Still wearing “the dress.”  The picture shows the past two days.1375196_10201336866596371_1949795543_nSo far, my biggest realization hasn’t been about excess or consumerism. It’s been about my body hate issues. Which: I hate. Both my body and how much I have issue with it. Here’s the thing: I have a pastoral counseling background. I have designed curriculum and facilitated groups for girls to help them with self worth.

And I can’t stand to see myself in the mirror- or pictures. I spent years making faces at cameras- cause if I’m going to look bad- it better be by choice.

I was always thin as a kid teen and young adult. My weight has fluctuated like most adult women through my childbearing years….. Now, I’m not thin. Not “childbearing.” I’ve talked about these issues before. But- this project (and a certain time of the month.) Is really bringing them into view.

I’ll be honest. In my brain- I say things like: “I look like a cow.” “I can’t wear colors or prints. I’ll look like a muu muu wearing granny, or a circus tent.” “Bright colors make me look giant.”  And worse.

I’ve avoided going places because of how I look. I tend to over-dress to compensate. I try too hard and end up looking like it.

I wear: black. usually with some color by my face or something… but- for the most part: black. Even this month- I chose a black dress. The truth is- I hide behind black. Trying to look “thinner.” Instead, I look like a Goth mom. Which is fine…. if you ARE a goth mom… but, I’m not. (Although classic gothic novels are some of my favorites…but that’s not the same:P)

So this whole- wear a dress for a month and post pics of yourself? It’s not some big “See how cute I am, aren’t I great?” thing for me. It started as a creative exercise. An exercise in minimalism. It’s grown into an exercise in self acceptance as well.

My body has been through a lot. I’ve exercised myself into several over use injuries. (Hello, plate in my tibia from the great running escapade, meniscus issues, tendonitis the list goes on…) I tend towards going a bit too hard after goals… fitness has been one of those.

I have been through a lot in the past few years. Health, emotionally, etc. I should be glad I’m upright, mobile and functional. I should celebrate that.

But- I don’t “feel” it. I “feel” fat. I “feel” ugly.

A few weeks ago- I had the honor of speaking at a MOPS group about the beauty of “sharing our messes.” Our authentic- not covered up or pinterested selves. During the talk- I stripped away my “speaker clothes” (AKA: security blanket) and was wearing my “real mom clothes” underneath. Nasty yoga shorts circa 2007, yoga tank that has never seen a yoga studio and my favorite fluffy scruffy slippers.

My thighs (and more) showed, stretch marks and all.

The moms connected. They got it. I got something too……probably more than they did.

Guess what? They were no less attentive or connected with the talk when I was wearing my mom “gear” than they were when I was wearing my “speaker” gear. It wasn’t about ME. How I look. Etc. It was about the message I was communicating.

Maybe- it always is. Maybe, I’ve made clothes and trying to look thinner too much of a focus. By making the focus  “looking thinner”  I’ve pretty much forgotten that clothes should be an expression of who I am on the inside.  I’ve forgotten that they DO send a message before I open my mouth. but they aren’t THE message. Actually- as my only prerequisite for an outfit is: does it make me look thinner/ fatter? I doubt they’ve been saying much about ME at all.  I don’t think anyone who knows me would say that the color they think of when they think of me is: black. (But leopard print? Maybe.) I’m an extrovert with introvert tendencies. I smile easily and love people. I’m that annoying chick who facilitates or starts conversations in the elevator. And the bathroom. And Target. That doesn’t exactly scream: black.

So as I move through this month- I’m also trying to embrace my body and my own style. Maybe, I’ll  even and appreciate both! By wearing one dress and experimenting.  With colors, patterns, shine, accessories, maybe even some texture. *gasp.*  I’ll be bringing the dress to MomCon- but it’s just not feasible to wear it all week…I will however- be trying to dress a bit more “me like” and without hiding in all the black. (in theory.)

Funny how I start with a plan and God comes along and changes things up!

Dear Lord- Forgive me for the things I’ve been saying about your daughter…. Me. I would never say those things to anyone on earth… because they are hurtful and mean…. I would defend anyone who was being talked to like that- and i need to start treating myself in a way that honors YOU. My creator. Help me lord- as I continue through this month- help me to see myself the way you do- and the way that others do. Help me to think rightly of myself- not too highly nor too critically. I love you lord- and thank you for being upright, mostly mobile and healing. But it would be nice if this weeks breakout would clear up before MomCon….. justayin. amen

Questions for my readers:

How do you choose clothes? By style? By how you look in them? How you feel? By price?

If you had to choose 1 item of clothes to wear for a month- what would it be? (I could easily do a great pair of jeans and a White v neck tshirt….)

How do you feel about seeing yourself in pics? In the mirror?

How do you talk to yourself about your appearance? What kinds of things do you say?

(Or am I the only mean to myself girl- out there?)

 

Let’s talk about clothes.  When it first came out-  I read Jen Hatmaker’s book- “7.” A year ago some friends and I started a journey through the bible study that followed the book. Once I got past my deep annoyance at Jen Hatmaker for pushing my buttons and stopped making excuses… it changed my outlook and daily life. I think more about how I live and what I choose to invest my life, money and energy in.

photoI also gave my “years in the making” excessive wardrobe a pretty harsh cutback. I donated more boxes of clothes than I care to admit. I started thinking through new purchases on all levels.

The subtitle of Jen’s book is “A Mutiny Against Excess.”  Which- I was pretty sure I didn’t have.. I mean… We’re not rich, and I’m a mom…. I drive a used car, I buy Target clearance- everything….Almost.  I splurge once in a while.. but excess? I just didn’t see it. We are also pretty quick to help and give when and however we can… I thought the balance was pretty even.

