Your Rags, My Riches – Fashion Photo Shoot

What do you do when you’re bored out of your gourd?

Take a walk? That’s noble. Healthy, too. In the old, pre-pandemic days maybe you shopped. So did I. But I learned early on that my dollar stretched exponentially farther if I spent it at second-hand stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army, or here in Ubud, the Smile Shop.

For the uninitiated, the Smile Shop is a non-profit organization that partners with medical teams to surgically correct craniofacial abnormalities for children in Indonesia. The store overflows with a cornucopia of merchandise from books, to games, jewelry, shoes, household goods, and cast-off clothing donated by visitors from all over the world. I go for the thrill of discovery, never knowing what I’ll find.

After a few soggy days, the walls were closing in. I needed a destination, something sufficiently motivating to warrant the effort of dragging my body out of the house. I’ll walk til I drop if I’m meeting someone for lunch. I had no lunch date yesterday.

Wait a minute…what about…?

The Smile Shop was open, a three-mile round-trip. I grabbed a bottle of water and slipped into my flip-flops salivating at the challenge of the hunt.

I’ve been shopping for clothing this way since I was in my teens and I’m a pro. The mish-mash is overwhelming to some. For me it’s like writing a poem – I just have to find the words that rhyme. Yesterday I was looking for cool and shapeless. In the current sticky-hot climate I don’t want form-fitting. The less intimately my garments connect with my body the better.

Within moments of arriving I had two items slung over my arm. Then a sweet vest with a crocheted back jumped out at me. I didn’t notice the label until I got it home – Guess – a popular brand in the U.S. I took a few minutes to browse paperbacks and saw a number of favorite authors but I was walking and books are heavy.

Another time.

Back home, sweaty and happy, I ran the sink full of sudsy water, scrubbed my new finds, and hung them in the breeze to dry. I was eager to try them on, but – well – unlike clothing off the racks of the big retailers, these garments come with histories attached. I like to send their old stories down the drain before I reincarnate them to their new life.

My sister and I have exchanged emails every single day for over a year. The first few months of Covid, there were many times when her newsy note was all I had to look forward to. I snapped photos of my still-wet garments, attached them with an overview of the day, hit send, and figured I’d done due diligence.

But not so.

The little minx wrote back demanding pictures of the clothes with me in them. If this post seems like the ultimate in narcissism, blame my sister! She made me do it!

My first find, this long, asymmetrical tee-shirt thing, has peek-a-boo shoulders and just hangs. It ticks all the boxes. I love it!

You can take the girl out of the Sixties but you can’t take the Sixties out of the girl. What is it with tye-dye? People seem to either love it or hate it. I can’t leave it alone. It speaks to me and this one was channeling Lesley Gore, “I’ll bring you Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows…Choose me! Choose me!”

Another thing I can’t seem to resist is lace. And black lace is the epitome of sexy drama. No! I DO NOT buy pre-worn underwear!!!! Let’s just be clear about that! Ewwwww! Sorry…

I’m still working with the vest. Black on white was a spur-of-the-moment no-brainer and it’s okay, but I can do better. That’s the other bit of fun – mix-and-match – see what creative combos emerge.

Thrift shopping has ruined me for anything else. I cannot abide orderly presentations by size and department in ‘normal’ stores. Where’s the sense of adventure? Where’s the mystery? Why would you spend $500 on a designer item making some corporate gazillionaire richer when you could spend $5 and help a child smile?

That’s another thing. Brand-driven capitalism. Don’t get me started. But here’s where I’m a shameless hypocrite: I like to LOOK like I’ve spent $500.

Redefining Sanity – What’s Your New Happy?

There’s a lot written these days about preparing for the new normal. Some of it reads like dystopian fiction. Too often it seems to be magical thinking with little or no basis in fact.

Even though we’ve been watching the virus for several months, it’s still raging out of control in many places with no signs of slowing. A vaccine that will be delivered and distributed broadly enough to make a difference is still a fuzzy dream.

As I thought about that this morning I realized the only certainty right now is ongoing uncertainty and the people and activities that used to contribute to my sense of well-being are no longer available.

Everything is up for redefinition – including sanity – including happiness.

If I had experienced my current detours into mental strangeness before the pandemic, I’d have been worried. These days, feeling off-kilter, hopeless, adrift, unmotivated, confused (I could go on) is just the way it sometimes is, and I’ve learned a degree of acceptance and coping skills for the mood shifts that come out of nowhere.

