Striking a Balance


My body requires constant vigilance. At this point in my adult life, if I stop working out for a month, or let myself eat whatever I want for two weeks, or don’t condition my hair for a week, or forget deodorant for more than an hour … things go wrong. My body likes its routine. It demands very specific and regimented sets of care-activities to remain in my preferred version of “working order.” And when I slack off, when I stop paying attention, things change shape and texture. I get stinky and jiggly and sometimes I even get sick. I have to redouble my efforts to reestablish physical equilibrium.

This drives me a weeeeee bit BATSO because, for most of my life, I have been almost entirely cerebral. As a girl, I vastly preferred thinking and writing and talking to moving and acting and exerting. And my default is still to totally ignore my body’s existence. But I can’t. My body is a brat, and it acts out if it is not tended to.

One of the reasons I don’t wear Uggs or velour sweatsuits or baggy boyfriend jeans is that I would be far too comfortable. I’ve learned that one of the best ways to trick myself into being conscious of and attentive to my body is to maintain a careful balance between comfort and discomfort. Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t actively seek out confining dresses and itchy sweaters and painful shoes. I merely make sure that my everyday garb keeps me aware of my body’s conformation, movements, and needs. I dress to remain aware of my physical self.

I wear tailored and fitted clothing so that I am forced to see what my body looks like when I pass a mirror. I wear heels so that I am forced to pay attention to my own walking and posture. I wear skirts and dresses so that I am forced to remember that I am a girl, and that no matter how much I may yearn to don oversized hoodies and baggy boyfriend jeans, that’s just not what I’m built for. I even wear stacks of bangles and piles of necklaces because the clinking and tinkling keeps me aware of my body’s movements. It may sound ridiculous to resort to such measures, but they truly do prevent me from ignoring my body completely and, therefore, neglecting my self-care routines.

And although I sometimes resent this constant state of body-vigilance, it works out well in the end. I have learned that my enforced awareness engenders respect. I respect my body by remaining aware of it and its needs. My own respect for my body is projected outward. I garner respect from others because they can immediately see that I respect myself simply by seeing how I am dressed and by observing how I hold my body.

Again, I am not saying that discomfort breeds respect. I am saying that by remaining alert to and aware of my body, I can create a state of poise and control that all-engulfing, Ugg-level comfort just can’t replicate. I would never advise anyone to keep themselves perpetually uncomfortable as a means of feeling more present. But for me, total comfort breeds lack of self-awareness which can, in turn, breed lack of self-respect.

So I attempt to strike a balance. I reserve total discomfort for scuba diving, state dinners, and the dentist’s office. I reserve total comfort for movie night at home, working out, and road trips. At all other times, I dress for awareness. I dress in a way that respects my body’s needs, its shape, its natural assets, and its beauty.

I dress for equilibrium, and gain control. It’s a system that won’t appeal to or benefit everyone … but I need it. Without it, I risk losing sight of my physical self altogether.

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Ban Week 6: $10 Spent on …

I was sick during much of this week of the ban, but by the time Saturday rolled around I was SERIOUSLY stir crazy. My personal case of the Martian Death Flu made me just hazy enough that I couldn’t focus on writing, commenting, or reading, yet kept me just alert enough that I couldn’t really nap. So I thought I’d do my week’s thrifting Saturday afternoon despite haze and congestion and stuff.

And guess what? I overdid it. I ran myself ragged. I think I hit 5 thrift stores, all told – some of which yielded NADA – and the effort likely extended my bout of snickness by at least a day. That’s right folks, still an addict.

I did, however, land some gems. And one quasi-dud. Dud first, ya?

I’d been looking for a dark charcoal shirt or tank for a very specific purpose and in a very specific shade. I wanted to wear it with a Boden skirt I’d nabbed off eBay for $10 a couple months back. The skirt had a bright coral in it that magically ended up matching one of my beloved sweater boleros. I finally found my tank! But behold the resulting outfit:

Charcoal gray tank
$1.99 at Savers
Fulfills: Charcoal gray tank … that completes a weird outfit

Just too busy, don’t you think? So many chunks of color, and no continuity. Well, I’m sure I’ll find other uses for it. Layering season is upon us, after all. But I ended up wearing the skirt like this instead:

My trusty black cashmere cowlneck to the rescue again. OK, let’s see the day’s actual successes:

Belted camel-colored coat
$5 at Savers
Fulfills: Belted camel-colored coat(!)

I LOVE this coat to pieces. It is imperfect, as it stinks a little of smoke and leaves a dusty camel-colored residue all over my purse, gloves, etc. when I wear it. (That blob of darkness near the hem is a lighting issue, not a coat issue, I swear.) But aside from these things, it is SO cute, fits so well, and was a mere $5. It will do until the ban is over and I can hunt for a more permanent one. Or perhaps it’s just going through a shedding phase and will eventually settle down! One can hope. Husband Mike hates the pockets on this coat, and took an additional photo that is meant to show you how dorky they are:

I hope you’ll agree that there is nothing dorky about these pockets and that they are, in fact, THE POCKETS OF AWESOMENESS.

Long black leather gloves
$4.99 at ARC’s Value Village
Fulfills: Long black leather gloves(!)

I’ve been looking for opera-length gloves for about a year. New ones run about $100-$150 and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna pay that much for gloves. These have some damage on the palm of the right glove, but they are the softest, buttery-est leather and they fit me … well, you know.

Navy sheath dress
$2.95 at Unique Thrift
Fulfills: My love for navy, and my love for sheaths

This dress is unlikely to get a lot of wear this season, but it’s adorable and trendproof so I went for it.

Any of you sticklers for detail will notice that I went over my $10 limit by $4.93. Well, I did have that $1 rollover from last week, but the rest had to come out of my Starbucks allowance. I hemmed and hawed about this, as I really don’t want to allow myself to slide down that slippery slope … it was the coat that did it for me. It’s already started snowing here in MN, and I knew that if I didn’t nab it this week, I might not get more than one wear out of it before I had to resort to my parka. Not the best reasoning, but I diligently skipped a $4 hot chocolate that week. Can you forgive me?

Next week: A $7.50 dress that makes me look like bottled sex, and revelations about quantity versus quality.

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