Friday, July 8, 2016

Then. Now. Always?

On July 4th, while I was at work, I listened to the Broadway cast recording of 'Ragtime,' because it's a story about America. I listened to 'Hamilton' as well, for the same reason. (I'm very much my father's child that way- listening to music, especially musicals, based on the season.) 

'Ragtime' was first produced in the late 1990s, based on E.L. Doctorow's 1975 novel of the same title, which takes place in New York at the turn of the 20th century. (Just so we're clear, that's a 100+ year old history.) It follows the American experiences of a wealthy white family, a Latvian immigrant and his daughter, and a black family with a new baby. Their stories intertwine, as all of our stories tend to do, and one very important piece of that is a white woman realizing her privilege and using it to help a black woman in crisis. It's a story about discrimination based on race, class, and gender. 
Sound familiar?

It's the story of America, THEN,
but it feels like it's the story of America NOW. 
And that's a problem.

These are some of the lyrics to a song in Act 2 of the show, "Till We Reach That Day." (If you're unfamiliar with this particular show, I would highly recommend it- I cry every time I listen to it.) Some context: An unarmed black woman was beaten to death by white men. This is the scene where everyone mourns for her. The ensemble is made up of several groups of people- black, white, immigrants, men, women, etc. It's very intersectionally feminist.

There's a day of hope
May I live to see,
When our hearts are happy
And our souls are free.
Let the new day dawn,
Oh, Lord, I pray.
We'll never get to heaven
Till we reach that day.

 It's a day of peace.
A day of pride.
A day of justice
We have been denied.
Where a man can live,
And a child can play.
We'll never get to heaven
Till we reach that day.

To counteract the sadness and darkness of the world around me, I surround myself with beautiful things. I love the people in my life with extra zeal. But that's not enough. And I feel helpless. 
And I'm not used to feeling helpless. 
(That's because I was lucky enough to be born white and wealthy and able bodied and heterosexual and identify with the lady parts I was born with. Sound ridiculous? That's because it is.)
But you know what? It's super important that those of us with privilege get a taste of the helplessness and fear that marginalized peoples experience on an average day. It's not okay. If some of us are treated poorly for no good reason, it's a problem for everyone, because we are all connected. 
Why can't we see that? Why do we pretend it's not true?
How many times does the same story have to be retold before we decide that it matters?
How many more lives need to be lost? How many more children need to be suddenly fatherless? 
This country is like a lead-up to a joke with no punchline.
How many dead black men does it take for America to get a grip?
How hard is it to treat one another with respect? Seriously, not hard. 
I'm tired of crying and worrying and hurting for the world. None of it is making a difference. 
All I have in this world is my heart and my voice. And there you have it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

inspiration: mermaids

Like all American young ladies, my childhood was filled with the enchanting stories of Disney princesses. One of my favorites was "The Little Mermaid." Once I learned that it was based on an old story written by Hans Christian Andersen, I had to read the original. During my 4th grade year, I acquired a hefty paperback containing his complete works. I read that thing cover to cover, and somewhere in that time, it broke in two. I carried one or both halves to school each day to occupy myself during free reading time. When I reached the story of "The Little Sea-Maid," my whole life changed.

It was the single most beautiful and painful thing I had ever encountered. The only word I've been able to formulate that totally encompasses that moment is "exquisite." Nothing was ever going to be the same. I've spent the last 20 years holding onto that fascination. Every once in awhile, when I see something so beautiful that my lungs stop working, I feel it again. And it reminds me that even in darkness, this world is a magical place.

"When the sisters thus rose up, arm in arm, in the evening time, through the water, the little sister stood all alone looking after them; and she felt as if she must weep; but the sea-maid has no tears and for this reason she suffers far more acutely."

