(image via NYT, quote via Brain Pickings, originally in Didion’s “On Self Respect” essay in Slouching Towards Bethlehem)
It’s going to be a bit of a slow week here, and next week too. I know most of you are busy and doing things other than spending time at your computer or reading blogs on your phone, so I thought I’d take advantage of this time to catch up on housekeeping, update some older blog posts and maybe do a bit of design work. Mostly back-end, boring stuff that I neglect throughout the year, which of course, piles up and needs to be dealt with at some point, which might as well be now.
I’ll still post, but perhaps with less frequency than usual – please don’t worry about me (VAL!!). I do owe Laurie a post on fitted tops to wear with her new Elizabeth Suzann pants (coming tomorrow), and I can’t NOT do outfit posts for two weeks, so expect some of those as well.
But in my head, I am closing things out. Balancing the register. Crossing things off. It is the end of a year that has been rather difficult for me. In finding and sharing myself through my “Minimal Closet” journey, to a certain extent, I lost myself as well. I continue to flounder; search for more, for something, for myself. Although I know I am only searching for who I THINK I am, or who I think I MUST be, at this age, at this time in my life, for I do know myself. I am right here. I am just not living the life I thought I’d be living. And I continue to struggle with that. I simply do not know how to not.
So lately I soak up every word Joan Didion has written, about self respect, about fear, about mourning, about life. And I think what I must do is fake it. Joan wrote also in her “On Self Respect” essay I referenced above that
Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts.
They didn’t think about what they had to do, they just knew what it was, and did it. It is discipline, definitely, but it is also the idea that this is how things work, and there’s no time for thinking and crying and worrying. If you want to live, really live, you must get on with it.
For that, I am making plans. I know…I know…still over-thinking it, but if I’m going to fake it, and just do the things I know I ought to, the things I want to do, the things I NEED to do, then I must have a strategy. A routine. A schedule. No time for drama, or feeling sorry for myself. Ultimately, it will all become second-nature; habit. I am tired of being paralyzed in thought/worry/analysis.
Again, from Joan:
Self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth. It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag. As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that, but the psychological effect alone is incalculable: it is difficult in the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in Wuthering Heights with one’s head in a Food Fair bag.
Anyway, enough of that. Enough about me. More about Joan.
I know she became (although she was before) a style icon to millions of younger women who weren’t already familiar with her, this year, via her Celine ads and various articles. To me, she is a writer first, and a style icon second. A close second. Did you know that La Garconne Moderne has a “Didion” collection?? It is full of gloriously slouchy, gamine, easy, neutral pieces, that you can picture Joan herself in. Now, that is.
But what gets me about that is that she seems to have gone through as many style iterations as any of us do; she writes about buying/wearing Lily Pulitzer shifts, more preppy than gamine. Yes, at some point, she cemented her style persona and created a “carefully crafted image” for herself, an image that we all seem to associate with her. But she did not come out of the womb that way. Who does? And why should I expect that for myself, still?
I do take solace in the fact that in this image she’s basically wearing a velour version (and slouchier) of any number of my beloved, comfortable, long James Perse dresses. It belongs on her and she belongs in it.
Somehow it comes back to our clothes, doesn’t it? At least if I don’t feel like I belong here, where I am, I can belong in my clothes….
Please tell me if there’s anything I can do to make your experience here better/easier/etc. in terms of design. I did add navigation links to the bottom of each post that goes to the previous post and the next one. Anything else I can do?
Oh this post resinates with me (and not just in anticipation of you suggestions for my new pants). I worked really hard at paring down my wardrobe to only things I love, wear, and feel good about. I’ve also been in search of what it is I really want (beyond my wardrobe). I feel I’ve somewhat faltered at the end of the year here on both fronts. And now I find myself at home sick today and contemplating your and Joan’s words. I don’t have any great answers but I look forward to reading about your journey as I travel my own. All the best to you!
Grechen Reiter says
thank you laurie 🙂
i have faltered big time, as i always do this time of year – mainly because i miss being closer to my family and my “previous” life around holiday season. i have serious FOMO and major jealousy of everyone who gets to enjoy parties and doing fun stuff with family and friends. of course, i forget about the moments i do have, and how much time i’ve been able to spend with my family this year (more than usual). no, i don’t forget, but those moments don’t hold me very long – as soon as i leave or family leave, i’m thrown back into anxiety and sadness that we’re no longer so close…
I’m so sorry this time of year is so fraught for you. I hope with the new year comes that glorious feeling of a clean slate and anything is possible. At least that’s what I try to hang onto when it all feels like too much to endure. In fact, maybe I’ll go re-read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” to inspire me!
All I can say is, <3<3<3<3<3!!!!!!!!!! Come visit me:)
Lisa´s last blog post ..The Christmas Tightrope Of Obligation And Desire, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:04am
Grechen Reiter says
when can i come??
i would love to lisa, some time next year, i’ll make it back to cali 😉 maybe i’ll do a west coast tour and up to vancouver too…
I’m a fan! And your post reminded me that our eldest daughter took several classes at NYU the summer of her junior year of high school, including one where they examined “Slouching Toward Bethlehem.” Great memories of Jordan, at age 17, living on the Upper West Side in a dear friend’s apartment while our friend was overseas. Independent kid!
I don’t think I ever realized that Didion was wearing a velour dress in the photo. Cool! (I thought it was a top and matching palazzos!) I’m still working on the self-respect piece. I hate to admit it, but at age 55 after suffering bouts of depression and also missing family far away, I still don’t have a handle on that. But some days…weeks…months are better than others. We’ll always be a work in progress, but better than ever!
Grechen Reiter says
well…she might indeed me wearing pants and a top, but in my HEAD she’s wearing a dress. because that’s what i would wear 😉
it looks to me like a dress…and looking at more pictures, it’s really hard to tell.