Don’t Disappear: Books to Align Your Inner and Outer Reality

Don’t Disappear: Books to Align Your Inner and Outer Reality

You may have noticed that I disappeared for a time…

I haven’t posted a blog post since October of 2018 (it’s February 11, 2019, as I type this).

I had major surgery (a breast reduction that took me from an L cup to a C cup), posted a short story that was personally challenging to write (Clarence’s Spectrum), blogged one solitary book review of some non-fiction books I was reading that are mind-bending reads, and then…blog silence.

During this four-month break, I didn’t actually disappear, of course.

I cocooned.

I took writing workshops with two talented teachers who offer remarkably different perspectives: literary agent Donald Maass (he’s incredible, BTW) and YA author Maggie Stiefvater (she’s my secret weapon). I found the right beta reader for me (you know who you are, and you’re a rock star). I also enjoyed a magical holiday season with those I love most on this colorful little rotating sphere of complex systems.

And oh yeah–I wrote. I’m neck deep in my second novel, and editing (AGAIN) my first novel through the alternate lenses acquired from Don and Maggie.

Most importantly, I began to deconstruct myself.

If you’ve followed me since my teaching days, or my tarot days, or my doll-making days, you’ve seen many permutations of change and transformation over the years.

I have often said that the only thing you can count on about me is that I’ll change…again.

During my doll-making days, I even wrote a blog post about my metamorphosing. Click on this photo of Marilyn below to read the older permutation if you’d like to take a gander at my life-long theme of adjustment. (And realize that, of course, I know this is not something that makes me unique but is actually the universal constant of the cosmos.)Whether you choose to read that Marilyn post or not, on the other side of my withdrawal and breast reduction, a runner emerged from the cocoon. Back when I had huge boobs, I was plagued by debilitating backaches and my ability to work out had been severely hampered as a result my entire adult life. Running posed a painful deed (even wearing TWO workout bras) since high school. All of a sudden, with my new small boobs, my back pain vanished.

In the Marilyn post, I wrote about feeling as though I had disappeared after the birth of my youngest child and the decision to return to myself emotionally and mentally.

With my breast reduction and running, I have, at last, returned to myself physically.

.

Running itself is such a multi-faceted metaphor: are we running away from or running toward? Are we trying to escape or attain? Is our direction up a mountain or down into a valley? Are we falling in line with our heartbeat and natural rhythms or are we forcefully compelling bodily submission? I have found myself exploring all these images and more during the past four months.

Daily running has changed…well, everything. As did Bright Line Eating (if you don’t remember this grand experiment I embarked upon in July, click this photo to read about it):

So, I’ve lost a shit ton of weight. 60 pounds to be exact. If you’d asked me if I wanted to lose weight prior to all this, I would have said, “Nope, I’m happy the way I am. I’ve made peace with my curves and I’m aging gracefully. I just want to stop the backaches.” But between the lost weight, the breast reduction, and the running reshaping wobbly bits all over, I constantly see myself in the mirror and don’t recognize the reflection I see as me these days. I even went so far as to see my reflection in the middle of one night and shriek like a barn owl because I thought an intruder was in our home. (And if you haven’t heard the piercing shriek of a barn owl, you’ve never been truly creeped out.)

One of the first things that happened immediately following the breast reduction was that my life-long body type completely changed. I went from voluptuous to athletic in four short hours. NONE of my clothes fit. All the clothes I was used to looking good in now looked like some kind of bad sack of clown. I went shopping, but by habit I would still reach for those clothes that suited big-boobed girls, and they looked awful. For about a month I hated shopping. And going out.

I know, poor little smaller girl. Where’s that tiny violin when you need it?

I knew I had to figure (forgive the pun) out how to live comfortably within my altered skin, so I started reading books on change (my last blog circled around this), books on body image, and finally, books on fashion.

I’ve always loved fashion. My first magazine subscription was to Vogue when I was thirteen years old. I remember anticipating the September issue the way most children anticipated Christmas. It was my other Bible, the perfect juxtaposition of my love of good writing with my passion for aesthetics and design. Of course, as I wandered down the road to obesity through the years, I’d gathered friends along the way who had a very different attitude towards fashion: it was a system used by the Patriarchy (or other women) to keep women feeling awful about themselves. It was a royal waste of money, the reason for eating disorders the world over. It put the emphasis on what’s on the outside rather than what really matters–the inside. Fashion was superficial and self-centered, at best.

Obsession with Fashion is just as destructive as any other obsession, be it with food or books or shopping or sex or status or money or control or anything else. On the other hand, attention to food and books and shopping and sex and money and control (and fashion, I might add) bring many people success. Yet, an obsession with any one of these same items has ruined many a life.