"And she put a wreath of white lilies in the little maid’s hair, but each flower was half a pearl; and the old lady let eight great oysters attach themselves to the Princess’ tail, in token of her high rank. 
  “But that hurts so!” said the little Sea-maid. 
  “Yes, pride must suffer pain,” replied the old lady. 
  O how glad she would have been to shake off all the tokens of rank and lay aside the heavy wreath! Her red flowers in the garden suited her better; but she could not help it. “Farewell!” she said, and then she rose, light and clear as a water-bubble, up through the sea."

"She had always been gentle and melancholy, but now she became much more so. Her sisters asked her what she had seen the first time she rose up to the surface, but she would tell them nothing."

"The little Sea-maid thought of the first time when she had risen up out of the sea, and beheld a similar scene of splendor and joy; and she joined in the whirling dance, and flitted on as the swallow flits away when he is pursued; and all shouted and admired her, for she had danced so prettily. Her delicate feet were cut as if with knives, but she did not feel it, for her heart was wounded far more painfully."

"Now the sun rose up out of the sea. The rays fell mild and warm upon the cold sea-foam, and the little Sea-maid felt nothing of death. She saw the bright sun, and over her head sailed hundreds of glorious ethereal beings—she could see them through the white sails of the ship and the red clouds of the sky; their speech was melody, but of such a spiritual kind that no human ear could hear it, just as no human eye could see them; without wings they floated through the air. The little Sea-maid found that she had a frame like these, and was rising more and more out of the foam."
Want to read the whole story and change your life forever? (Check it out here.)

What stories or books from your young life have impacted you?

Thanks for stopping by.
xo, Lauren

(All images were sourced from my Pinterest account.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Reflection: Under Pressure

Edit: This is a post I wrote a year ago, that I reverted back to it's "draft" form within a few hours of publishing it. But I think I'm okay with it existing in the universe now. Because I've been able to step further away, and the anger has dissipated. I don't feel the hurt so strongly these days, which I count as a major success in personal growth. I still feel like I'm disappointing people, but the truth is that the disappointment they feel isn't my problem/fault/responsibility.

 *   *   *   *   *

There's always been a heavy pressure for me to make something of myself. To make an impact. I'm trying to figure out where the pressure comes from. I know most of it is pressure I put on myself. Some of it is unintended pressure that I've received from others throughout my life. My mom will sometimes make comments about, "If I had just a thimbleful of your talent..." as though I'm wasting some precious gift. Lots of it was pressure from people I was told I could trust. Having grown up in the Mormon church, there's a lot of expectation placed on using one's talents- that if you don't use the gifts God has given you, that you'll lose them, which is, frankly, a terrible lie. No one has the power to rob you of your heart. That's something I always knew, even though I was threatened otherwise.

Every so often (fairly often, recently), I have these PTSD moments where I question my entire foundation. I get so angry. I hate feeling anger, more than anything else. I'm angry at the Church, I'm angry at the leaders who taught me these things, I'm angry at my parents, I'm angry at myself for being so trusting. I want to scream. I hate knowing that for the majority of my life, my kindheartedness was taken advantage of. I'm not sorry for having that trait. It's one of the things I like most about myself, but it also makes things difficult. When I feel this anger and my heart speeds up and I cry, I am so afraid. I'm afraid it will never be gone. I'm afraid that the things I was taught growing up (the wrong things, not the good ones) will never stop creeping into my mind. The pressure to be a mother because that's "every woman's calling in life." The disappointment I know my family feels because we plan on adopting... because that doesn't involve "multiplying and replenishing the earth." The judgment I know I receive because I choose to wear "immodest clothing" and sometimes drink coffee. The sadness my parents (Declan's, too) must feel because they truly believe that our "inactivity" in the church will bring the consequence of them not being able to see us in the afterlife.

Seriously, how awful is that? They really believe that our choice to "ignore the blessings of the temple" is going to keep us apart for eternity. Eternity! What god would do that? Yet, they continue to spend money and time to be part of an organization that is telling them that their children aren't good enough. And I know they believe it. And there's nothing I can do to get that love and pride back. They're always going to see me as less-than. A disappointment. I know my parents feel like they're the ones who failed. I hate that they feel this way- that they were made to feel that way by an organization that claims to support them.

