Friday, August 01, 2008

Elemental Shifts

Today I'm wearing cream colored pants with brown pinstripes, a sleeveless chocolate brown deep-V tunic and my brown Born sandals. It's one of my most comfortable outfits. I feel soft and solid at the same time. My hair is loose, falling around my shoulders like the long branches of a willow tree, small tendrils brushing my cheek and neck like leaves. My shoes are supportive and my legs feel strong. I feel very much like a tree.

I have always loved chocolate brown clothes. One of my blonde, blue-eyed, pale-skinned friends once told me they hated wearing brown clothes. "I look like a giant turd," he said.

I shrugged and said "It works for me. I like the richness. And my eyes are brown."

"Oh," my friend said, looking at me in a whole new way. "I'll bet brown really sets off your red hair too." I absorbed that. I have always been used to people not liking the things I like, and being vocal about it, but there was something in the way my friend looked at me that I will never forget. A recognition, perhaps. A feeling that he suddenly knew me just a little bit better.

It's natural for an Earth sign to be comfortable in earthy-colored clothes and surroundings. My friend is a fire sign; of course he hates muted tones. He wears red and orange and yellow and white and black. I've never seen him in grey. When we were having this conversation - a good decade or so ago - we were practically opposites. Yet we were the best of friends, and still are today.

I went through a Blue period over the last 5 years, where suddenly I wanted to be wearing blues and purples all the time, which seemed to make sense, as much of my world was uprooted when I had to leave my last apartment. I wanted to be like water... just flow around the obstacles, and carry away with me whatever could survive the trip. It worked pretty well for me, channeling that energy, the flexibility and groundedness that comes with emulating a river. Like my old friend the Mississippi, I just let gravity and winds and the shifting of the earth carry me along, trusting that my Source wouldn't dry up, and that I'd end up where I was supposed to be.

So here I am. Living outside New York City. Married. Driving. Planning a family. Expecting even more change to come. Hoping for it. Practically dying for it.

I'm passing through a time in my life that Astrologers call "Pluto Square." My Life Coach/Astrologer/High Priestess/Good Friend/Mentor ran a quickie chart for me a few nights ago, and we talked about it in depth. You only go through this phase once in your lifetime (unless you live very long). It lasts for about two years. During this phase, everything in your life transforms. For me, this has all but completely come to pass, and the few things that haven't happened yet, I'm working on them. Hungering for them like I never imagined I would hunger for anything. It's incredible, the urge, the drive, that has come over me recently. Yes, I'm talking about becoming a Mom... but there's more to it. I don't know how the rest of this is going to manifest, but I'm itching to find out. It keeps me up at night, the knowledge that my transformation is not yet complete. It distracts me during the day. It makes me irritable and maudlin.

It's pretty exciting. It's like waiting for Christmas. Zenchick's butterfly metaphors seem accurate.

When I was in Massage School (A major transformational time that coincided with my Pluto Square!) I took a sort of quiz based on Chinese medicine and astrology. The Chinese work with five elements as opposed to the four used in Western traditions. We share Fire, Water and Earth, but where the West has Air, the East has Metal and Wood. According to Western tradition, I'm an earth sign, and my second highest element is water. Fire is a very distant third, and last is Air. This always made sense to me.

In Chinese method, I'm mostly Earth, but my second highest concentration is Fire! I was very surprised at this, but not put off. Some of my favorite friends in class were strong, fiery beings. I liked the idea that I shared their energy. I attached myself to them, and throughout Massage School we were quite the clique. I'm still friends with a couple of them, and I'm still invigorated every time we talk. They are a good influence on me.

I have done so many things differently since I lost my apartment in 2005. I knew my life was changing, and I knew I could never go back. With a resolve that I've never felt before in my life, I embraced this turning point and ran with it. Hello, Pluto Square. I'm ready for this.

