Playing Dress Up

A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation about a specific topic, and since then the subject has come up multiple times in my personal life, and in surrounding influences/others’ lives.

I was talking with some friends about how strange it is when people attack you or put you down based on who you inherently are. Not for something you’ve done, or a particular belief or opinion, but rather the ways you’ve embraced and continually express yourself.

The initial conversation with friends began when someone was upset (annoyed?) because an ex-partner was accusing her of being superficial because she enjoys doing her hair, makeup and putting nice outfits together. I immediately related – when my last relationship ended (and I will never disrespect that person here, I’m just sharing this part of my experience), hurt feelings meant that suddenly my love for dressing up, and writing blogs (which I have done since age 15 – thankfully most have dissipated into the internet), and taking photos, etc… was just “my way of seeking attention/being high-maintenance/superficial.”

I know, I know, it’s a silly thing in the grand scheme. But it hurts. Because it isn’t about any of those awful things, and it never has been.

I spent years of my youth feeling bad about myself because I didn’t have the physical attributes of many of my peers. When I hit the ninth grade and discovered the underground music scene (which was INCREDIBLE in the late 1990’s in Wilkes-Barre!), it was one of the single most positive influences of my life. And aside from the many things being a part of that community gave me, my self esteem about how I looked finally emerged.

The older girls I looked up to were covered in tattoos and crazy vintage-inspired clothes, and were politically active, preparing to leave for college at ivy league schools, touring all over the country with bands, writing books, starting craft businesses, and organizing community events. Smart was sexy. And so was wearing what you liked and owning it.

While my style may have shifted slightly over the years (1920’s vamp, ridiculous rockabilly, etc.), I have always felt the most “myself” when expressing it outwardly. It’s fun. It makes me feel good. It has ZERO to do with gender-norms, and EVERYTHING to do with me liking it. So there.

Halloween is a silly time, and everyone has fun dressing up. But why not do that every day? In the first issue of WINK Magazine, lovely Lisa O’Brien wrote a wonderful article about the fun and self-definition that comes with dressing for yourself, whatever that means for you. And in the current issue which focuses on the theme of Costumes, Editor-in-Chief Tina Hemmerle has a wonderful feature once again driving this point home:

“…getting into costume is something we do every day of our lives, EVERY TIME WE GET DRESSED… our costume is a powerful form of non-verbal communication…

It is just plain fun to “dress up”… For me, a great way to turn a dreary day into peaches and rainbows is to wear something that will make other people smile. Even when my plan backfires and people point and scoff, I still feel good knowing I don’t blend in with the crowd. Contrary to a popular general belief, this behavior does NOT come from a need for attention, but rather a desire to express that I am not LIKE everyone else in the crowd, and that I don’t require the approval of others to maintain personal happiness. “

I suppose my point is this: Live your life in a way that feels good and true for you. How can anyone think badly of that?

And: Go out and pick up the new issue of WINK Magazine! There’s an awesome Lady Gaga-inspired photoshoot, a history of local hauntings, my article about literary character/author Halloween costumes, and much more sassiness!

(Photos in post taken from Advanced Style, a wonderful blog that chronicles the street fashion of old people, and Fashion Pirates, a truly fabulous blog by a stylish young lady – she’s only 17!! – that is equally inspiring and hilarious)

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Settle Down.

A funny thing is happening. Large, vast amounts of hours of my time that I used to spend watching makeup videos on Youtube and reruns of Top Chef are now spent, you know, living and working at goals I have set and projects I believe in. The life I always wanted to have is falling into place every day, but with several jobs, school, and new projects that seem to happen every week, time for doing nothing is very rare.

And if it does, I find myself feeling remorseful and guilty. When did taking a break begin to feel wrong?

“Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a rest.”

Today I think I got to the root of the issue – I have been working so hard (safe to say, harder than I ever have in my life, on anything) to foster and create these new endeavors and relationships, and I worry if I stall or hold back even a little bit, it will disappear.

Constantly working at things has let me see the results that hard work brings – a better paycheck, a new and vibrant social life, events and projects to plan and carry out, and becoming someone with a reputation for diving into what I’m passionate about.

I get up every day and put in about 12-13 hours on average. I “deserve” the good stuff. If I sit and watch a movie or read a leisure book, I now feel undeserving. As if the universe will just turn into a vacuum and suck up everything I’ve worked at over the duration of one lazy afternoon.

The end of last week it hit all hit me, and I went into hibernation. New projects are so exciting, but trying to balance all of them and still do a good job is proving to be harder than I thought.

While hiding away from your responsibilities is not right, but it is important to be able to take a rest. (And don’t confuse “rest” with laziness – it’s not!)  Rest is a time for rejuvination, so the things we love can besome less overwhelming and more exciting and enjoyable. Especially when it becomes Monday again and then you feel as I do now – HELLO, NEW DAY! HELLO, FRESH START!