I hate feeling guilty for making healthy and rational decisions. There's nothing sensible in feeling bad for protecting myself from doctrine that caused me pain. I hate that I have to regularly take stock of my life and realize that I am good enough, that I deserve to be happy, regardless of what the Church is telling our families- regardless of what the Church told me.

I am loving and kind and gentle and creative and those are traits that are mine- not talents on loan from God. I will cultivate them out of love, not fear.

I will continue to love my parents (and Declan's) even though they see us as somehow tarnished. Even though they undoubtedly pray daily for us to come back. But we won't. And that hurts them. I wish they could see that I am the same person I've always been, but better.

I know that in order to stop these repeated breakdowns, I need to work through the pain and anger and make something of it, before I can make peace with it. So, I'm going to make something. I might hate it, but it needs to happen.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Once Upon a Time: A Letter to My Younger Self

"Know what? If I could eat anything right now, I'd make scones... Whip up some vanilla cream, and warm up some raspberry jam- the kind with the seeds..."

"I won't eat. I'm scared to. If I eat then I don't know what will make me different enough for people to want to notice me. If I eat then I'll be like everyone else."

This is from my journal/food diary from 10 years ago, back when a "good day" meant eating part of an apple and half a graham cracker and nothing else. It made me cry- remembering how I deprived myself of even the simplest of life's pleasures. If I didn't deserve something as small as that, it's no wonder I believed I didn't deserve happiness/love/beauty.

If I could, I'd go back to that time and tell my younger self a thing or two. I'd show her the scars. How they've healed enough to where no one notices them, but that I remember making them, and I remember the darkness and the cold and the fear. 

And so...

To my 18 year old self,

You're worth caring for, even on days when you don't feel it. Those days will be fewer and less frequent, even though they may seem endless now. 

Do something small for yourself every day. It makes doing things for other people a joy instead of a burden. You have a big heart, and you'll be too exhausted to open it to others until you open it to yourself.

It will be extraordinarily difficult- mentally and physically. No one warns you about that. You'll be gaining what seems like a lot of weight. You'll have days where your reflection in the mirror will bring you to tears, or even into hysterics. But those days will be fewer and less frequent. (You'll like your curves someday, I promise.)

You're stronger than you give yourself credit for. And smarter. And more brave/beautiful/loving than you know. The sooner you start taking care of yourself the sooner you'll realize this. Take ownership of those qualities. You cultivated your own character.

People will notice you.They'll see your kind heart. They'll see love. They'll see generosity. They won't care about your impossible goals for physical perfection because these goals ultimately won't matter. At all. This pursuit of control will only bring you pain, so let it go.

You're going to be so happy, and sooner than you think. But you can't get there until you decide to start on that path, and when you do, I'll be there.

I love you, even though you don't (yet). 


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goals for 2014

I'm not that girl who makes a fitness goal every December and then berates herself for not sticking to it by the time February rolls around. I know myself better than that. I can't make goals about changing my body. I have to sneak around those kinds of thoughts and try to make it sounds like fun instead of an assignment with an expected result.

1. I'd really like to take the dog on walks more often.

2014 will be a big year for me. It marks 10 years since Declan and I started dating. It marks 10 years since I asked my parents to put me into treatment for my anorexia. I can't believe how far I've come. It feels like a lifetime ago that I was that scared, hurt, hungry girl, and Declan had to drive me to all of my various doctors' appointments because I couldn't stay awake long enough to drive myself. It marks 10 years since I decided not to die.

2. I'd like to eat more of a variety of foods, and plan meals/try new recipes with Declan.

Thinking of the last (almost) decade I've spent with Declan is surreal. It really doesn't seem like that long. I have to remember that feeling when I look at the progress I've made with my physical and mental health. That part seems so far in the past, but it was all happening at once. I need to remember that it wasn't really that long ago, and when I feel like I haven't done enough in my life, I try to put that all into perspective and be realistic.

