Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tending Your Garden

Any changes you make in your life really need to be part of all your life, if you intend for those changes to stick. So how does this work with my efforts (nearly five months in right now) to "become more French"? If this just an "at home" thing, or does it carry over?

So glad you asked!

Keep in mind that what I'm trying to do here is change my thinking, not just my wardrobe. It's easy to switch clothes - the real trick is to figure out what clothes are truly a reflection of you. In order to do that successfully, there's a great deal of "interior work" to do.

For instance, today my work outfit consisted of a white T-shirt, khakis with a black braided belt, black ballet flats (comfortable as bedroom slippers, by the way), a black ruffly jacket with three-quarter sleeves, and a red patterned scarf knotted into a necklace. My hair was in a French braid (my attempt today at a Dutch braid looking weirdly as if Belgium had invaded - there's a reason I don't post all my attempts at updos!) and I was rocking redredred lipstick and a discreet puff of Chanel perfume. I certainly looked French, but far more importantly, I felt like Mockingbird. I was comfortable, pulled together, and confident.

Yay, me. Not all days are like that, though. Some days it's a real effort to not just toss on a turtleneck and a college sweatshirt (which has been my go-to for far too long!) and just lumber in to work. Some days the world seems like a kind place populated by thoughtful people; other days it seems like humanity is a bad case of global lice that the planet ought to shake off as quickly as it can mange to do so.

What to do on those days?

As Voltaire might say, "Tend your garden." Thoughtfully consider what you have done to enrich your life and your outlook. Take a few minutes to check - have you tended to yourself? Have you had water? Enough sleep? Eaten real food, instead of processed faux-food? Gone for a walk? Read something non-work related? Cleaned your face? Washed your hair? Taken a bubble bath? Had a cup of tea and told the world to just hang on for a few minutes? You simply must take care of yourself to have the energy and focus to take care of others. So, first things first - how's your garden?

Voltaire's quote (from his satirical novella Candide), also refers to doing some actual work in the garden. You can't just watch it and hope for the best; you need to go tend it. Optimism is all well and good, but it must not be a substitute for purposeful action. Not all purposeful action will work. This is very important to understand. Do not be afraid to ask yourself, "When's the last time I failed at something?" In fact, ask yourself this question regularly, for if you haven't failed at something lately, you haven't tried anything new lately. 

Now, I'm not suggesting you fail at skydiving or heart surgery. But try new things - not all of them will work, or be to your taste, but you'll never know that if you stay safe and secure. That's the same thing as constantly outlining your paper instead of actually writing it (as an example). It's by knowing what you like and what suits you that you learn who you are. So what follows is a list of a dozen things I've failed at lately. Note that many of these are just not that big a deal. I learn by failing, but I get another chance to use what I've learned.
  • I hesitated and a pair of flat-out gorgeous dark red boots I was already half in love with were purchased by someone else. Carpe caligae, friends!
  • I didn't want to bother the barista so I didn't ask for the pumpkin pie spice when I really wanted it for my coffee.
  • I skipped the time in the morning that I set aside to pray and meditate then wondered why I was out of sorts all day. (That's a practice that really does help me brace my feet for the day.)
  • I tried an orange nail polish for Halloween and it chipped off in less than a day because I applied it in a rush. (Lots of my failures have to do with rushing, I've noticed.)
  • I desperately needed to take a few minutes and reset my mood instead of reveling in being angry, which is (quite frankly) a luxury I can't afford.
  • I allowed myself to get dragged into a Facebook argument - you never win those.
  • I thought I could fix a problem that, when I really thought about it, I realize will take many people working together to address and solve.
  • Because it's what I wanted, I thought things would simply unfold the way I had it scripted in my head, forgetting that other people have their own scripts.
  • Turns out that sometimes you need more than an extra two bobby pins to make a hairstyle work.
  • I gave in and had popcorn and movie candy for dinner. 
  • I let myself think that chores were more important than spending time with those I love.
  • I didn't look through my travel supplies and ran out of contact solution while out of town at a conference.
I hope to add to this list as the month continues. What about you? What have you failed at lately? And if you haven't, get hopping!