Monday, July 17, 2017

It's all about me

"Every move you make, every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake
I'll be watching you."

Since before he retired late last year, Neil has been growing his hair.

I like it, or at least I don't dislike it. He's cute with short hair too. He's having fun with having it longer and that encourages me to encourage him to keep it growing.

But the other night, after dusk, Neil wanted to get the mail. He loves mail. Our mail comes late mostly, which doesn't stop him checking the box earlier in the day if he's out and about, and sometimes when he isn't.

Our mailbox is at the end of our street, eight, maybe ten houses away. He said, I think I'll drive. I wondered why. He said, I wouldn't want our neighbors to get nervous seeing some long-haired hippie strolling down the street after twilight.

I said, you're too self conscious. You are way more self conscious than I am.

That got me thinking, is self consciousness a bad thing or a good thing?

I mean, I'd walk to the mailbox in my workout clothes and my crocs, no makeup or jewelry, and not give it any thought. I would go (and have gone) to the post office and the grocery story that way, just because I didn't think about it when I was walking out the door.

In some ways I'm vain and in other ways I rarely give my appearance a first thought, let alone a second.

Last week, I had a facial, primarily because I had some milia on my neck that I wanted removed. I had the whole shebang facial just for the aesthetician to extract a few comedones.

It was worth it. My skin is squeaky clean and glows. I may just make a habit of it again.

I have my hair done once a month to conceal the gray, but I'm thinking about letting it grow out once we move. It's time consuming and costly and I might just look good as a (is there a word for gray-haired like blonde or brunette?) gray headed person. I'll never know if I don't try.

In addition I have my nails done every three weeks or so. I have a gel nail french manicure - what the salon girls call "a pink and white" - and I love the look, but I get it for a more compelling reason. Without the coating, my nails split, chip and peel and I can't stop picking at them.

It's for similar reasons that I wear my hair long and pulled back in a ponytail always. If my hair is down, even if it is short, I play with it obsessively. I also pull it out. I have some version of trichotillomania, a hair-pulling presentation of OCD. I have lots of hair so there'd never be bald places, and I also pull it selectively, a hair here and a hair there, the oddball kinky ones among my generally soft wavy tresses. It makes me crazy, but pulling it back snuffs the urge totally, so that's my solution and it suits me.

Circling back to self-consciousness, I think over the course of my life I went from having too much of it to having very little and possibly not enough.

My mom, bless her critical heart, once commented that I never did anything unselfconsciously, and she didn't mean it as a compliment. It's true that as a kid and moreso as a teenager, I never really relaxed into myself, spoke my mind naturally and unguardedly, lived in the moment without preoccupation about living in the moment. I struggled with feelings of inadequacy, of not being a whole, fully-fledged human being but a deficient one who would say and do the wrong things if not carefully monitored and censored.

The roots of my lack of self confidence or more succinctly, my lack of a good self image, run deeply and mysteriously. I don't think it was innate, I think it was subtly conditioned into me, particularly by my mother, presumably an outgrowth of her own repressed self doubts.

I've talked about this before and all these years later, with my mom dead for more than three years, it doesn't really matter any more. Whatever shaped me, whatever work I did to understand and overcome my insecurities, I am where I am and who I am and it is what it is.

I do remember feeling that there were two of me, one living and interacting, the other observing and judging. I lived that way for a long time and I'm not sure when I stopped feeling that way, only that I did. For the most part I stopped caring what people thought of me, maybe because I made peace with myself and felt okay about myself. I won't say I didn't want to be liked, but not at the cost of trying to be someone I wasn't. If someone had a problem with that, well fox 'em if they can't take a joke.

That feeling of watching myself does come back every now and then, but usually only when I invite it. There are times when we are out with a group of friends or at some family event, when I will step outside of myself for a minute and think, look, there's that Elizabeth, welcome in a circle of friends and love and camaraderie, taking her place at the table, that scrawny, awkward, diffident girl, who would have thought it? And I bask for a moment before I return to my body, forget myself again and resume simply living.

That's not a bad thing, it's more about gratitude and affirmation, and not taking things for granted, and appreciating how far I've come. It's about being present.

