Tuesday, October 20, 2015
I love when Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind holds a turnip to the sky and says she will never go hungry again. Ever. And I believe her. Her short proclamation - her manifesto - puts the universe on notice - you won't screw with me that way again. Forgive the vulgarity, but I think manifestos are extremely helpful. Once we say something out-loud or in a big way, we draw a line in the sand. We let the world know, I'm not going to let you treat me that way.
A good friend and I often tell each other in emails that we are going to change something about the way we are living life. We say it with such conviction that it leaves no doubt that changes will be made. It doesn't always have to be something big as in, "I'm going to lose 100 pounds and become a Master Pilates instructor by next month". It can be something small like, "I'm never going to pay full price for cashmere again". We do this so often, we now end our mini-manifestos with "Turnip!". I know just what she means.
But sometimes my manifestos are promises I make only to myself. They are the secret private pledges that no else needs to know. If I'm unhappy with the way I'm conducting myself, usually because of a goading provocateur, I will often feel a manifesto coming on. Here I write them as numbered lists, titled all the same: "MANIFESTO". I store them in a computer file and if I need to re-read my manifesto for a booster during times of weakness, I print my list and carry it in my bag for a few days. Inevitably, I align my behavior with my manifesto and life soon becomes better...more balanced...I am in control again.
Recently, I wrote a manifesto because of a nervous laugh I developed in response to someone's ongoing infantile behavior. I was tired of the off-color jokes that were making me feel less than, and I was afraid my laughing was giving the impression of collusion. I had forgotten who I was. A new manifesto came to the rescue (I will not smile when the joke is delivered...I will tell the jokester I am too busy to chat...I will keep myself doing the work at hand...).
Manifestos are also helpful when I am stressed and unfocused. This almost always happens when others' expectations of me are simply too high. By exhibiting the behavior outlined in my manifesto, I discover I have my own important priorities and I forgive myself for not taking on more than my peace of mind allows. I set the record straight and some boundaries along with it.
I highly recommend personal manifestos. Written out carefully and thoughtfully, you may discover that you are really doing ok and that someone else may have imposed their own personal agenda on you. I WILL stay true to my own beliefs... I WILL practice self-care no matter how much others want me to do...I WILL speak my truth quietly and with dignity...I WILL act in a way that is befitting Anne's granddaughter. And I WILL take as many bubble baths as humanly possible no matter what the drama-du-jour is. Turnip!
Monday, October 12, 2015
Like most of my girlfriends, an alarmingly significant part of my paycheck went to clothes. I was on my own for the first time and excited by the freedom I had to buy pretty new outfits for work and parties. I recall a tissue-wool mulberry skirt that gently skimmed my calves. I wore it with a romantic cream chiffon blouse with wide leg-o-mutton sleeves ending in cuffs with two pearl buttons apiece. I remember several novelty sweaters with feminine details such as embroidered yokes and knit waist ties...and a winter coat - a sweeping nutmeg balmacaan, lined with burnt orange satin as slippery as mercury.
The seven engineers were not impervious to my wardrobe and would often have something to say. But they were innocent casual remarks, such as "I like your shoes". For the most part, they talked boisterously among themselves and left me to order supplies and type reports for them in the background.
One lunch hour, I ducked into a small shop - an old iconic place in town. It was there that I spotted a beautiful silky green dress as fresh as a lawn of lush summer grass. The knowing and grandmotherly saleswoman insisted I try it on and when I did, I was a goner. Its chaste puffed sleeves belied a curvaceous line and beguiling teeny buttons ran from neckline to hem. The moire silk winked with a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't allure and it made a faint but fetching swishing sound when I walked. It seemed a very rare garment and I bought it.
When I wore my new dress to the office the next morning, I noticed my engineers were uncharacteristically subdued. After removing the plastic cover from my typewriter, I glanced behind me to see if they were actually in the office. Startled, I saw seven pairs of eyes upon me. Just as my face registered growing confusion, one finally spoke with a voice uncharacteristically thick with uncertainty. "Are we in green today, Miss Macdonald?", he quietly asked.