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.)


  1. I love your style posts. You look AMAZING in green, Charlotte! You should wear it a lot. If I had to choose only one color for myself, it would have been green - I just LOVE the million of shades and tones it offers... Great choice with the rust boots too, they frame the whole look, along with your red hair. The late afternoon light, apprx. 2 hours before sunset, is the most magical, in any season.

    Meryl Streep is beautiful and glowing. Like you, I adore women who choose to age naturally despite the "demands" of their profession and the opportunities they have to stay "forever young". And you, Charlotte, have your own beauty and yes, your own glow! Because of the spirit you have, not just because of your genes...

    I am this way with Puget Sound - cannot imagine moving away from it. As for magic, no I don't think either that it is in a "thing" itself (mountains, ocean or anything really), nor it is in "attitude". We human beings are complex creatures, and the power of our mind is definitely a real thing, but there is something so much more profound and powerful than mind - I think it's the spirit, which is truly a magical thing. And your life to me is a wonderful example of what a beautiful, powerful spirit can do - can build a happy life, find good friends and a true soulmate, heal yourself and help healing others.

    1. As usual, if something looks good on me, it will look good on you and vice versa. So: green. Why didn't I notice it before? I wear so much red. I'm wearing a red dress right now, in fact. Please, any suggestions of colours, shapes, etc., are most welcome.

      This light was more like an hour before sunset, which was why it was so hard on the eyes. But, yes, I've noticed the best kinds of light over the years. Natural light is always better.

      I hope I'm helping heal others. I won't lie: life is still hard, really really hard. I've come a long way, further than one might expect with a history like mine, but it is still such a struggle! If I at least feel like I'm making a positive contribution to the world, that helps.

  2. This green is lovely in itself and so gorgeous on you!

  3. You actually look like Meryl Streep in some wedding pictures !!!

    1. Ohmigod, really?! I really think that's down to my makeup artist (a young friend of mine), and the photographer. When I first saw the photos, I wrote to the photographer and said, "Wow. What did you do to make me glow like Meryl Streep? I know I'm really white, but I know I don't glow like Streep." He did use some fancy filter or something but I'm okay with that. A girl should glow from time to time, even if she needs a little help to do so.

  4. It's interesting you have less readers for your style posts. I find the opposite!
    Your green is such a great choice. Just the right tone of green too.
    I agree, definitely auburn hair! Really lovely with the boots.
    I am amazed at your photo finds...even the same poses!
    You tell a wonderful story and I agree about mountains. Grew up amongst them and miss them when they're not there. Doesn't have to be the same ones - fortunately, as I grew up in PNG!
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful greenness :-)
    Xo Jazzy Jack

    1. Jazzy, for a long time, I also found the opposite. I'd write these posts that ripped my guts out and people didn't read them much. I think going on Google+ and Twitter helped with that. (Some of my first readers of posts on trauma were macho war veterans! I remember one telling me that little me, all feminine and small, am tougher than huge soldiers he's known. I love that.) Not only are my new heavy posts being read, but my older ones are being read a LOT too. That's very gratifying, but I do wish more people enjoyed my style history posts as much as I enjoy researching and writing them.

      I've always wished my hair was full on red and never understood why Anne of Green Gables, to whom I was often compared as a kid, wished her hair were merely auburn. If my hair ever gets around to going grey, I might dye it that lighter copper red I've always wanted.

      I'll be honest: my outfits often remind me of vintage images and poses and I look them up while we're taking photos. I deliberately copy them and then put them together on my blog. I'm going to start a pinterest page called Mimicry, putting all those photos together in one place. But, yes, I do often find photos after a shoot and pair the poses with my own.

      PNG? That's like, waaaay south of me, right? : )

  5. I like all your posts and always learn so much from the style ones. I remember very well blouses with bows ... it was a bit alarming to me that they had come back into fashion but they are growing on me again.

    Do you know how striking your eyes are? and in that light, especially so. Like deepest amber!

    1. I'm so glad you like all my posts, including the style ones, and that you learn from the style ones. I never studied fashion history formally but my interests in women's history and older literature combined and got me into fashion (and art and design) history.

      I like the bows, though I HATE the term "pussy bow." I like Jane Wagner's term: scarf ruffle thing. I don't know why but I'm loving their return and have far too many blouses, and a few dresses, with scarf ruffle things.

      Thanks for the compliment on my eyes. This may sound odd but I've always thought Jewish eyes, especially in middle and old age, have a particularly kind look about them. When I was ten, I realized that some day I'd have those eyes, and it made me happy. But amber? Most people think they're brown and, when they see them in the light, say they're green. They are, in fact... orange and hazel! For real.

  6. Love those pics of Mary Tyler Moore- I idolized her in all ways: her cool studio apartment, wardrobe, city job. You look lovely in this deep green and I do see plenty of Meryl in your graceful pose. Thank you for sharing so much, xox


    1. Yeah, MTM was quite the phenomenon, wasn't she? She was the first of her kind. Did you know that they originally wanted to make her divorced but that was considered too radical? How times change. Rhoda was always my style favourite on the show though. She was just so cool and bohemian! I've referenced her quite often in my blog.

  7. I came of age in the 80s, when 70s style was deeply derided, but I've come to really enjoy its excesses. And the colours really suit me, though I would have been loathe to discover that in the 80s.

  8. That green is stunning on you! I was a huge fan of MTM. Her life always seemed so fresh and fun. Those were the days. Thanks so much for joining us on My Refined Style. You are fortunate to be able to see those beautiful mountains. It does lift the spirit to be around magestic nature.

    1. MTM is a big fashion icon for me but, even more, Rhoda Morgenstern is my gal, probably because she and I both look so very Jewish.

      Yes, I love my mountains. They're like... grandparents or something, part of my family and very loved.

  9. First of all, may I say that emerald green is just stunning. I so agree that fashion has the ability to lift the spirits, but ultimately it cannot fill you or your empty places. I so appreciate your vulnerability and I cannot begin to imagine what challenges you have faced in your life. While it's so true that attitude does not suddenly "make" you better, it definitely helps determine how you live your life from this point on.

    Thanks for lending your flair to the My Refined Style Linkup. See you again next month!


    1. I suppose you're right about attitude but I think many people confuse a "positive" attitude with denial, pretending everything is just fine when it's really not. People tell me I have a positive attitude. I don't think I do. I think I have a realistic attitude, seeing both good and bad.

  10. What a powerful and inspirational post. You have so much strength (and I sympathize with the frustration that comes when you're well-endowed and for one reason or another cannot wear a bra... VERY limited sartorially).

    Green is definitely your color!


    Ashley || Sed Bona

    1. Thanks for the compliments. I feel weak but everyone tells me I'm strong. I guess maybe they know what they're talking about?

      I like having a large chest. I was very small-cheated when I was super fit. I just wish more clothes were made for those of us with ample endowment!

  11. Thanks. I'm still on the lookout for more green.