There is another side of being unselfconscious that isn't so laudable. If you aren't conscious of yourself, you may find yourself saying things that you can't backspace over, even though you'd like to. While you don't want to have to weigh every word and you do want to be authentic (at least I do), it's not always good for your mouth to be faster than your brain.

I have a tendency to be blunt, to speak what's on my mind. I do try to be tactful, but it's not like writing a blog post where you stop and think, cut and paste, delete and rewrite. Things don't always come out sounding they way I intended. That can be true of print too, and at some point it's not worth writing if you overthink every word and put every opinion on a leash. My best writing I think comes from a place of unselfconsciousness, where words flow naturally rather than being carefully crafted.

So, it's a paradox. Too much self-consciousness is akin to self-aggrandizement. Face it, you aren't all that important, the world doesn't revolve around you. People really don't care that much what you think or say or do, so you might as well be yourself. Live your life, stop being the fly on the wall of your own existence, stop judging every move you make.

Too little self-consciousness is tantamount to too little inhibition, and while sex, drugs and rock 'n roll might sound like fun, it's not your soundest long-term life model.

Finding the balance might be your best bet for living a purposeful, intentional life. And by your, I mean my.

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I'll be watching you

Oh, can't you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches
With every step you take

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I'll be watching you

Since you've gone I've been lost without a trace
I dream at night, I can only see your face
I look around, but it's you I can't replace
I feel so cold, and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby please

Oh, can't you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches
With every step you take

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I'll be watching you

Every move you make
Every step you take
I'll be watching you

I'll be watching you.

(Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner aka Sting)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Being spendy to be trendy

"Yeah... can we call it a loan
Till I'm paid in full for the seeds I've sown
Yeah... can we say that I've grown
In some way that we may have yet to be shown."

So as I was saying, we have a closing date on our new house. August 31.

That gives us almost two months to finish packing. I may find time to use up that last tank of propane after all.

My glass is packed but no fear, I bought some new glass, just a couple of pounds, just enough to augment what's left on my table.

I will say my motivation has flagged a bit, more than it usually does in these hot months. Maybe the carrot of an air-conditioned studio in the new house makes me less determined to keep going in the garage despite sweltering weather.

I did clean my bench, something I hadn't done in longer than I can remember, probably longer than ever. I usually clean it up about once a week, but I'd let it go, thinking I was winding down, so why bother.

For me, a clean bench is more conducive to creativity, although I know that's not universally true. I know bead makers who, the last time they cleaned their work space was never.

Some people can work with an inch of shorts and bits and bobs burying their bench. I can too, but it's not my preference.

As usual, my latest new design did not fly off the cyber-shelves. But I'm selling just enough to make it worth continuing to list, with the occasional good day.

I reread that last sentence and I'm throwing the bullshit flag on myself. I'm really not selling enough to make it worthwhile. I'm selling not enough to avoid feeling a little sick and sad about it. I bounce between feeling demoralized because I lack talent and feeling angry that my beautiful work is being ignored.

There is evidence to support both theories. I see some seasoned bead makers struggling, not selling everything or much of anything, some still selling only after reducing their prices. Yet I see people buying, sometimes really pretty beads for high prices, sometimes more generic beads for astonishing prices. There are still bead makers who sell everything they list.

Which begs the question, why am I still looking at this since it only hurts? What about the bead makers who've stopped listing because they weren't selling? I guess it's because they aren't in my Facebooking face, they are simply absent for reasons unknown.

It's almost moot because before much longer I'll be packing my gear and that's not just the studio, it's also the shipping supplies and the inventory.

I've been rubbing salt in my wounds by selling on the bargain site again. While I do get some buy-it-nows, most beads sell for a fraction of my already discounted prices. It stings, especially when someone bids $1 to start. That feels like an insult. Come on, at least bid $2. It's more than worth that.

It's a conundrum because the hurt is balanced by the smidge of validation that selling any damn thing temporarily buys me.

A few examples of the new design. Priced at $18-$20. Not sold. Why ask why.

In the bigger picture, it doesn't amount to much whether I stop selling now or keep going, contenting myself with the occasional fair sale and the liberation of reducing inventory, albeit some at rock bottom prices. Pretty soon the break will be enforced. The more shipping supplies I use up, the lighter my packing load.