As of this winter, this phase in my life will be drawing to a close. Part of me is actually sad to see the end coming. As tumultuous as this time has been, it's been a period of intense growth, profound deepening, and a hell of a lot of fun and excitement. What if I had another year? What else could I turn upside down and completely transform? Who knows?

Well, it's probably just as well. Goddess knows I'm only human, and She knows what I'm capable of. I do tend to over-reach sometimes. So maybe, come January, when things begin to settle down, I'll be ready to let go of all this opportunity. Opportunity - exactly what Kieran suggested. What I previously thought of as disruption, destruction, devastation, I now see the other side... opportunity.

Like a forest fire.


For the last three years, G and I have been sharing a small but comfortable one-bedroom apartment in Nyack. We have an incredible view of the Hudson river, the Tappan Zee Bridge in the distance. We're just down the street and around the corner from "the strip," where all sorts of awesome restaurants and bars line main street, and we can simply walk into town on a Friday or Saturday night for a good time. We're a 5-minute drive from Piermont, another favorite hangout, where G and I lounge in outdoor tiki bars, and indulge in homemade ice cream on hot summer afternoons. There's a lot to love about living here.

Because the apartment is so small, we only have one closet in the bedroom. I have half, and he has half. My sweaters take up half of the lower shelf. I leave the top shelf for sheets and stuff, since I can't reach it anyway. On the closet floor, "to the left, to the left," every shoe I own in a box to the left. (Ok, not every shoe I own, just the summer collection.) I have a chest of drawers, but the bottom drawer broke ages ago, so I only have four drawers. the bottom space I use as a shelf for handbags. Top drawer is undies, second drawer is hosiery and shorts, third drawer is tops, fourth drawer is pajamas and swimwear. In the living room we have a coat closet. Half is our coats (four for him, eleven for me). The other half is couch blankets, a bunch of his shirts, and my long dresses in garmet bags. I have a few pairs of sunglasses and a couple of umbrellas in that closet, but basically, that's my entire wardrobe.

Compared to most women, it ain't much. But it's how I live. The decision to pare down my wardrobe to what would fit comfortably (not crammed!) in this space was part of the changes I embraced. Except for the shoes, I like this. I like knowing there's nothing in that closet but things I love, clothes that I know look good on me, that make me feel good about myself. Because of the limited space, anything that doesn't fit perfectly or that I don't absolutely love gets donated. Gone! Out! No room for that sub-standard crap!

Every six months G and I make a pilgrimage to my storage cubicle in Nanuet. I roll up the door, and there, packed neatly away, is my former home. My furniture, books, CD's, kitchen stuff, the tall, free-standing candlesticks I bought from Pottery Barn when I lived alone in Astoria. It's all in there. Right in the front of the space, right behind the door, are two medium-sized suitcases, a gym bag, a few garment bags hanging from the lip of a furniture piece, and a cardboard box big enough to hold me with breathing room. Inside these containers is the rest of my wardrobe.

It's a semi-onerous task, but it needs to be done. G and I haul these packages down the elevator on a rolly-cart out to the car, bring them home, and the following weekend, we bring them back. The onerous part is the lifting. But once I get those packages home, the fun begins.

I throw things out every year. Lots of things. Every spring and every fall, I try on everything in those suitcases. I critically evaluate how well everything fits, and I'm brutal with style. If it's something that I feel I should wear because it's in good condition and I've only had it for two years, OUT IT GOES. Most likely I got it on sale anyway. By the time I'm done with the weeding, I usually have two or three grocery bags of clothes to donate to our local Goodwill. And yes, I donate shoes too.

After the purge, there is no binge. I then set about organizing things into outfits. I decide what tops work with what bottoms, what shoes, what jackets, what suits, what accessories. I look at my overcoats and think about the upcoming season. I make mental notes, and eventually I come up with a list of holes. Holes in my wardrobe that need to be filled with a certain key element - a chocolate brown sweater, a grey pantsuit for work, a pair of navy blue sandals. I actually make a list.

Now, it is time to shop.

