2019: My year of color

NOTE 01.08.19 7:30 pm CT:
I’ve offended many people with this post, and for that I am deeply sorry. Please read my comment here.
And 01.12 Please read my follow-up about what’s wrong with this post here.

2019: My year of color

After a lifetime of mostly thinking January 1st is irrelevant and spurning the making of resolutions, this year I find myself so awash in thoughts and wishes and goals and reflections that I’m having trouble even beginning to put them into sentences, much less paragraph order. Not to mention I’ve had my hands (and brain) so full these past few weeks with holiday business and the new Fringe Supply Co. website and the launch of the Steekalong (etc, etc) that I haven’t been able to look any of this squarely in the face, or sit still with it, or let it talk back to me. So bear with me as I try to say at least some fraction of what I want to say.

The bottom line will be: I’m different.

I’m older than I was a couple of weeks ago. As in, the dawn of a new decade. And I have an older husband. A couple of years ago, having made it through assorted health scares and setbacks, and having my fun-loving husband back on his feet, I became wide-awake aware of the fact that I’m not going to live forever and I have not seen the world, and neither had he, and we want to see the world. A big part of moving from San Francisco to Nashville is we wanted to see the world. Living there, far from our families, and spending all of our money on the cost of living there, pretty much any travel we were able to do was to see family — and even that was getting harder and more expensive. How were we ever going to see Paris or Istanbul or the Congo? So we moved to where it’s easy enough to see family — just hop in the car — that we could do much more of that, but also save money and spend it on travel. (This was one of many factors, but a big one.) 

People who know us would likely describe us as gutsy and adventuresome. We’d been all up and down the west coast hiking backcountry trails and climbing rock walls and whatnot. We’ve both seen most of the U.S. But when it came to international travel, we … well, I guess we just didn’t know how to say yes to that. It seems so daunting. So foreign! And it might have been, twenty years ago, but now with debit cards and iPhones, there’s not a lot of difference between traveling to Paris Texas and Paris France, functionally speaking. Except we didn’t know that because we were too nervous to try it. (Or “too busy” or recovering from surgery or, you know.) It was so much easier to just keep not going. Until one day we decided we didn’t want to find ourselves old or infirm and wishing we’d gone while we could.

So we decided we would go to Paris. Keep it simple, just one city, and I kinda know the language. And if we only ever made it to one place, hey, at least we’d seen Paris! We still thought we didn’t know how, but we decided if we just picked some dates and bought some plane tickets, we’d be forced to figure it out, so that’s what we did. And in April of 2017, we went to Paris. Other than the cost and length of the flights — and ok, the fact that some people couldn’t understand us and vice versa — it was just like traveling to any other big city we’d ever been in. And that was pretty thrilling and emboldening, but like we walked everywhere (took a cab twice) and never left the city. And I kinda know the language. Everywhere else still seemed sort of daunting! But we loved it and we made a pact that we would leave the country at least once a year for as long as we’re able. Which we half-did in 2018.

When I got the chance to tag along to Portugal last June, it wound up being at the expense of Bob leaving the country. (We almost went back to Paris for my big birthday last month, but decided on the desert with loved ones instead.) If you ever have the chance to travel with friends who are really good at it — or this is why people do group tours, I now understand — you should do that. Again, what I learned is it’s not that hard or different, in this day and age. And although the flights can be more expensive than domestic travel, it can be cheaper overall. My elaborate trip to Portugal was a bargain compared to our few days in SF in September. But this time I was with people who simply rented cars and plugged an address into Google Maps, just like at home, and off we went all over the country. What I got to experience there, as I mentioned at the time, left me SO hungry for more.

I want to see the world. And more important, I want to be a person who says yes more.

So far this is a long way of telling you I plan to wear more color. This year’s resolution: Wear color. Be color. Live in color. 

I didn’t wear makeup for about twelve years. I simply didn’t want to. I had loved makeup in earlier years, but had started to feel like the only time I looked in the mirror and thought “ahhhh, that’s better” was when I looked up from washing my face. So I just stopped one day (the day I returned from my first backpacking trip, actually), and over time I decided I wouldn’t start again for any reason other than that it felt appealing and fun to me. I wouldn’t succumb to any external pressure to do it — because we are expected to, and you have to explain yourself if you choose not to, which seems really backwards to me. (I have a whole book of thoughts on this subject.) But eventually I did find myself actually wanting to wear a little bit of makeup, and so now I do.

Likewise, I used to wear more color than I do now. I’ve never been an Anna Maltz or a Libby Callaway or even a Meghan Fernandes — to name just a few friends whose facility with color I admire — but there was color. In particular, pink.

