I simultaneously enjoy and agonise over packing for a city break (or maybe I should say that I enjoyably agonise over packing…?). It’s the chance for me to shop my wardrobe and create an edit of pieces I don’t wear often enough, and then imagine myself floating down the streets of a new urban paradise looking fabulous. I’ll pack accessories, shoes, even an extra handbag, and I get excited.
I particularly love packing for New York, because it’s such a fashion-loving city, and also very creatively self-expressed (people watching there is a pastime for me, it’s fascinating). So I get even more creative and pack an elevated capsule wardrobe. This time, I packed my beautiful grey wool long Acne sleeveless coat; a classic white shirt (which, funnily, I don’t wear often at home because I have such a pathological aversion to ironing, and I’m also a lounge lizard at the moment); a variety of jeans, including my J Brand cropped kick heel jeans; my long black pleated skirt; a beautiful multicoloured sleeveless wool Stella Jean; an incredible black leather jacket; black wide leg trousers…
…and I wear a fraction of them. My holiday city wardrobe remains largely unaired, and instead I live in my black, casual Lululemon pants (I literally wore them almost every day). I wear this with my grey T-shirts (of which I have an extensive collection – it’s a wardrobe staple) and other casual basics, with the excuse that in the teeming mass of people that make up New York, who’s going to care what I wear anyway?
It’s true: nobody else really cares. But I do. What I’m actually masking under this nonchalance (laziness) is that I don’t feel good about myself. I was on a gastronomic mission to find the best eats in the City, and although I had an amazing time enjoying an incredible variety of delicious food, it wasn’t entirely responsible with regard to my wellbeing – especially since I busted my knee and so running was out of the question – and so I rapidly felt heavy and fat. And although people say you dress to feel good about yourself, I’ve lived by the opposite: I dress well when I feel good about myself. My wardrobe is a prize, accessible to me only when I’ve been taking care of myself, and I look the way I want to – when I ‘deserve’ it. I tell myself, I would rather not wear my favourite clothes than look bad in them. I decided that, given I was eating so decadently, I didn’t even want to take the risk of trying on my favourite jeans and looking bad (and feeling squeezed) in them, and so I didn’t even bother. I denied myself. I told myself I didn’t deserve to wear my loveliest clothes that would make me look my best; all I deserved was Lululemon pants with an elasticated waist. So my Acne wool coat remained folded in my suitcase, and me and my black pants hit the town like a J Crew mum who thinks she looks acceptably stylish yet comfortable. In other words, I committed style crime against myself.
On returning home, I gingerly ventured to slip on my favourite skinny jeans to assess how much damage had been done – just so I knew how much work was ahead of me to get back into shape. They actually felt OK. Huh? I stepped on the scales (I hate the scales, but right now I’m addicted – a post for another day), and…I was actually lighter than when I left.
This might seem like a really long way of saying ‘I thought I had gained weight but I actually hadn’t’, but what struck me was something else: wasted time. All those days in a glorious city, on holiday, when I could have been wearing clothes I loved and felt even more fabulous, and I let them go, instead walking around everywhere like I had just come from the gym and was working the athleisure look. No. I wasted weeks telling myself I was fit for nothing other than wearing my fat pants, that I deserved nothing more because of how I assessed my own appearance.
And I wonder how much time I have wasted – and maybe I’m not alone – in my life wanting to be something other than what I am in that moment, not appreciating what I actually have, and with that let contentment and joy pass me by. I wonder how much of my life I have wasted waiting for life as I think it should be, and the denial and angst that have come with that. I remember a couple of years ago, I really thought I was fat because I’d gained a couple of pounds; I spent most of that year wanting to look like I did the year before, when – in my mind – I looked perfect. The following year, I gained a few more pounds, and then I wanted to look like I had the year before – which I had spent being unhappy and wanting to look like I had at another time. It seems to be an occupation, always looking somewhere else, yearning for something else; it must be, for it certainly takes up time and energy.
All we have in any moment is what we have in that moment. Whatever has passed has gone; what lies ahead is unknown. In that moment, we have a choice: do we accept what we have and celebrate it – because we’re alive, dammit, and chances are if you’re reading this then you, like me, are far more privileged than many others with whom we share this planet – or do we look back and yearn for what we once had, or look forward and say ‘I’m just waiting for something better to come along’? We can do either. But I’ve done the latter for a long time, and I’m missing out on joy that I can create in every moment of my life as it comes to me. It’s an incredible blessing that we get to choose joy – if we want it. It’s an insane human privilege.
Since I have been back, I am digging into my wardrobe and shopping the hell out of it. It might strike some as slightly incongruous that something as material as clothes could be associated with joy. Is it superficial that clothes can bring joy? No, because it’s not about clothes, but my style. And my style is my self-expression, and a source of fulfilment for me. There are deeper things that I have to work on – how I see my body, how kind I am to myself, on what grounds I decide that I deserve either ‘reward’ or ‘punishment’, and how my self-expression can be the victim of that – but my starting point is to not waste what I have now. I am planning and pulling together outfits that make me feel fabulous – and if something is a little tight, there will be something else that will still make me look good. The black pants are having a break; I’m throwing them to the wind for a while (although I will still wear them to the DIY store); when I go into town, they stay home. When I dress now, I’m celebrating what I am in that moment, because in the next moment it might not be there. Shape, size, even physical capability. I’m not taking anything for granted any more. And the celebration shows: I have received compliments on what I’m wearing, and I feel good. Complete. Whole. I don’t want to regret those moments where I could have lived life joyfully but chose not to. I’m choosing life in the present.