Thursday, January 28, 2016

Emerald Green for the Haunted Heart

I haven't had many style posts for you lately because, quite simply, I've been in far too much pain to go out and, if I somehow manage to get out, I've been in too much pain to dress well. Each time I think I'm recovering from this flare, pain, like a phoenix, keeps rising again from its own damnable ashes and felling me once more.

I wore this outfit about three or four weeks ago. By the end of the day, it was clear to me I was in an extremely bad pain flare and I needed a long stretch in bed. It was so bad that I thought I'd broken a rib and I got x-rays taken. But I didn't think it would be this bad or go on for this long.

I could write a post about that suffering. I could write a post about the tortures I endured as a child that led me to this place. I've written such posts and I will again. Those are my most read posts. But I do wish people read my "just style" posts as much as they read my heavier posts. We all need breaks and distractions from suffering. I need the distraction of "mere" outfit posts too. This post is a bit of both -- the heavy and the light -- because that is life, my life anyway.

I am not in denial about what I've been through. I haven't that luxury. In a photo like this one, you can read the tragedies of my life as clearly as if I were putting them into words. You can see that I am forever haunted.

So is Sharbat Gula, photographed by Steve McCurry for National Geographic while she was a refugee in Pakistan in 1985. She is about 17 in this photo. It is obvious that she had already seen and endured more in her short life than anyone should. Her face, like mine, is the face of PTSD. She too is haunted.

She still is. She's only about 28 here. Her life has not been easy. Anyone can see that. Her parents were killed in the Soviet invasion when she was about six. She became a refugee in Pakistan, eventually returning to Afghanistan which has been in a near constant state of war for decades. She says she was married at 13; her husband says she was 16: a child bride either way. She has three children and had a fourth who died as a baby. Her life was and still is one of extreme deprivation: no medical care, no electricity, no running water. 

Her life has been and is very very hard.

So was and is mine. You can read about it in some of my other posts. But Sharbat and I have one great difference in our lives. While she was born in an impoverished, war-torn country, I am North American. I live in a land of wealth, comfort, and peace. However bad my life was as a child, and it was very very bad, once I was free, I had opportunities she can only dream of: medical aid, therapy, a great education, a good job, a comfortable home, disability insurance, and more. In short, I had the chance to build for myself the life I should have had as a child. She never had that chance.

You can see it in how differently we have aged. Even with this broken and tortured body, at 45, I look younger than she did at 28.

And my opportunities here include something else of great value: I get to fill my life with the therapeutic power of beauty. I can buy it, wear it, play with it, put it on my walls, cuddle under it at night, and even fill my tummy with it. It helps. It really does.

I deserve it. So do you. And that's why I still write "just style" posts and why I wish as many people would read them as read my heavy posts about abuse and disability.

So let's get on with the fashion part of this post.

I haven't been able to wear a bra since the day we took these photos. My ribs have been in so much pain, a bra feels like a torture device. When your bosom is a 38 DD and you're unable to wear a bra, your sartorial choices are extremely limited. That's another reason I haven't many fashion photos for you lately. I've been very creative with my outfits and I have tried to take a few photos of those outfits but I haven't been very happy with them. A blouse like this one, for instance, is mostly for concealment without a bra and that just doesn't look as good as when I can tuck it in and show my figure a bit.

The basic influence for my outfit was the 1970s, though I wasn't going for a full-on 70s look. As is so often the case when I think 70s, I thought Mary Tyler Moore. But, in looking for images of MTM in green, I found this gem of Betty White as her MTM character, wearing a blouse very similar to my own. Yay.

Skirt and blouse: Eloquii; Coat: London Fog; Boots: Ecco; Earrings and brooch: vintage
She's always been such a pretty woman and I could do far worse than to dress like Ms. White! Here, I proudly adjust my emerald green pussy bow so very like hers.

Mary Tyler Moore wore a lot of very stiff, double-knit, polyester, a-line skirts, quite similar to mine. And, yes, she often paired them with pussy bows.