Here are three of my favorite outfits of my life:

1. Going off to sleepaway camp for the first time at age 12 or so, and feeling even more pressure about what I wore than any first day of school, I wore a tube top in a hot pink and white awning stripe under pale pink overall shorts with white Keds. 
2. Working at JC Penney in high school while there was a trendy co-branded collection with a hot British brand (these were early Madonna days), I bought the hot pink sleeveless cotton mock-neck sweater and — how did I never make this connection before — a long tube skirt in hot pink and white awning stripe. And I had a perfectly matched pair of hot pink flats.
3. Heading to family-friends’ house for Christmas one year when we were all alone in CA, and feeling kind of glum, I wore my security-blanket grey sweatshirt with my raspberry pink chinos and black boots. I called those my happy pants.

I had fun getting dressed when I was in my teens, twenties, even thirties. I was more playful with color and shape — easier because, as we’ve well established, I was constantly refilling and reinventing my closet. Ever since committing to making more of my own clothes (and thus wanting the effort to pay off) and trying to be more mindful of what I’m putting into my closet, I’ve been playing it safe. Partly it’s because I moved across the country with so little and had to reestablish those basic building blocks of a functioning closet — all the more important in a small closet with slow turnover.

Are you still with me? Here’s what all that travel stuff had to do with this: I’m going to India this year.

I’ve wanted to go to India for as long as I can remember. I’ve a lifelong obsession with the literature and history of the continent. Photos of India fill me with longing like no other place. One of my closest friends from that pink-striped tube skirt era (we originally met at JC Penney) is Indian, and her family had offered back then that if I ever wanted to go with them on one of their trips, I could. To a suburban midwestern teenager with a severe anxiety disorder, that was like being offered a seat on a flight to Mars. It was fun to think about, but are you kidding me? I was so young and dumb then that I didn’t even partake of her mother’s Indian cooking. (Talk about regrets!)

In recent years, my wish to go there had intensified. And then there came a point where I decided it just wasn’t meant to be. Bob has no interest, and it’s not like I’m going to go by myself. So when? How? I’d have to content myself with books and movies, and it was sad to think that way. Then about six weeks ago, the opportunity presented itself — a chance to go with a friend who’s been. I talked it over with Bob and we agreed I should do it. And I took a hard gulp and pushed a button. I said yes. And I felt like the top of my head was going to fly off, I was so indescribably excited. Within 48 hours, three of those friends of mine who are so much better travelers than me — but who are all equally humbled at the idea of actually going to India — also said yes. There has hardly been a single day since that I haven’t said in disbelief, either in my head or out loud, I’m going to India.

I’m not sure which is the chicken and which the egg, but I feel color coming on, and it feels very much related. I find myself desperately craving not grey but pink. I want those raspberry chinos back, and to figure out how to make more vibrant color work for me again. If I can go to India, I can do anything — I’m pretty sure. (Honest to god, I was listening to an interview on NPR the other day about the inevitability and nearness of colonizing Mars, and I was like “I’d book a seat for that.” Ha!)

If there’s one thing I truly believe it’s that we never really know what we’re capable of. Deciding to wear pink pants is nothing compared to deciding to go to India. But I think it’s important to listen to ourselves and hear those rumblings. To never box ourselves into our own or anyone else’s narrow definition of who we are. We contain multitudes.

So here’s the other thing I want to say, and I wish I had gotten to it sooner than the end of a remarkably long piece of writing. Last month I was reading this post about self-care on Mason-Dixon — about negative self-talk and specifically about negative body talk. I don’t really do the latter — or haven’t in the past decade or so — but I do have an inner nag. She’s mean and demeaning and she almost never shuts up. I am really not living up to her standards on a daily basis. But what I realized while reading that particular article is that my inner bitch is not just mean; she is specifically a fearmonger. I’ve been through a lot in the last thirty years — divorce, failed business, toxic work situations, foreclosure — all of which I treasure as growth experiences (I wouldn’t be where I am now), but I have a certain amount of PTSD. Since our ability to feed and clothe ourselves right now depends entirely on the continued success of Fringe Supply Co., she’s always taunting me about what will happen when I figure out how to screw it up, which of course she feels certain I’ll do. 

I know from living this long that things are good and then they’re not so good and then they’re good again and then they’re bad again … — it’s cyclical, not a straight line through some difficulty to happily every after, as Hollywood would have us believe. So she spends every day lying in wait for the moment when it goes bad next, and reminding me it’s coming. Which makes it hard to just enjoy the good while it’s good, you know?

So once I realized all of that, I punched her in the face. I’ve booked a trip to India. I put our house in order, figuratively speaking. (Still working on the actual piles!) And in 2019, you’ll see me wearing pink pants. 

RIP, fearmonger — I’ve got a life to live.

. . .
Here’s the too long / didn’t read version of my 2019 Resolutions:
-Experiment with wearing more color
-Travel to India
-Say yes to more things that make my head explode with joy


PREVIOUSLY in Resolutions: Stash-busting and skill-building (2018)

Hawa Mahal (Pink palace) photo by Mrudula Thakur via WordPress