You see the hamster wheel that my brain is running on. Indecision is a decision too.

So, I'm making an affirmative decision. I'm swearing off selling on the bargain site. I'll keep listing at regular prices if I feel like it until I run out of time or bubble mailers, whichever happens first. If I sell anything fine, if not, I'll try not to take it to heart. I'll even try not to dissect the reasons.

When I set up again in North Carolina, it could be a whole new ballgame. I'm willing to give that endearing notion the benefit of the doubt.

Oh, on top of everything, I slipped off the wagon and bought beads. Just two sets, but I'd been doing so well, after packing my collection and deciding it was complete. Like a true junkie getting a fix after a clean spell, I felt an instant sense of relief when I hit the place-order button. Not regret or chagrin but relief. But having scratched that itch, I'm climbing back on the wagon.

I was also a little spendy in other areas. I keep getting sucked in when discounts and sales appear in my Facebook feed for items I've shopped for. I now have two more pairs of sandals, a Katwise sweater and a new torch. I've continued to resist tank tops and a dress from Target, more cute shirts from Life is Good and more Fluevogs.

Part of the spend is about some image I want to create of myself after we move. Yeah that's me, strutting about the neighborhood in Vogs and an overpriced trendy upcycled sweater coat, clearly only the best will do for me. I'm sure no one will care or notice, but that's the thought process behind the dirty deeds.

And the torch, well the price was right and I'd been thinking about getting a smaller torch to run on natural gas in the new studio. I'll see how that goes and have my workhorse torch serviced and then make a decision about keeping or selling it.

And I have a new reason to be thrifty. Long story short, Kandace and Chris bought a house. They had to stretch on their budget, and I'm partly to blame. I noticed that a little more money, i.e., 10 percent more, seemed to buy a lot more house, and I offered to help. Unfortunately I didn't put parameters on the offer, such as having to approve of the house they chose. So they chose a house with a pool and while it's a nice house, my intent was to help them buy a newer, more contemporary house, not an older house with a pool.

I worry about pools, the upkeep, the risk, the liability, although I see the appeal too. Yet something in me balks at contributing directly to the cost of the house because of the pool. So instead, because I don't want to renege on a promise that wasn't well articulated, I've offered to pay off Kandace's credit card debt That should at least help alleviate the pressure of paying a higher house note.

Now I just have to come up with the money. I've budgeted for some bigger ticket items this year, a stake in the new house, a new car after the move, furnishings for my new studio. It will be the first time since I retired six years ago that I will make a withdrawal from savings. I've paid my way all this time with a combination of stretching my separation pay and selling beads. Of late, with bead sales circling the drain, sales of glass and supplies have beefed up my liquidity.

Now for the first time I'm staring down the barrel of making a substantial withdrawal. I want to do this just once. I want to make it last until 2018 when I plan to start collecting Social Security.

Having an income again will be sweet and hopefully enough to pay my freight. If I have to do without designer shoes and trendy couture to make that happen, then that is my plan.

No time like the present to put it into practice.

A few more pretties, revisiting an older style that once was my best seller. Not sold. Yet.

In the morning when I closed my eyes
You were sleeping in paradise
And while the room was growing light
I was holding still with all my might

Oh... what if it's true
Mm... What my heart says
Oh... what'll I do
What if this feeling becomes hard to part with

You were meant to play your part
In the design of a desperate heart
And while you gave your love to me
I was betting I was getting it free

Oh... If I'd only known
Mm... What your heart cost
Oh... can we call it a loan
And a debt that I owe
On a bet that I lost

In the evening when you see my eyes
Looking back at you, no disguise
I'm not sure who you think you'll see
I'm just hoping you'll still know that it's me

Oh... what if it's true
Mm... Better ask the man inside
Oh, oh... there seem to be two
One steals the love and the other one hides

Yeah... can we call it a loan
Till I'm paid in full for the seeds I've sown
Yeah... can we say that I've grown
In some way that we may have yet to be shown

Oh... if I'd only known
Mm ... What your heart cost
Oh... can we call it a loan
And a debt that I owe
On a bet that I lost.

(Jackson Browne)