That double-knit polyester was everywhere in the 1970s. It was easy: no wrinkles, no fading colours, no hand washing. Just wash, dry, and go.

Of course, they were kind of ugly, and they were very itchy. God, they were itchy! They're easy to mock today.

But let's be honest, there will be plenty about today's styles to mock in the future. Neoprene, for example, the fabric used to make this skirt, is pretty clearly the grandchild of double-knit polyester. It too is stiffer than most fabrics, thus holding its shape, and my guess is that it too will hold its colour -- for millennia.

This skirt and blouse were my first Eloquii purchases and I wasn't sure what my size would be with them. The blouse is a 14 and the skirt is a 16. You can see that the skirt is a bit too big. It kept slipping down and making me look a little less elegant than I would prefer.

I decided to keep it though because, with my inability to exercise much, my size keeps creeping up and I'd rather err on the side of too big than too small. Maybe next year it will fit me perfectly. Or maybe I'll have had enough periods of low pain that I'll have been on the treadmill enough to slim down a bit. I can never know with this broken body of mine. It's frustrating! But at least, either way, I'll be well-dressed.

The fact that the skirt is big makes it look a bit too wide on me too but I ended up liking this photo because it reminds me of...

... that little hobo we all know and love so well.

I might have made it look easy, but posing on this hill was hard. I was in terrible pain and my body did not want to tilt or brace itself against tilting. Ouch! That made me sad.

I remember walking these very hills when I was about 19, able-bodied, and very very alone. I'd look down on the city and wish I felt I had a place in it. I wanted it to be my city, but I felt like an outsider, young, small, poor, and haunted by all the abuse that had only recently ended. These are bitter-sweet memories. I was finally free but I was also still a kid and I felt that I was floundering, struggling in my poverty, mostly denying my recent diagnoses with PTSD, and trying to figure out how to feel safe in a world that had never ever been safe before.

Since then, in many ways, things have improved. My world expanded a great deal. I found community. I got a great post-secondary education. I made good friends who are like family to me. I got a good job. The city did indeed feel like it was mine. My world expanded.

Then I became disabled and it shrank all over again. But, this time, at least I had a foundation: community, income, emotional resources, maturity.

Still, it's really hard that I can no longer roam these hills on my own, my body too broken for their ups and downs. I can no longer take myself to views of my beloved mountains. I adore the home I share with Beau and the boys but it doesn't have a view and I can't just take myself to one like I used to.

At least my mountains are near. I've lived in New York, MontrĂ©al, and Toronto, and, every time, my heart ached for my mountains. I'm like Heidi: I really cannot feel peace in my heart, let alone happiness, if my mountains aren't right there, looming above me in their friendly, protective certainty. 

But the mountains aren't magical. They can offer my soul great sustenance but they cannot cure my broken body. That's one thing that bothers me about the book, Heidi; in it, as in so many other novels, all the lame girl needs to get better is fresh air, mountains, and a good attitude. Yeah, right. Wouldn't that be nice?

When are people going to let go of the absurd notion that attitude is all that stands between illness and infirmity, and good health? The implication is that, if we don't get better, it must be because we have a bad attitude. Or we don't pray enough. Or whatever. It's all magical thinking and victim blaming, and I'll none of it!

All that aside, though, I love my mountains. I love them like one would love a gentle, reliable parent. They are always there. I just have to look up and breathe in their comfort.

I love that they peep around every corner (see them in the background here?) -- when they're not towering over and dwarfing everyone and everything around them. I just so wish I could hike in them again, or even walk to our great parks with great views and drink them in.

While we're on the subject of loss, every time I wear this trench coat, I am instantly reminded of an iconic scene in the 1979 movie, Kramer vs. Kramer ...

... when Meryl Strep waves goodbye to her young son and relinquishes him to his father, played by Dustin Hoffman.

Man, I tried and tried to get this pose just right but I was merely reminded that I will never be Meryl Strep. She's so slim and willowy and elegant. Of course, she was also only 30.

Neither Streep nor I is a willowy 30 anymore. But she sure as heck is still elegant and poised.

One need not be young and slim to be elegant and poised. Beau says he was struck by my poise on our very first date. I'd never known that. Poise is not any easy thing to accomplish with a broken body so I'll take it as a particular compliment that he sees me that way.

Another reason I had so much trouble posing like Streep was the intense, slanted, late afternoon, winter light. It was so bright that we ended up with a lot of photos of me squinting and closing my eyes.

It was amazing light, and did lead to some interesting photos.

But it was also very difficult light and we ended up with a lot of this going on between shots.

Eventually, I gave in and put sunglasses on, though I wasn't sure if these sunglasses went well with my outfit.

But before I put the sunglasses on, I thought I'd take advantage of my watering eyes ...

... to do another Streep pose from Kramer vs. Kramer.

Again, I am reminded that I will never ever be Meryl Streep. I sometimes describe her as the whitest person I know. Her skin was and is luminous! I'm very white but I will never glow the way she does (though, thanks to a great photographer and a great makeup artist, I come close in our wedding photos).

Of course, again, I'm not 30 anymore.

And, again, neither is Streep. God bless her for not getting plastic surgery! I have deep gratitude toward women like her for giving us all a sense of what ageing naturally and beautifully really looks like.

And look: she's also wearing a bun, like me!

I wore mine in a bun mostly because I'm in bad need of a haircut but have been in too much pain to get one. My bobby pins have been missing since the wedding so I just used clips. I should get more bobby pins but these are the kind of things I let slide when I'm in a pain flare.

But getting back to Streep's luminous skin, the light that day did make my skin look nicely porcelain .... 

... when it wasn't making it sunshine yellow. 

In this photo, I'm listening to a Norther Flicker's cry and trying to figure out where it is. 

Oh look: there it is!

They look like this, in case you're wondering. (I didn't take this photo; I found this photo online.) They've got it all going on: colour, polka dots, stripes, weirdly flexible tongues ... 

But I digress. The brilliant light had all kinds of unexpected effects, like bringing the red out in my hair like crazy! With all the pain I endure, I do feel like my body is ageing long before its time. So I take pride and comfort in the parts of it that still seem young, like my hair. I was pretty happy with what the sun did to it in this extraordinary light. Those who have only seen me on cloudy days or indoors don't believe me when I say my hair is auburn. But it surely is! I know my hair is red in the sun, but even I was blown away by how red it seemed in this light, contrasting again my green blouse.

From now on, I shall wear green more often!

Julianne Moore does.

Now that I've discovered the striking effect, I'll try to make up for lost time and get more green in my wardrobe.

Moore seems to wear a lot of khaki green on her casual days, something I once knew was a good idea for me but somehow forgot over time.

So green it is. 

This was a good day to wear my prized green Boucher brooch and earrings. The brooch is now missing a stone because I wasn't storing my brooches properly. Silly me. I'm storing them properly now and will try to learn how to do minor jewelry repair.

I'm one for bright colours but my outfit could have worked well in the most basic of neutrals too. Faye Dunaway's look in the 1976 movie, Network, was another inspiration for my outfit. 

Her outfit really is the same as mine, just in brown.

See what I mean? 

Same goes for Streep's outfit on the stand in Kramer vs. Kramer.

But as I write this, it is less Streep's younger, 1970s style that inspires me. It is her older self that makes me want to continue growing and being the best person I know how to be. She still glows, not just because of good genetic fortune, but because of who she is as a human being, and the choices she's made in her life.

That is something to emulate, far above physical beauty. I'm trying to glow too, in my own way, and in my own time.

That includes both a full acknowledgement of how hard my life was and is, and a full acknowledgement of the opportunities I have here and now that many women never get. 

Both the good and bad are real and true. The trick is not letting either erase the truth of the other. I do the best I can and that's all I can do.

(I'm sharing this with Fashion Should Be Fun, Rachel the Hat, Not Dead Yet, Not Dressed as Lamb, Sydney Fashion Hunter, Happiness at Midlife, and Adri Lately.)