for me. I hope 2020 is a thriving one.

Some of my 2020 goals are “keep going” but some involve doing things differently.

The most controversial goal is weight-loss. I guess it’s a cliche sort of resolution… the kind that seems destined to fail. And I suppose it’s not fashionable to want to lose weight; the prevailing message is self-acceptance. But I think it's okay to strive to change something you're not happy about.

But it seems natural for me to focus here now: My body went through hell last year. I didn’t push it to perform as much as just get through it. And sometimes that meant rest and food.

I think there’s also a loss of trust in your body when you get sick. And you have to trust your body if you’re going to ask it to run, or stretch. I’m ready to get back there.

Okay, so here’s the full list:
1. Keep reading more: I’m always a happier person when there’s a book on the go
2. Start running again and stretch properly
3. Lose weight, but also just listen to my body about what feels right…
4. Keep up 4-6 week facials
5. Increase my pension contribution %
6. Use all massage, acupuncture benefits
7. Tack somewhere in Europe (Aix, Vienna, Rome, Paris, Bath, Edinburgh?) onto my next trip home
8. Unsubscribe from retail newsletters (to minimize impulse spending)
9. Unfollow retail Instagram accounts (also to minimize impulse spending)
10. Save SUPER aggressively
11. Work A LOT on side hustle stuff
12. Find an accountant
13. Keep up Beau’s training - his “off” command needs more work outdoors
14. Watch a lot less TV - maybe unsubscribe from some streaming services?
15. Keep up daily meditation - I fell in love with Headspace in 2019
16. Go vegan when eating at home (vegetarian eating out)
17. Shop a lot less this year - replacing, upgrading rather than adding…
18. Wear more of the shoes I have in my closet!
19. When spring/summer rolls around, spend more time in the ravines
20. Find more ways of minimizing plastics in grocery shopping
21. Paint kitchen!
22. Replace mattress with organic one (maybe this brand?)
23. Incorporate more writing on Instagram, which means slowing down & being thoughtful about what I post and why
24. Add one new recipe a month to my “everyday” cooking arsenal
25. Forget what others want/expect from me and be brave enough to take some risks
26. Don’t worry so much if I suck at something I really enjoy doing….