“Thought” is the operative word, there.

Until, I started the 7 fasts. Honestly? Some of them I flat out rebelled against. (Even though I made my own rules.. yes. I rebelled against myself. That’s how strong willed I am.) Some of them I struggled through and whined about as if they would kill me. (They didn’t.  Funny how that works.)

The fasts showed my selfishness and yes- my excess. In fact, they showed my excesses like a police officers’ spotlight on a dark night. When you’re pulled over. For speeding. With your child in the car. And you want to crawl into the glove compartment. That bright. Not that I’ve every experienced that…. But I’ve seen it on TV. And I can imagine….. (Oh can I… because I lied. I totally have been. Of course. PS I don’t fit into the glove compartment.  Not even one foot.)

Fast forward a year. Honestly? If I graded myself I’d have to say a solid C+. Which means- a bit above (my)  average. I let life crowd out a lot of the changes that I was opened to. I got lazy. I got sick. I had surgery. Hubby’s cancer refuses to vacate the premises and I blamed it for some of my choices this past year…. more dinners out because of convenience.  Clothes, food, book and media splurges as (ineffective) coping methods. (That’s my list of immature coping skills.) My closet isn’t as overflowing as it was…. But. it’s grown.

So- here I am, a year later…. and I was reminded of something I heard about the last few years- and thought was totally nuts. “The October Dress Project.”  #ODP Only- it didn’t sound so nuts this year. It sounded like a good opportunity to remind myself about excess and to remind myself that creativity trumps collecting. (Wardrobe pieces etc.)

I signed up. The premise: one dress- for 31 days. Washed as much as you like.  Accessorized however you like. But worn for at least part of each day. For the month of October. Today is October 9- I’ve worn it 8 days.

Kind of. In typical Tracey fashion- I decided to commit to the dress project at the last minute. (A day late, actually.) Which means, I ended up in the fitting room at my local Target Trying on every black dress in my size and making a decision (or so I thought) in 45 minutes before I was due at my youngest’s school for pickup. Time pressured shopping is always bad. TIme pressured shopping for something you’ll wear everyday for a month? Very bad plan.

I ran to the front and bought the dress I thought had looked the best. I got home- ripped off the tags slipped it on like the LBD maven I was sure I would be….only to realize that 10 black dresses in the fitting room all look pretty much the same. I’d bought the wrong one.  I wore it for 3 days, before I decided there was no way I could wear it for a month without going crazy. I switched it out. It looked and felt like a maternity dress. Which would be fine if I were pregnant. Or even, fertile. Which, I’m not.

photo photo photo Diptic

As a Work at /from home Mom- I have a lot of flexibility, as far as wardrobe goes. I also face a lot of dichotomies in dressing. I may be speaking in the morning and cleaning toilets in the afternoon. Toss in church, funerals, kiddo football games, conferences, meetings, errands, weddings, MomCon and my 25th wedding anniversary all taking place this month?

Well.. let’s just say I’ll stick with it as much as possible.

So far- so good. Once I changed out the first dress to something I feel much better in- I just hit my closet hard to mix and match. I’m spending less time thinking about WHAT to wear- but a bit more trying to figure out how to make it look different- without spending any $. (Okay- very limited $. Once I decided I was (actually) doing this, I realized I have a pretty limited color palette in my wardrobe- called black and leopard print. I also tend to wear just a few pieces of jewelry- and don’t really accessorize. I bought a few staple items. Which I found on clearance at Target. Of course.  )  Fortunately- I have plenty of shoes, bags and scarves from my neck surgery.;)

What i’ve learned so far?

1) Seeing myself in pictures is uncomfortable.  However- I look different “in print” than I do in my head. In my head- I’m hugely fat all over. In real life? Average. When I’m forced to look at how things I’ve bought,  fit? I tend to buy:  too big. (Except for bras… hello- I got fitted in honor of my first mammogram… guess what? The girls look better in the right size bra.TMI, but true.) I’m learning it’s important to find things that fit. That means: trying them on. WHich is hard when you avoid pictures and mirrors. Which: I confess, I do.

2) It’s not as hard as I thought.  a) No one cares what you actually wear. b) it’s fun to try and think outside the box of how I usually dress.

3) It’s harder than I thought. one dress can be worn many ways- but its still the same dress. The dress I settled on has limited some of my options because of the high- round neckline. hard to layer without bulk. Layers= options.  For me- perfect would be a short sleeved or sleeveless wrap dress….maybe next year. One switch is all I’m allowing myself.

4) I could never do this in the summer. TOO SWEATY.

5) I still have too many clothes. Too many shoes. Too many bags. More paring down is ahead.

I’m not sure whether this will streamline or complicate my packing for MomCon. Honestly- I won’t be able to wear the same dress every day at an event I run around at for 12+ hours a day. Especially not without feasible laundry access. (could wash in the sink- but would be at risk of being soggy and or stinky EVERY DAY. I’m not risking that. I have MVS and Board responsibilities to fulfill. Well. and I’m nice and considerate, like that. )

So.. this is all kind of crazy, I know. (Mostly because of the weird looks I get when i try to explain what I’m doing. ) Just pretend it’s Lent and i’m fasting clothes- minus the nudity that kind of implies….#notthatkindofblog

I’m busy getting ready for MomCon next week- an amazing time of “seeing” the moms I love serving in MOPS. I love the training, connection and opportunities it offers. If you’ll be there- I hope you’ll let me know- I love to meet you!

Lots of other thoughts and things going on- more posts to come. :)