I am very conservative with my shopping. I don't buy things just because they are cool. Even if they fit really well. Even if I look fabulous in them. In order for me to buy something I need to know exactly where and when I'm going to wear it - have a specific event in mind. It has to not just fit - it has to fit perfectly. Shoes MUST be at least semi-comfortable, and they must be different in a significant way from every other pair of shoes in my collection. (I may be the only woman I know who only owns one pair of black pumps.) The catch to all this is pricing. It's the one area I'm not conservative with. I will happily pay full price for something that meets all these qualifications. Indeed, very few things ever do. It's a pretty safe way to keep from over-investing.

Admittedly, I do stray occasionally. Last year on my birthday, I paid full price for a pair of green suede platform peep-toe pumps with shiny patent thick heels. Worth every penny. I'm not a complete nutjob.

I am coming out of a Blue Period. For some reason, right around late 2004, early 2005, I got really into blues and purples. over the last three years, I've amassed an entire wardrobe in shades of blue and purple. Teals, plums, lavenders, turquoises, navy... all fair game. It makes sense, given how I was courting the water, and the air. I needed the flexibility of water and air, the way they move around and through pretty much everything. I needed the engulfing abilities of water, to accept what life had given me and take what nourishment I could from it. I needed to feel the freedom of air, to be light, to let myself be blown about, to somehow learn to enjoy the whimsy of the winds of chance.

Anyway. I realized this summer that I'm drowning in all that blue. I love the most recent blue things I've bought, but they are a decidedly greener shade of teal. I looked at my entire wardrobe and realized that I've been floating in this cool pool for long enough.

I want warmth. I want sun. I bought yellow.

It just appeared in front of me one day. Ann Taylor loft had a whole collection in this welcoming, friendly shade of sunny yellow. The other half of the store was a fresh, appley green. I fingered the collections, went home, scrutinized my closet, and two weeks later, went back to the mall. I came home with a pair of yellow denim slacks, a cap-sleeved yellow swing sweater with big buttons, and a navy, yellow and white floral print shirt with a shirred bustline and slightly puffed sleeves.

"I can't BELIEVE you bought those pants," Ameleh groaned on the phone. "You're never going to wear them after this summer!"

"Oh, I will," I said.

Whenever I wear them I feel SO HAPPY. It's incredible what a mood-lifter they are. I took a picture of myself wearing them. About a week later, I found a yellow-and-white striped fitted oxford for less than 10 dollars, and bought it to wear with those pants. It's now one of my favorite outfits.

And yet this isn't quite enough. Yellow is awesome. It makes me happy. It's cheerful, light, bright, fun. It's ice cream and popcorn and fresh lemonade. But... I'm still hungry. I'm still not quite warm enough.

How about red?

I have plenty of red in my closet already. My favorite suit is a rather serious shade of brick red, like bright, fresh blood. That may sound odd, but to me blood is life, it's nourishment, it's sacred. I do feel powerful when I wear red, and very confident. It perks me up on a grey day. I have a great red pantsuit, a red sleeveless eyelet sheath dress, a red-and-white toile miniskirt, a red sleeveless top with a deep v-neck, and a racerback red-and-white fine guage sweater in a vaguely hawaiian floral print. Early this spring, I splurged on a pair of red and white peep toe pumps from Kenneth Cole, with Nike Air technology in the soles. They are comfortable and sexy at the same time, agile and understated. Worth every penny.

So I wear my red clothes more often. I get a lot of attention in red, which feels nice. Men and women like it. Some of these red clothes have been in my closet for eight years, but they are classic styles, and I take care of them, so they look fresh. I think the problem is that I am too comfortable in them. They have become a bit of a costume. Putting on my red pants is like drinking red bull - it jump-starts my day, but it wears off. At the end of the day, I change into my brown pajamas and make dinner and watch TV... and my reds have served their purpose. They are just clothes now. Granted, I'm not getting rid of them, but there's something subtle I can't put my finger on.

This fire burns too slowly.

(to be cont'd)

No comments: