31: How Marie Kondo fucked up my life

Halfway into the first episode of “Tidy Up” Noel and I were pulling armloads of things out of our closet.  I started watching on New Years Day night inevitably to avoid doing something else I should have been doing.  Now the monster has been unleashed.

If you don’t know about this show or Marie Kondo (first of all I don’t know where you’ve been the last few weeks), she is an organizing consultant and author who suggests that we decide what to keep and what to throw away by determining what “sparks joy.”  All I could think about watching her tutorials with a couple that needed a divorce more than a Japanese organization expert was this olive green polyester shirt with an awkward cowl neck that I bought on clearance from Kohl’s nine years ago.  I hate that shirt. WHY am I still keeping, let alone EVER WEARING that shirt?

I am not generally a saver of things.  I have come to realize that horizontal surfaces just become places for clutter to collect.  I also am fairly ruthless when it comes to saving keepsakes.  Only the most special, most unique things make the cut.  The one exception is clothes.  I think the reason for this is two-fold.  1) clothes = all the memories and 2) I never want to look boring.

Growing up new clothes were the sign of some important event.  We got new dresses for Christmas and Easter church.  We got a new first day of school outfit.  As we got older, a school dance was an occasion befitting something new.  Money was tight but our mom would rather walk around with holey socks (literally) than see us go to the stupid Snowball Dance without a new dress.   We would make the trek 45 minutes to the mall, twittering in anticipation about colors or features that might be nice to look for.  We’d walk the whole mall to all the usual tween places looking for just the right thing.  But of course “just the right thing” also meant finding the bargain.  And then there were the shoes.  Always the shoes had to be the perfect compliment, also at a bargain.  In the end I was so sure we found exactly the right thing for this occasion.  We would stop over at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house as we arrived back in town so they could oooooh and ahhhh the latest ensemble.

As the years have gone by I realized that I have just found more “occasions” to dress for. First dates.  Job interviews.  Trial.  Dinner party.  Vacation.  Holiday.  My closet became my scrapbook.

As Noel and I stood in our giant walk in closet, the one we cut our master bedroom nearly in half to build, pulling out garment after garment I had to tell the stories.  First garment out, that hideous green shirt.  I bought this shirt nine years ago on clearance at Kohl’s when I was staying with my parents over Christmas break my 2L year.  Lucas had just broken up with me and I was so sad.  My parents convinced me to come out to some dinner my stepdad had for a professional group.  It was at one of those cook-your-own steak places.  I had three dirty martinis.  I definitely got drunk and cried all the way home.  I literally think about that night every time I wear that stupid shirt.  It fits awkwardly, it gives me pit stains.  The only reason I still wear it is because I can easily layer it with a black suit coat and pants.  That is possibly the dumbest reason ever.  Gone.

A lot of the things were like that.  Shirt, Banana Republic clearance, so I could wear under a suit.  Almost everything I’d owned for at least five years and most close or upwards of ten.

This pair of pants was the first thing I bought after I got married the first time in 2004.  We finally had a spare $40, so I bought these and this shirt from Anne Taylor Loft clearance because my mom always said that place was perfect for me.

This shirt was $3.50 at Charlotte Russe in 2005.  Krissy and I bought “going out” shirts at the same time and then swapped them like three years later.

This shirt is fine for work if the safety pins hold.

And there it is.  The oldest thing in my closet.  A black polyester suit dress with a matching knee-length jacket.  My mom and I bought it at the same time we got my confirmation dress.  That’s 10th grade.  18 years ago.  Maurice’s clearance.  She said I’d need something to wear to job interviews.  Little did either of us ever think I’d still be wearing it to the office, every time thinking “I probably shouldn’t be wearing this anymore.  It’s too short even when I wear black tights.”

None of these things spark joy anymore.  They were things I bought because they were colorful, I found a bargain, and I wanted things around for those time when I *might* need to wear it.  They weren’t special, they didn’t fit right, they certainly didn’t make me feel my best self.  The time had come to keep the memories and lose the garments.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things I held on to simply because of those memories.  Not gonna lie, I still get into my Homecoming Queen dress sometimes just because I can.  Even some garments that will never fit me again, there’s still something there.  Something special and joyful that tells me it’s not time to shove it into a yard-waste bag.

We were able to completely reconfigure our closet.  About four bodybag-sized bags went to Goodwill.  Sometimes I get anxious when I go in my closet and only see fifteen shirts hanging there.  But at least I know that whatever I put on I’ll feel good in.

So that’s just the closet.  Marie says you’re supposed to do this with your whole house.  Little by little I take 20 minutes to empty out this drawer or that.  It is truly freeing to feel like you can see and find the things you need in your house.  It also got me thinking about my life, like the stuff you can’t see.

What are the things that spark joy? What are the things I’m hanging on to that don’t?

It was no accident Netflix released this show at the time of year when people are focused on change and self-improvement.  As I mentioned in my 2018 year in review post, I, too, use the new year to refocus and create some goals for the upcoming year.  This year I was challenged to come up with a word. One word to become a mantra or a touchpoint.  A word came to mind immediately: unapologetic.  Almost as quickly I dismissed it.  That’s not what I mean.  That’s selfish.  It sends the wrong message.  Until I realized that’s exactly why I needed to stick with it.

Unapologetic doesn’t mean never making amends for doing something hurtful or for making a mistake.  It isn’t about walking through the world unaware of how the things I do affect other people.  It is about not apologizing for who I am.   Who I am is very flawed.  It sometimes means being too loud, bossy, overbearing, demanding and inflexible.  These qualities are also sometimes wrapped up in this package we call power, qualities that if I were a man or in a different profession or a different community may not be something I feel I have to question so much.  These qualities have a flip side: outspoken, leader, encouraging, setting clear expectations, focused on the mission and vision.  All of my qualities are that way.  There are some that are more obviously “good” and easy to accept.  There are others that I have to actively work on to stay on the positive side.  That’s a journey that never ends.  But it’s all me.  Good, bad, or ugly it is the stuff that makes me up and has brought me this far.

2019 needs to be about living as authentically as possible.  Connection feels good to me.  Being unafraid to stand up for what’s right feels good to me.  Using my skills and abilities to benefit myself and the people I love feels good to me.  Appreciating the comfort and beauty of our home feels good to me.  Enjoying the taste of good food.  The sights of places I’ve never been.  The feeling of a fit, healthy body.  The pleasure of rest and quiet.  Soaking in and moving with the energy of the world.  Continuing to discover this city that I love.  All of these things bring me such monumental joy.  I just cannot allow myself to be weighed down by the worry of what others think about it.  I will be too much for some people.  I will fail despite the best of intentions.  I will still encounter all of the challenges that life brings.  But maybe I’ll soar higher heights than I’ve ever known without the weight of the shoulds.  I suspect the greatest critic will be myself.  It’s a world of possibility out there.  I hope to take it for a spin with a lightness and freedom that will make this joy multiply beyond my wildest dreams.

Happy New Year.

18: Me Too

I started it.  I left my phone number for him at the front desk of the gym where I taught and where he worked out.  The past year with the #metoo movement has been interesting.  I have found myself feeling conflicted.  I have never considered myself the victim of anything, let alone sexual assault.  But the Me Too movement has more people sharing their stories in the media, books like John Krakauer’s “Missoula”, and in my friend groups privately than ever before.   It’s clear that I am not unique in having an experience that has never sat right.  That experience for me was with a man I met when I lived in Virginia.

My time in Virginia marks a real low point in my life.  I was a hot mess.  That was aptly reflected in my dating habits.  I was dating a lot, dating people who weren’t good for me, being extremely needy.  Truly, I feel a lot of shame about who and what I was during that time period.  My self esteem was at an all time low.  I was not good at identifying what I wanted or how to communicate that to others.  I felt like the universe was taking a big dump on me, just not giving me one single break, when now I know that I was putting myself in situations that perpetuated the negative things happening in my life.  This was the back drop for meeting Kevin.  

I taught fitness classes at a number of gyms in the Hampton Roads area.  The one I most looked forward to was an evening class at a gym frequented by a very handsome man.  After we’d made eye contact a number of times, I left a note at the front desk with his keys with my name and phone number.  He called.  We decided to go on a date.  He took me to Bonefish Grill.  Conversation was fine but not great.  He was sort of boring, definitely not very bright.  None of this mattered.  I was wearing a new top from Forever 21 and just so excited to be on a date with the most attractive man who ever asked me out.  

We hung out on and off the next couple weeks.  Being newly divorced and after getting burned by some previous dating situations, I remember being pretty clear (and, yes, pretty crazy) in an email about our relationship status. I told him I did not want to have sex unless or until we were in a relationship.  Within a week or so, we went out again.  We went someplace I can’t remember and hung out with his friends. We both drank a lot. I don’t remember leaving the bar.  I hardly remember the 20+ minute drive home except being aware that he was driving and probably shouldn’t be.  And then I remember being in my bed and realizing that he was having sex with me without a condom.  I don’t remember the next day or how we left it.  I’m sure pretty normal.   

At the time, and for many years after, I excused the weird feeling I had that night for all sorts of reasons.  I was drunk.  He was drunk.  I was really into him.  It’s not like I wasn’t up for doing some stuff.  I hooked up with him again after this.  If it were really ok how come it always felt so NOT ok?  Why did this always feel like something that was in a different category?  The answer I now know is because it really was not ok.  

The Baby Buddhist blog is not a political platform.  While I am fascinated by all the facets of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing I’m not going to make it one today.  I also don’t believe the accusations made by Christine Blasey Ford are a political issue.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are tons of purely political questions surrounding the accusations made by Christine Blasey Ford.  Despite any of my personal beliefs, I actually have not formed an opinion about whether these accusations, if true, should disqualify Judge Kavanaugh from a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.  My job, personal experiences, and general cynicism of putting people with high profile jobs on a moral pedestal keep me questioning how to appropriately hold people accountable people for past sins.  This isn’t about whether he gets the job.  In modern times, a vote for a Supreme Court justice on either side of the aisle comes down almost entirely to some assurance that this nominee is on board with your political ideology.  That’s just a fact.  What’s not a fact is the messaging surrounding this accusation of sexual assault that occurred completely outside a professional context.  

Call me crazy but there is something utterly offensive about saying that a woman isn’t lying about being sexually assaulted, she’s just mistaken about who raped her.  The absurdity of this public position by many Republican politicians, and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh himself, has me cringing every time I hear it.  Deny the allegations, fine.  Call her a liar, fine.  But don’t say you’re praying for her poor soul because she must be so confused.  Don’t patronize her with an apology from your hired-help prosecutor with a vagina.  And certainly, do not pretend that her credibility is just about her tone of voice or the details of what she says when even her goddamn suit already has articles dedicated to why she should or shouldn’t be believed.  

I wrote Kevin an email this week.  At the same email address I had for him over 10 years ago.  I don’t know if it will ever find him.  I don’t really care.  I don’t want or need anything from him. I am not angry.  I haven’t needed years of therapy to work through this incident.  This hasn’t affected my relationships with other men.  I am lucky that this was not not the trauma that it is for so many women.  What inspired me to write that email and write this blog is that there’s a pretty good chance Kevin literally never thought about this again.  It wasn’t even on the radar as something that was not acceptable. That he, as a man, screwed up his obligation to communicate, get consent, and generally just be respectful of another human being.  I don’t know if that makes me a “victim” or just a reminder that perhaps the one thing we can all do in this lifetime to make the world just a little bit better is to do as little harm as possible. That “code” among us should extend to every single aspect of our lives, but especially those that leave others the most vulnerable. 

“Me too” is about drawing attention to the prevalence of sexual violence and harassment in this country.  The fact that almost every woman I know has a #metoo story, even though many don’t ever want to share that story, be labeled a victim, or have any repercussions come to the perpetrator, cannot be ignored.  It is not acceptable.  And it is not acceptable that society is telling us that because we were drunk, or promiscuous, or dressed provocatively, or just quiet instead of screaming NO that what happened to us means nothing.   We are not “confused.”  We know exactly what happened to us. And we will tell those stories and keep telling those stories until they mean something.

 

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(Katie Bricco circa 2007)

13: The Story of Who You Are

Sometimes life isn’t pretty.  We all know that right?  Social media makes it so easy to see that about celebrities and politicians but easy to forget about regular people.  

Last week, news broke of designer Kate Spade, found by her housekeeper with one end of a scarf around her neck and the other around a door knob.  A letter telling her daughter it’s not her fault.  Two days later Anthony Bourdain is found hanging by his bathrobe belt in a hotel room.  Social media has exploded with dismay and sadness.  Thankfully, I don’t know much about suicide or the kind of depression that drives people to it.  What I do know is that research is finding a link between suicide and amount of time spent on social media.  The research says Instagram is the worst.  All the smiling faces, all the pictures people didn’t delete because they looked fat, all the happy moments, the carefree, joyful, “blessed” selves they’re trying to portray.  There is a lot that  people don’t put out there for all to see.  We say it’s “private” or “people don’t need to know that” or “no one would care.” We want to show our best selves and sometimes the side we show isn’t perfect but it’s to be funny or self-deprecating. But it’s not ugly.  We don’t do ugly.  Ugly stays off social media unless it’s directed at someone else.  I’m talking about ugly emotions.  The most personal things.  Things that make us hurt.  And, things we do to hurt others.  Despite being some of the most common human experiences, we don’t go there. Ugly is the kind of thing that makes people cringe and ask someone else “did you see what (so-and-so) posted today?”

The things that consume us in our relationships or in our lives or in our head that we still withhold often aren’t just withheld from social media. We are withholding it from everyone (or almost everyone) in our lives.  How else do we get to a place where someone commits suicide or picks up and abandons their entire life or shoots up a school and leaves all these friends and family members  looking at each other saying “we had no idea!”

Shame is why.  People don’t say anything and don’t ask for help because they are ashamed.  Brene Brown is a researcher who studies shame and vulnerability.  Her TED Talk has been viewed over 34 million times, making it one of the top ten TED talks in history.  Her message about the relationship between shame and vulnerability resonates with people.  It certainly resonated with me when I saw it several years ago.  And it resonates with me still.  She defines shame as the fear of disconnection.  In order for connection to happen, we have to be vulnerable, truly allow ourselves to be seen by others.  Courage, she says, is “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”

https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability/transcript?referrer=playlist-the_most_popular_talks_of_all

To my surprise and delight, some people read my blog.  Generally, the people most willing to really engage about its content are acquaintances from long ago.  It has been eye opening and flattering that people I haven’t spoken to in over a decade have taken the time to reach out, acknowledge the work, and share their own experience.  The small connections this blog is making are unexpected, and so appreciated. The people in my life right now seem more uncertain about what to say.  There is this thing that happens now.  A look and a silence when someone asks me what’s new but seems to already know.  A small few have broken that silence by acknowledging their own hesitation about admitting they read the blog and feel uncertain about how to bring it up because they don’t know if or how much I want to talk about it.  I understand this hesitation.  People care.  People want to be supportive but don’t know how, or are worried about causing me distress, or maybe don’t want to open that can of worms because it’s difficult for them too.  I’m sure there are infinite reasons why a person holds back, doesn’t ask that question.

I knew in putting something like this in on the internet, it would no longer be private.  I knew in linking this blog to my social media accounts, people I see every day and people I know only from social media alike might read it.  I knew that my style and candor, revealing “personal” information might not be well received by people.  I made a choice to do it anyways.  I did it because at the heart of my sadness, frustration, impatience, and confusion about not getting pregnant, was shame.  Shame around this idea of not becoming the person I thought I would be.  Shame about not succeeding at something I wanted.  Shame about making choices earlier in life that probably have affected my ability to get pregnant now.  Shame about letting down my husband and my family.  Brene Brown says that shame will eat you up inside unless you expose it to the light.  She says that the barrier to exposing shame to the light is an unwillingness to be vulnerable.  Vulnerability is just the scariest place to be.  It feels like being naked in a room full of strangers.  It’s just me, putting my truest and deepest thoughts and feelings out there to be judged and criticized.  It’s just me trying to sort out this mess in front of the people I want to perceive me as together and strong.  It is just me, being soft rather than hard.  For once.  It is me. 

I’ve been avoiding the computer even though  I want to write.  Writing is becoming my new favorite thing. Siphoning the days into something that makes sense and has value has been delightful.  A way to find stories to tell.  These past few weeks have been difficult.  I haven’t been able to find the humor in things.   I haven’t been able to tap into the hopefulness I’ve found in previous months.  I’ve been wondering “what’s the point?”  I’ve been quiet, feeling that I have nothing valuable to contribute right now.  Everything just feels hard.  So this is me saying something, rather than not saying something and going to a dark place.  A place I get stuck in.

I don’t know what it takes for life to become so dark and so stuck that you take your own life, but I have to think that the thing we all can do before we or someone we love gets to that dark stuck place…is to say something.  Say something about those thoughts.  Be willing to talk about the hard stuff.  Be a little bit of a mess around people we love.  And as the friends and the family members, it’s saying something about what we see.  Asking those questions.  Sharing those observations.  Having that discussion.   This blog was intended to start discussions.  Maybe with me publicly, maybe with me privately, maybe not with me at all but with someone else in your life.  It’s ok. It might be ugly.  It might be personal. It’s the story of who we are.  I’m going to tell my story with my whole heart.

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