Now get to work! And recipes are coming soon, I promise.

PS – I saw The Kids Are All Right and it broke my heart. I want a family of my own.

(*Rest pillow by Sew English, $45, via Etsy)

Jaime in the Sky With Diamonds?

Engagement rings seem to be the topic of conversation these days. (Calm down! Just talking in general!) As much as I like glamour and flashy things, I don’t quite thing I’m a diamond sort of girl. While discussing the alternatives to diamonds, I was informed that the diamond mining industry can be a pretty horrible thing!

Before I continue, let me add this DISCLAIMER: In NO WAY is my intent to demean the value and priceless worth of anyone with a diamond engagement ring. Just posting food for thought.

Here’s an excerpt about “conflict diamonds”:

Conflict diamonds are not just a public-relations problem. About one in every ten gem diamonds, it has been estimated, is smuggled from four African nations—Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola—that feed money to a large black market. Some of the profits go to criminal gangs, some to brutal ruling regimes, some to outright terrorists. And the stones are mined under oppressive conditions for the smallest of wages, using methods that damage the countryside.


In the past I had done searches on engagement rings (just lookin!) and found websites for “conflict-free diamond rings”, though I admit I didn’t understand what it meant. Brilliant Earth is at the forefront of conflict-free diamond jewelry, or they at least have the best marketing. They make a promise to socially and environmentally responsible mining – Diamonds have a guarantee to be carefully tracked to ensure no (or little) environmental devastation and that citizens and workers are treated fairly.

In the other side, you have economies boosted by the sales of diamonds. But at what price?

This is a new topic for me – I am sharing the tiny bit of information I’ve researched, and hope if you have any information about the diamond industry, for or against, you’ll supply it in the comments!

When Things Fall Apart.

Over the duration of the past week, I have witnessed many of my close friends and coworkers express deep pain, sadness and depression. From a selfish perspective, this is a hard thing to witness. I want to be able to help them, to fix them, to tie everything up in a bow and say “Look, all better!” I hate the helplessness that comes with knowing you can’t do anything to directly ease the minds and hearts of loved ones. You can be there for them (which is always greatly appreciated and maybe in the end, the most important and generous act), but this doesn’t take away the immediate hurt.

(“The Telephone is Ringing” – photo by Marty Desilets)

I know what it is to be so far away from feeling like a worthwhile person, able of doing any good and instead seeming to only cause destruction and inflict hurt on others. I think this especially hard because we are inherently good people. (How can someone “good” do something so “bad”? What kind of monster am I!?) This makes it hard to want to reach out to people because if we are already feeling so miserable about ourselves, or have acted in ways that have caused others to think and feel badly of us, we don’t want to add more people to that mix.

(Photo by Marty Desilets, Hotel Bethlehem)

I remember on the night after one of my worst moments, a friend agreed to meet me for coffee and she said with so much sincerity “Please, please call me if that happens again.” We dubbed that moment and those feelings “going to the roof” (for reasons that are self-explanitory, I’m sure). While my friend couldn’t reach into my heart and mind and pull out the sick parts, her kindness and reassurance that someone is there if I ever need to “go to the roof” meant the world. It gave me a sense of belonging, and reminded me that even when time passes and those people we mutually care about are people we haven’t talked to in a while, we have huge impacts on the lives of others – and they want to be there to remind us of that in our darkest hours.

If you have a friend who needs your help, reach out. Even if it’s just to tell them “You are important to me and I am here for you no matter what.” You can’t imagine what those words mean when you have nothing else to grasp onto.

And if you are someone who feels sad and feels alone, please believe me – you aren’t. You touch the lives of people in positive ways you can’t comprehend. So many people’s lives are better simply because you are in them. Please believe me.

I’m an avid reader, and in searching for books to help me heal and understand my pain, I came across When Things Fall Apart by buddhist monk Pema Chodron. No matter your beliefs or religion (or lack thereof), I believe her compassionate wisdom rings true for all hearts that need healing, or even just a reminder that “things come together and things fall apart”.

Below I have included some passages of that book that have been particularly helpful:

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen; room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

Letting there be room for not-knowing is the most important thing of all.”

“Disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, anger jealousy and fear… They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck.”

“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.”

“Whatever occurs is neither the beginning or the end. The painful thing is that when we buy into disapproval, we are practicing disapproval. When we buy into harshness, we are practicing harshness. The more we do it, the stronger these qualities become. How sad it is that we become so expert at causing harm to ourselves and others.

We can learn to meet whatever arises with curiosity and not make it such a big deal. Clarity is always there. In the middle of the worst scenario of the worst person in the world, in the midst of all the heavy dialogue with ourselves, open space is always there.

