day in, day out.
cover the same terrain: sleep, diet, exercise, brain chemistry, relationships, feelings, thoughts, actions, plans, planning, relaxation, organization, micronutrients, family of origin, dreams, journaling, reading. stay on track. lean into the feeling, as much as you can.
but the bottom line, i think, is this: what does it mean to live? what is life? what does a life well-lived look like? feel like? is it documentable? does it have to be? how will i know that it's all right? do i have a right to make these choices, these decisions, in my life? will i be judged? is it big things only or is it daily things as well?
we're approaching an interdisciplinary intersection, a place i love and trust. i love this place in the therapy dialogue, the deep, meaning-making place. it might seem strange, but then again it might not. unless you're an academic in the humanities or a novelist, when and where do you have time to think and articulate a coherent proposition for your meaning of life? so, in my office, after we review the oft-covered terrain of sleep, diet, and exercise, we dust off overwhelming emotions about a spouse, a neighbor, oneself, we sometimes are blessed to veer into meaningfulness and "meaning of life" suppositions.
here's the delicious confession.
when i was about 6, during summer vacations, i used to cut up my godmother's older, sleeveless, floral nightgowns and fashion them into dresses for myself. i'd use the cut remnants as belts. i would put on her high heels and clomp around the front yard, admiring my creation while considering further alterations.
when i was about 14, i'd use my babysitting money to buy long, dangly brass earrings that i would have to hide from my strict father. i would put on these earrings when i turned the corner away from the house and take them off before coming home. in the winter months, i would wait until my father's car could no longer be seen in the distance, i would go around the back of the school, remove the pants he made me wear under the plaid uniform skirt, and go merrily into the school, my fashion sense intact.
when i was about 16, i thwarted my then-recently-deceased father's plans for my future attendance at medical school by developing a very rebellious depression, flunking out of physics and pre-calculus, and hiding in the school's art studio. i started drawing again.
between the ages of 7 and 16, i did not draw. except in art class. and that didn't really count. elementary art seems to be more crafting than art, something i've never cared for.
i had a teacher. her name was susan. she used to wear hot pink tights underneath black dresses. she gave me a pin, during my teenage rebellion. it said, quite simply, "problem child." she never said anything about it, i never said anything about it. no one ever said anything about it. it just was. she was right.
i trusted her.
she saw me. she let me be. she encouraged me. steadily. quietly. i made art. she took photos. i entered contests. she photographed my university admissions portfolio. she gave me new tools. she gave me her time.
i have been somewhat postponing the confession, which is this, dear, educated, serious, adult reader: i love fashion. almost all of my drawings during that time were about fashion. i studied fashion magazines to read about cloth, texture, cut, weave, fabric. i replicated, minutiously, interesting images from the magazines. i studied light to see how it affects fabric. i drew. a lot. all the time. i avoided thinking about my authoritarian father's death by drawing. i escaped, dear reader. there was no other help for me. except this. and this had been around ... for a long time. since that summer vacation where i improved my godmother's wardrobe with a pair of scissors.
i went to school for fashion design. a good school that opened my eyes to other media. i got embroiled in that horrid red herring of an argument: "fashion design is not fine art. it is craft." i veered away from fashion design because i wanted to "be taken seriously." i revolted against a shirt costing 4,000.00USD. i revisited "serious" academic pursuits and became a psychotherapist.
and so. how now?
i love being a therapist! i love talking about important and not-so-important things. but i love having a keen eye for fashion. this will be forever with me. for me, fashion is conceptual, emotive, a possibility, expression, creativity, a sense of self. for me, fashion is important to my mental well-being. for me, a life without good fashion design is a much poorer visual and conceptual life. if i am unable to have a few minutes a day to admire wrinkles in heavy linen or the texture of worsted wool or the frayed ends of a deconstructed skirt, that day will have been a mass-produced, bland and flavorless day. for me, the linen or the wool, the silk, is more than fabric; it is the plant, the animal, the creatures cultivated to produce these materials. the silk worm's cocoon, its caterpillar feeding on mulberry leaves. the dyed wool thread, after it's been spun, dyed in large vats in a pakistani village courtyard. the personality of the fabric, the process it's undergone to become the fabric or the grament, each person who's manipulated that fabric since it was seed. the story of the thing. i love it. it pleases all of my senses. only a good designer knows what to do with each piece of fabric. this is the life essence, i say to myself, this rendition of this fabric as birthed by rei kawakubo of comme de garcons or issey myiake or ivan grundhal. so many artists. strong lines, opinions, innate knowledge.
in therapy sessions, i shape and organize thoughts and feelings, building scaffolding, holding the entire structure of mental health and well-being in mind for this particular person, this particular client. intrinsic to the structure are beauty and those elements which are essential to optimal health: joy, authenticity, personal satisfaction, connection with like-minded others, the ability and the freedom to express oneself. intrinsic. these re built-in, not add-ons. they are required for a good, meaningful life.
"what did you like to do when you were little?"
yes, i validate fruitless, frivolous pursuits! sitting in the backyard, chewing a gatorade popsicle, wiping off the excess with the back of your hand. cutting up favorite images and taping them to the walls of your house and replacing them once a week. going to that hill in the park and rolling yourself down on its slope along with the neighborhood children. model airplanes. kicking the soccer ball every day after work, putting together a league. groove to that beat that always makes you move your head. this are life's inextricable little joys. or big joys. but they are must-haves.
if i do this for others - give them permission to be "frivolous" - it stands to reason that i while away my free time admiring that beautiful piece of lightweight, gauzy black linen as it hangs from the curtain rod, the late-summer sunshine shimmering playfully in and out of its elongated folds.
and this is my frivolous, delicious confession. and i feel free now. judge me if you will!