I’m going to make an original statement that shatters all these complaints about fashion and puts it exactly where it belongs in this social-media-obsessed society:

“Clothes are the first social media.”

Clothes are the first social media. Clothes are social, in that we wear them whenever we gather together with others (unless you live in a nudist colony), and clothes are a primary media, in that they are a means of communication that influences people widely. The clothes we put on our body reveal our inner world to everyone around us (whether we like it or not). Everybody has to wear them in this society. We may not like it, but first impressions have and always will matter to we visually-based homo sapiens. Some of us claim that we are “above” fashion or refuse to take part in “it” like fashion is a four-letter word, but this is ultimately a lie we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better. No matter our shape, size, flaws, or hang-ups, when we leave the house our bodies and what we put on them are seen and judged by all. We may want to be wallflowers, to not be noticed, and so “dress down” hoping to disappear–but even this is seen by all and says something about us.

What we wear not only defines us in the eyes of others but, if we wear them well, our clothes refine the image we wish others to envision when they think of us–like a meme or sound byte.

Fashion reveals the values of a particular culture. It declares the groups we identify with as well as what we care about and find beautiful. Ideally, fashion should be fun, not laborious–a way to celebrate ourselves with each other.  A living, moving art form that you create every day on the canvas of your own three-dimensional body with color and line and space and light and shape and texture and balance and gradation and contrast. But many of us are left feeling that fashion and style and feeling good in the clothes we live in (and by extension the body we inhabit) are but a dream within a dream. Impossible.

On my fiftieth birthday, I found myself in an entirely new body, and I wanted the message that my outside conveyed to not only mesh with but reveal the process of my own becoming: to align my outer and inner reality in this social media driven world. And as fate would have it, the first book I discovered was:

Color Your Style: How to Wear Your True Colors

by David Zyla

Do you remember a few decades ago when it was all the rage to “get your colors done?” Four seasons were defined–Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn–and everyone carried little packets of key colors to use when purchasing clothes. This book by David Zyla far exceeds that humble system of finding what colors look best on a person. It is a primer in basic fashion and style with the modern person in mind. He helps the reader find his or her ideal colors based on skin tone, eye colors, and hair colors. The book helps you find the five colors that define who you are: your essence, romantic, dramatic, energy and tranquil colors, along with your three neutral base colors. He also expands the seasons to 24 personality archetypes, six for each season, and give lots of style, shopping, and wardrobe advice along the way. I actually booked a personal appointment to meet with the author, I have been so impressed with his system.

Muchier Scale: 9 out of 10.

The Curated Wardrobe: A Stylist’s Secrets to Going Beyond the Basic Capsule Wardrobe to Effortless Personal Style

by Rachel Nachmias

My favorite aspect of this book–and what makes it different from the other books I’m recommending in this blog–is that the author uses the pneumonic C.U.R.A.T.E. to outline six foundational precepts to reshape a person’s idea of what makes the perfect wardrobe and help the reader find his or her own system of dressing that works on an individual level. She defines what is involved in creating a complete outfit and replaces the silly rules of dressing that have cropped up over time (such as what an apple or a pear body shape can or cannot wear), distilling the truth behind these rules into simple concepts that can be applied in every situation. She explores using your outfit to reveal what makes you unique while keeping to universal design concepts that influence all of us.

Muchier Scale: 7 out of 10.

Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life: Because You Can’t Go Naked

by George Brescia

Brescia writes as though he’s that favorite uncle or aunt giving you the advice you wish your mother would have given you about the realities of the world. His book builds from the idea that you should leave the house each day wearing the story that you want your clothes to tell the world. This book leads the reader through a complete image, fashion, and wardrobe overhaul. He explores color theory, but not in nearly as much depth as Zyla. Instead, his book is a fashion manifesto that guides the reader to relish fashion in his or her life. Practical, doable, and step-by-step, I recommend his system without reservation. To put it simply–this works!

Muchier Scale: 8 out of 10.

Thank you for reading to end of this four-month journey with me. May your own outer and inner realities align as you continue to explore your relationship with your body and the world around you. I hope one of these books piques your interest, but more importantly, I hope that this snapshot of my fumbles and grappling with my own changing story crafts a safe space for you to give yourself the permission to revel in the beauty of your own becoming.

 

***One last note: if you’d like a direct link to the book I read that reprogrammed the addictive pathways in my brain and helped me find peace with my relationship with food, here’s a quick link:

Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin & Free by Susan Pierce Thompson PhD

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