Our personal demons come in many guises. We experience them as shame, as jealousy, as abandonment, as rage. We do the big escape: we act out, say something, slam a door, or throw a pot as a way of not facing whats happening in our hearts. Or we shove the feelings under and somehow deaden the pain. The way to dissolve our resistance to life is to meet it face-to-face.”

“Now is the only time. How we relate to it creates the future. What we do accumulates: the future is the result of what we do right now.”

“The first noble truth is that when we feel suffering , it doesn’t mean that something is wrong. What a relief. Finally somebody told the truth. Suffering is part of life, and we don’t have to feel it’s happening because we personally made the wrong move.

We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We can drop the fundamental hope that there is a better ‘me’ who will one day emerge.  We can’t just jump over ourselves as if we’re not there. It’s better to take a straight look at our hopes and fears. Then some kind of confidence on our basic sanity arises.”

“We can use everything that happens to us as the means for waking up.”

“We can make ourselves miserable or we can make ourselves strong. The amount of effort is the same.”

You’re Going to Eat THAT?

Is it weird that the Food Network show “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” is probably the LEAST veg-friendly food show, and I love it immensely?

Let me explain: I think there is something beautiful about the mission of the show, which is to unite people of different cultures through understanding their food and it’s personal meaning. Our concepts of “gross” are cultural. This is the same notion that says our concepts of how we treat animals is cultural. (Dogs are cute! Pigs are delicious! WHAT!?)

While I of course do NOT advocate eating animals, it is sometimes interesting to see how people in present-day have no idea what a factory farm is, a processing plant, a kill line, a veal crate, a gestation crate, why “free range” is deemed important (*please view the comments on this post to find a link and explanation of why that term doesn’t even mean much of anything, though!), etc… For many people in the world, the way they find and use animals for food (again, NOT advocating it) is something Americans read about in history books.

Do I like the idea of animals used for food? Nope. But I have a much, much bigger problem with animals used for food that are mass-produced, drugged, and forced to live uncomfortable lives in absolutely terrible unsanitary conditions. While factory farms are ever-increasing to supply meat to parts of the world that traditionally never had it, there are still many parts of the world that don’t have it – a “hamburger” doesn’t exist, essentially. Something to think about.

Another interesting aspect of food that Bizarre Food highlights is how various cultures use food and nutrition for health, wellness, and medicine. I’ve learned about some plant and root concoctions for relieving cold symptoms, coffee that is support to cleanse your body, and the way hand-mixing ingredients can be a form of meditation.

So, WHY IS THIS RELEVANT?

About two weeks ago I caught an episode of Bizarre foods that focused on what children eat in other countries. It was a child-friendly episode, as American kids would be filmed asking Andrew questions (“Whats the grossest thing you ever ate? What food did you hate as a kid?”) and he’d answer and then move on to a segment about how in some places, kids snack on bugs instead of potato chips.

BUT THEN.. The most wonderful point was made, as Andrew essentially said:

“Don’t you ever think that some of the stuff we eat in THIS country is a little weird? To kids across the globe, imagine what they would think if you explained a hot dog to them?

A hot dog, something so common it can be seen as symbolic of something “All American”, but it’s kind of scary when you think about it. Take for starters the shape and color. Pretty weird. Then consider that it’s made with a bunch of scrap parts of animals, and 25% of hot dog ingredients don’t have to be listed on the package!

We eat jello – that’s another All American snack. But jello is made from ground up bones of animals!”

ISN’T THAT A GREAT POINT!?

I wondered how many people munchin’ on hot dogs at that very moment took a second to think about that.  To me, this brought home the entire idea of cultural perceptions – we think eating hot dogs is NOT gross because we’ve done it forever. (And yet, TOFU scares some people? A little ol’ soybean? Really?)

A trailer/preview for a book by Author Melanie Joy that addresses this topic (warning: this may be disturbing, but it drives home this whole idea – I hope I don’t offend anyone!):

For me, as for many people who eat veg-diets, finding out about the horrors of factory farming and animal abuse (not to mention the tolls on the planet and health) was a shift in my perception of what food is.

In closing: I have so much respect for anybody that has identified their opinion because of self-education and firm reasons (even those opinions which are different from my own). Our concepts of food, health, wellness and compassion for animals are other issues to investigate, and then make choices we deem moral.

(A note: I tried to find ANY list of hot dog ingredients online and found nothing but generalities. However, TofuPups – vegan hot dogs – are only 60 calories each and you can pronounce and identify so many ingredients! Three cheers for dried tofu, beet powder and tomato pulp!)

(As per Google, here’s a cute little photo of a pup named Tofu!)

*I also want to state that I do not love my non-veg friends and family any less, or think anyone “bad” because they eat meat. Ideally, we could communicate our differences of opinion with respect and kindness and if not change our own minds, at least have a greater understanding for others. We are all on different paths within our journeys, and they are best traveled with a quest for knowledge and an open mind!