But I don’t like coping. I prefer to thrive, mentally, physically, and emotionally and I realized today that to do that, I need to redefine happy. I’ve been struggling to fit the old ways into a new reality. It can’t be done. It’s like trying to keep an exploding rainbow intact. Bits and pieces of colorful joy break apart, fly everywhere, and disappear. I may grab one or two fractured shards as they zoom past, but that’s a starvation diet and it’s not working.

It boils down to expectations and there are two questions to answer:

1) When have I experienced happiness during corona?

  • I’ve been truly happy when engaged in projects that require physical effort.
  • I’ve been truly happy during Zoom calls with family.
  • I’ve been truly happy riding on the back of Ketut’s motorbike.
  • I’ve been truly happy when getting together with a friend – even sitting six feet apart.
  • I’m content when I’m writing, cooking, reading, walking, daydreaming.
  • I’m content when I have a plan for the day.
  • I’m content when I have something on the calendar to look forward to.
  • I’m content when I’m doing my morning routine.

2) How can I revise my expectations so they fall into line with what’s actually possible?

Things I can no longer expect are:

  • Hugs
  • Trips to see family
  • Group get-togethers
  • Spontaneous social interaction
  • Taking vacations
  • Leaving the house mask-less
  • Bustling streets
  • Restaurants and shops open
  • Feeling safe…

Comparing the two lists, I’m surprised how many things still exist that bring me happiness or contentment. I don’t have to be happy all the time. Contentment is an acceptable state. Hugs and a sense of safety are perhaps the most difficult to do without.

It will go a long way toward my new happy if I can incorporate a few items daily from the first list, and plan my days far enough in advance to feel I have an interesting life to look forward to. I’ll need time to mourn the loss of what isn’t possible. Time to honor what once was but is no more in an intentional way. But after that — theoretically —

I can release the old paradigm and embrace sanity and happiness, redefined.

What were you doing in May 2012?

I’m fortunate. I’ve been writing blog posts since February, 2012. I know exactly where I was and what I was doing in May of that year.

Who cares?

Perhaps we all should.

According to astrologers world-wild, the configurations in the heavens for the next few weeks are exactly as they were in May of 2012. Whatever you seeded eight years ago in your life is either flowering or dying, says Lorna Bevan of Hare in the Moon Astrology. It’s an opportunity to see what no longer serves us and change the game.

I moved to Bali in spring of 2012 and was confronted with the strangeness of time. The Balinese have a name for it: jam karet. All the familiar markers were gone. There weren’t five-day workweeks with weekends off. The sun rose around 6:30 a.m. and set at approximately 6:30 p.m. giving equal parts darkness and light. I had nothing to do and all day to do it – jam karet – rubber time – a new concept for me.

I remember waking up with my heart pounding one morning thinking, “Do I have time to do yoga?” It took my nervous system months to settle down. But it did.

Eight years later, with no appointments, no meetings, no deadlines, confined to my home with strict parameters around socializing, time has once again taken on a strange shape. It loops around turning back on itself and I’m reminded of the symbol for infinity.

I ask myself, What’s the lesson here? Am I not moving slowly enough? Have I fallen into a time management sinkhole abusing my allotment for this incarnation? What’s important? What really needs my attention?

My days fly by much more quickly than before which is strange. But when I look ahead time stretches, an endless blur of uncertainty. Can perceptions of time be foreshortened and elongated simultaneously?

As I write I know that every situation is different. There is unimaginable suffering. People have lost jobs, fortunes, loved ones. Some didn’t have jobs to begin with. Some are sick. Some are wondering how long they can keep their companies afloat. Some are barely clinging to life. I’m aware these exist, yet I can only speak with authenticity to my own reality.

I’m retired. I’m old. I’m healthy.

I have the incredible privilege of doing only what I want to do, no more, no less, and doing it at exactly the moment it feels best. If I had children, a partner, a spouse, a job, or if I needed to find a job or my next meal, I wouldn’t experience time the same way. And time wouldn’t be my lesson.

As weeks go by and I observe the ebb and flow of moods, the flashes of inspiration, the voids where my mind doesn’t want to engage with anything, I pretend not to notice what’s happening.

But today I had to admit, after a moment of shock and denial, that I like this better – the sensation of timelessness.

The feeling that it doesn’t matter whether I accomplish anything of great importance or not. That life itself is enough. That the experience of this pandemic is enough. To soak in the essence of uncertainty, to watch fears appear then leave, to have spurts of great energy then spend a day with my nose in a book, to miss my children and grandchildren but be grateful they’re doing well…

to commune with clouds…

is enough.