3. I'd like to be less critical. (Of myself and others. And limit negative speech. Everyone has a story.)

Creativity has always been my saving grace. I'm incredibly grateful that I have the drive to work hard on the things I care about. When I'm feeling down or even self-destructive, I stop making beautiful things, which is obviously the worst possible decision. I want to see some ideas hatch and transform and touch people, even if they just reach me. Art heals.

4. I'd like to feed my mind and my heart. I want to do more watercolor painting, creative photography, clothing reconstruction, baking, cooking, drawing, reading, and singing. (And get better at reading music, too.)

Relaxing is terribly difficult for me. I feel like I'd be more fun to be around if I felt more okay with just BEING, even once in awhile. I think Declan would like that.

5. I'd like to do some yoga. Even if it's just a few asanas, or one sun salutation in the morning. I need it.

6. I'd also like to take better care of my hands and wrists. I need to let them rest. I need to listen to my body when it hurts.

I feel like all of these goals will help me come to terms with the fact that my body is part of me, and I need it, and I need to respect it. I'm amazed at where I am now, versus where I was in 2004, but I still want to improve, and I think that's okay, as long as I don't compare myself to others or give myself unreasonable goals to reach. Forming good habits is much safer for me than trying to stick to a list of black-and-white pass-or-fail resolutions.

Here's to a year of health and happiness and love.


Inspiration: 1970s calico

I absolutely loathe my work clothes, partly because I've been wearing a hibiscus-printed tee shirt 5 days a week for the last 7+ years, and partly because it's a hibiscus-printed tee shirt in the first place. In my real-life wardrobe, I own maybe 5 tee shirts, only one of which I love- boat neck, black, with a screen print of Bambi on it. I love coming home from work and transforming from work-Lauren to real-life-Lauren.

 Maybe it's because I live in the Northwest now and seasons are happening. Maybe it's because my dreadlocks make me look like a hippie. Maybe it's because I read a lot of historical fiction as a kid, or because my Pandora stations have been kind of James Taylor/Fleetwood Mac/Carole King/Simon and Garfunkel heavy lately. At any rate, my current jam is wearing lace-up boots and 1970s/80s calico prints. It started with a navy blue Gunne Sax skirt I found while thrifting this spring, and has escalated into an entire sub-genre of my closet. Vintage prairie chic. It's happening. I was also peer-pressured by my dear friend Jaime (Tinker Tin Trailer Co.) to try on a fabulous pair of Free People bell-bottoms at a resale shop one day. I was hesitant, but I LOVE them now. Lace-up boots + those jeans + vintage plaid = comfy AND figure-flattering. (I typically go for form over function, but it's nice when the two marry so well.)

All I'm missing is the perfect Carly Simon hat. Though, with my hair in dreads now, I'm not sure if I have much of a future in hat wearing.

Monday, November 11, 2013

I don't get out much, but when I do, I buy old clothes.

In January of this year I decided to stop buying new clothes (aside from stuff like underthings and foundation layers), because it's better for the environment and it also affords me a lot of creativity. Besides, nothing beats the feeling of finding a piece that fits perfectly and imagining the story of the person who first loved it.

Back home, one of my favorite afternoon adventures would be to drive down the coast to Encinitas, get a cup of tea and a croissant at the Pannikin, and head over to Flashbacks for some treasure hunting. The Encinitas Flashbacks was always a great place to find used Anthropologie and Free People stuff, but the Flashbacks in Hillcrest was my favorite. It's a few doors down from a fabulous used books store, and right across the street from a Buffalo Exchange. Hillcrest was a day-off adventure, because of traffic, mostly, but also because I hate to be in a hurry when thrift shopping. Some of my favorite Flashbacks finds are my pale yellow Betsey Johnson prom dress, a mink collar, a navy blue Gunne Sax skirt, and an olive green Anthropologie jacket that I scored for $38.

Since moving to Oregon, I've found some really fantastic vintage pieces, mainly while thrifting in Portland. Buffalo Exchange, House of Vintage, and Goodwill are always good, but I've yet to venture to "The Bins," a Goodwill outlet where clothes are sold by the pound... I have a friend who is a seasoned veteran of bin shopping, and one of these days, when our days off are synced, it's going to happen. (More on Portland another time... I need to explore it better.)

I've not been impressed by much of the "fashion" I see around Corvallis, but there's one shop downtown that I adore for vintage. Cosmic Chameleon has a super eclectic blend of old and new. I found an Anthropologie sweater there for $22, a 1920's inspired mauve blouse with gold sequins, along with some pretty Bakelite bangles. Most recently, I found a champagne colored 1950s cocktail dress that I need to get tailored a bit before I wear it around, but the owner saw how much I adored it and lowered the price for me, which was really lovely of her. It's a tiny shop that's packed to the brim in a wonderfully overwhelming way. I've never rummaged through an attic of old clothes trunks and costumes, but that's what it feels like to shop there. You could go through every rack over and over and find something new each time. It's like the Universe left you a treasure and you just have to hunt it down.

While I was in Baton Rouge in September, I found the most wonderful vintage shop, Time Warp. Erica (my co-worker who was on the trip with me) had never been vintage shopping before and this was THE perfect place to take her. She loved it! She bought a great leather belt with some man's name branded into it. They had a ton of men's clothes, which were all at the front end of the store. Usually resale shops have a pathetic range of menswear, and I was so bummed that Declan wasn't with me to see the collection of Pendleton shirts they had. (I bought him one, though, don't worry.) But the women's clothes... good grief. You know when there are so many beautiful things and you can't breathe because it doesn't feel real? Yeah. Loads of flawless 1950's formals for the mini-waisted busty women of yesteryear, piles of crinoline petticoats, and really reasonably priced fur outerwear. They had a whole rack of Gunne Sax, which was awesome. I ended up with a black maxi sundress accented with ivory crocheted lace. It's magnificent. I also bought a 50's day dress- pinstripes of dark olive, burgundy, and brown. Everything there was in really great shape, considering it's age. If I ever find myself in the south again, I'll be heading back to Time Warp for sure.

We visited Austin, Texas last spring and I had some luck there as well. The boys (Declan, Chris, and Mark) gave me 15 minutes in Buffalo Exchange. Not enough time to even browse the whole store. However, I stuck to the dress racks and found a Marc Jacobs dress for just $34 and an Urban Outfitters dress for $17. I can only imagine how many other wonderful things were in there. After being disappointed with the prices of things on South Congress Street, I checked online for other vintage stores and happened upon a few that were all close together AND near a coffee shop and left-wing bookstore to keep everyone entertained. (I really am grateful for these guys... they're so patient with me.) The shops on North Loop were incredible! I bought a 1970s/80s snowflake (I think?) pullover sweater at Blue Velvet, browsed the antique mall, which was wonderfully cluttered and colorful, and then ended up at Ermine Vintage, where I found a homemade (from fruit-themed upholstery fabric) dress that fits like it was made for my exact body. It's as though someone took my measurements, went back in time, sewed this dress, and then it waited for me to to show up and buy it. So I bought it. Also a pair of amethyst earrings. I think my total was under $40. Yay Texas.

One of Declan's sisters lives in Atlanta, and I'd love to go visit her and check out some vintage and thrift stores in that part of the country. (She has also talked up her local farmers market, so I kind of need to check that out too!) Even though we have loads of family in Arizona, I've never had a chance to really check out any vintage stores in the Phoenix area. Next time, though, I'll make a point of it, and I'll bring Declan's other sister with me.

I'll add photos of some of my favorite treasures when the sun is cooperating. Our house is pretty dark these days. So different from California!