My good friend is a full-time artist. My house looks like a gallery of her work and it makes me happy every single day.
This week she got a call from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The young person she'll be working with is in hospice care and has two wishes before she dies: She wants to learn to make pottery and she wants to travel to another state to visit family.
This is one of those times when, even as a professional writer, words totally fail me. So I'm going to move on to what I am able to articulate.
First, that young lady has her priorities straight as far as I'm concerned. Make stuff and visit with people you love. That should be rules #1 and #2.
Second, it makes me wonder - what would I ask Make-A-Wish for? Regardless of whether I have two weeks or fifty more years, I think I need to remember to have wishes and then I need to work to grant those wishes for myself. My friend Shannon says that when people and animals we love transition it releases an enormous blessing. I've thought about that concept a lot because I didn't understand it at first. Then, the day after my 20 year old BFF kitty died, I saw a double rainbow, a herd of deer and an owl - in my suburban backyard, in the middle of the day. Message received.
I'm sorry that it takes friends passing too soon to remind me of how precious every single day is, but I am grateful to each one of them for that final blessing.
"I thought you were taking steps to phase out everything that wasn't working in your life." Wendy to Jules - St. Elmo's Fire
"When you're wobbling or if you fall, it's AWESOME because it means you're out of your comfort zone and you're growing." Ashley, yoga teacher
When I start to feel stuck, unhappy and generally unenthusiastic about life I know it's time to shift gears. Sometimes I just need a new haircut. Sometimes I need a massive change that makes me and everybody else uncomfortable. Ultimately, even if I feel terrified about making a change or diving into the unknown, I end up feeling excited about life again.
I love these three books for getting unstuck:
Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
The Law of Divine Compensation by Marianne Williamson
When it comes to fashion, I have what psychologists call a "divided mind", meaning I have two very strong conflicting feelings: Fashion is my favorite art form but it can do a real disservice to people, animals and the environment.
So me and my divided mind went to a runway show as part of Charleston Fashion Week last night and I promptly got in trouble. Here's what happened:
The show started with a video of an emerging designer who said because she was Brazilian she was more comfortable with sensuality than Americans. I didn't mean to, and I'm not sure why I did, but I laughed out loud. People half-turned turned to look at me hatefully. #sorry Then she said that she designed deconstructed menswear and fitted leather clothes for women that made them feel sexy. I thought, or maybe said out loud, "You know what makes me feel sexy? Sleep!" And that made me laugh again which led to full turns and more hateful stares. #sorry!
Then, she said that these sexy clothes really empowered women. About that time a model came out teetering on 4" heels with her pelvis literally leading the way 2" in front of the rest of her. She had that blank middle-distance stare going on and I totally lost it. It wasn't that she wasn't beautiful or her clothes weren't beautiful, it was that I was thinking about my friend who teaches art in dangerous schools to marginalized kids, and about my friend who rescues and rehabilitates death row dogs - the mangy, broken kind, and about my friend who teaches yoga in prisons, and about my friends who teach school and the others who are sacrificing everything in an effort to raise good little humans. I thought "You know what kind of clothes would empower women? A pre-shrunk, 100% cotton jumpsuit that is colorfast in the Sanitize cycle. And optimally doesn't require a brassiere."
I snorted. God help me, I did. I'm a snorter. Everyone stopped texting and stared at me and that's when I got in trouble with my husband. Which is bad because this is a man who once ran screaming through a Bible study in a devil suit.
Fortunately, Fashion was about to redeem itself and save me from being the first person to be forcibly removed from a runway tent. The next designer made kids' clothes and one of the models was a little bitty Cindy Lou Who. She took a few steps on the runway, got a load of us, the strobes and the loud techno and started thinking about making a bee line for her Pajanimals and a pre-bed Pop-Tart. But, she rallied. Slooooowly and suspiciously she bridesmaid-stepped her way down the runway until the next model caught up with her. Did the next model keep her middle-distance stare and blow right by her in the name of her own thirty seconds of fame? Nope. She stopped, took Littlebitty's hand and walked with her, in total solidarity, to the end of the runway. We were wild. The sound was deafening.
Photo by Glenn Barnette who makes really incredible pictures. Used without permission so please click the picture to check out her work.
At the end of the runway, the older model, completely oblivious to her own time in the spotlight, showed Littlebitty how to put her hands on her hips and Vogue. Everyone was on their feet, we were crazy like the Rolling Stones were handing out free tiaramisu and sparklers. I've never felt such a dramatic energy shift in a crowd. The kids who were modeling had a blast and we were having a blast. Fashion was present but it had taken a backseat to humanity and fun.
Which is how it should be.
Later that night, after my husband had distracted me with pasta and cheese, I was thinking about everything that had happened. I love how fashion can make you feel good and how clothes can make you feel empowered. I get a Christmas card every year from a handbag designer in Venice, which is so not good. As much as I don't wear makeup and love my yoga pants, I won't try to deny how far into the delicious, textily abyss I am. But this footnote is going in Auntie Robin's Real Life Lessons for Young Ladies: Please believe, if you want the kind of indelible hotness that weight gain and age and stretchmarks and scars and mastectomies can't touch, go out there and get strong. Totally immerse yourself in your passion. Don't take yourself or other people too seriously. Find a way to serve your brothers and sisters.
You know what's empowering?
Love. Passion. Courage. Service. Humor.
Fashion shouldn't be degrading or violent to your body. It shouldn't create debt or self-doubt or a competitive spirit. It should simply give a hint about what makes you unique and make you feel good about being you.
Fashion should serve you, not the other way around.