The ego-driven push to accomplish, to produce, to be recognized, is irrelevant to the person I need to become.

If what I hear is true, this is just the beginning of a monumental shift in life as we knew it. Right now we’re in the crucible that will transform us into the kind of people we must be to thrive in whatever comes next. It’s different for each of us.

Taken in that context, these weeks that melt into months are extremely important. It behooves us to pay attention to our discomforts, to look at what isn’t working and maybe hasn’t worked for a long time. To ask the tough questions and search for honest answers.

When life once again resumes beyond my front door, if I’ve learned my lessons sufficiently well, I don’t expect to recognize myself.

What happens when our freedom to choose is denied?

Trauma.

When I was five we moved from our farm to a town of 8,000 people thirty miles away. A year later I awoke to strange voices in the house. Mother was rushed to the hospital where she hovered near death for weeks. She didn’t die but her recovery took years.

As an adult I’ve had multiple marriages and an equal number of divorces. I’ve moved over forty times. But I would never have told you I was a victim of trauma. In my mind, trauma was for the physically abused or war damaged.

I was in my fifties before I read Waking the Tiger, by Peter Levine, and realized the negative patterns that kept repeating for me were trauma-based. I’d adopted those behaviors as survival mechanisms, but in fact they were creating more trauma.

I sought therapy from a brilliant practitioner, Thea Lee. About the same time I began a personal yoga practice that has kept me centered and sane through whatever circumstances have come my way.

We have a situation world-wide that is wreaking havoc on our nervous systems. “The scale of this outbreak as a traumatic event is almost beyond comprehension,” said one expert in an article published a week ago by CNBC. I would encourage you to read it.

I keep hearing the words, unprecedented, pandemic, apocalyptic to describe the chaos the entire world is experiencing. In conversations with friends and family there are other words: tough, depressing, grinding, boring, stir-crazy, frightening.

Right now I depend more than ever on my daily yoga habit. It works like nothing else to ground me in the morning and enables me to stay present with the reality of the moment rather than spiraling into the what-ifs that lead to fear and panic.

I’d like to make you aware of an opportunity coming up if you want to add yoga to your bag of survival tricks.

In 2013, my daughter, Jessa Walters, was hired by the University of Minnesota to teach trauma sensitive yoga. She’ll be doing a 75 minute session online.

Jessa Walters MA, E-RYT, TCTSY-F

Here’s what she says about the need for a practice that counteracts the effects of trauma on our body.

“A common dynamic in overwhelming/traumatic experience is the feeling that we have no choice in what is happening. David Emerson. founder of Trauma-Sensitive Yoga, defines trauma as an extreme lack of choice. My whole organism wanted one thing to happen and the other thing happened.

“Experiencing an embodied opportunity (in this case, through yoga) to make choices moment by moment can be a way to counter the impact of the choice-less nature of overwhelming/traumatic experience.

“If you’d like, please join me for a 75 minute Trauma-Sensitive Yoga session over Zoom this Saturday, April 4 @ 5pm Pacific Time (or Sunday 8am in Bali).

“This yoga practice will be slow-paced. All are welcome.

“TO JOIN THE ZOOM SESSION:
To join the Zoom session, you will need to have Zoom downloaded (free) on your phone, ipad or computer. Click on “Join” and enter the meeting ID: 545 061 526. Or click on this link:

https://us04web.zoom.us/j/545061526

“Donations for the yoga class are accepted via Venmo (Jessa Walters) or PayPal (paypal.me/jessawalters). Thank you.”

Just FYI – I downloaded ZOOM this morning. It was quick and painless.

For me, yoga works like a mood-altering drug. If I wake up agitated, anxious, distracted, fretful, I’ll ALWAYS try to talk myself out of getting on the mat.

I’m too tired.

I’ll do it tomorrow – twice.

I’ll walk later instead

Hopefully while this stupid mind-game is in process, I’m pulling on my leggings and sports bra because once I’m dressed for the practice I’ll do it.

It takes about one-and-a-half sun salutes for a major mental shift to take place. By the time I’m finished I’m an entirely different person, supercharged, happy, and ready to take on the challenges of the day.

If you already practice yoga, you may be curious to see how the trauma-sensitive approach differs. If you’re new to the game, this is the perfect opportunity to begin in the non-threatening, non-competitive privacy of your own home.

If someone in your circles would benefit, please feel free to pass along Jessa’s information.

Meanwhile, watch clouds, count birds, and let your mind/body slow…slow… slow down.

Do you agree with this quote?

“Changing is what people do when they have no options left.”
― Holly Black, Red Glove

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