A Patchwork of November

Funny how this month has raced by, propelling us to the end of 2012! It’s been a full November, complete with furious novel scribbling and a trip to my former stomping grounds in NYC and the Thanksgiving holiday. I’m paralyzed by the need to write something cohesive, something that’ll unfurl in clean sheets of insight and beauty. But that would mean I wouldn’t publish until 2013. (Isn’t that weird to see “2013”?) So instead, I’ll just go for broke with an “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of entry.

NYC Still Has a Secret Chamber of My Heart

It is strange to visit a place that you used to live and is such a big part of your heart and personal iconography. Being back in NYC was a lovely, strange, wonderful experience. You know those friendships where you don’t speak for years, but when you do, you pick up right where you left off, with the same level of bubbling enthusiasm and infectious affection between you? That is now me and NYC: she’s kind of like my glamorous, high-maintenance girlfriend, stomping about the city in stiletto and cool jackets and buzzing about the latest this-or-that.

I did some new fun things — checked out the Picasso exhibition at the Guggenheim, ate at lots of little Brooklyn Heights restaurants where we were staying. (Eat at Siggy’s, y’all, it’s cramped inside but delicious.) NYC is often a constant search of newness and novelty — and there is always something new to discover. But I think there is something in my character evolving, a more deliberate movement between stimulation and solitude. I find myself wanting to carve out cave time to retreat and absorb more often, to sort through new ideas and sights and sounds and experiences — and the proportion between adventure-time and cave-time is changing, more in favor of cave-time. I think it’s partly getting older, partly from the fast-paced nature of my work. And so it goes — and so, realizing this, I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m just a visitor to the city now, not a resident. Though I’m secretly pleased when people stop me and ask for directions like a local — and that I still know them.

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(The view from where I was staying in Brooklyn. Nice, right?)

Style on the Mind

This brings me, somewhat relatedly, to the next random semi-scattered thought on my mind lately: style. True confessions: I think about style, and “my style,” and just style as a form of culture and sociology more often than I’d like to admit. But it was something I thought about in NYC. I saved up a lot of my shopping juju (“juju” being my word for energy and resources, i.e. money) for the city, but found nothing I wanted to invest in. I bought some knickers and leggings at Uniqlo, perused the little shops like In God We Trust that I love, and bought cool British magazines at the McNally bookstore. (The pic above shows my NYC loot.) But nothing major drew me in enough to part me from my money. In NYC! At In God We Trust and Pixie Market and A.P.C.! What is going on with me?

A few things, I guess: an obvious one is that most everything I saw in NYC is available online or somewhere in Chicago — with the Internet and globalization, there is very little left of “local,” for better or for worse. This is compressing a very interesting topic, but street style is very similar in every major capital I’ve been too, with perhaps subtle variations. A cool hip chick in the middle of the Midwest looks very similar to the cool hip chick in L.A. or NYC, honestly, with exceptions for seasonal adaptations. So the very fact of being in NYC wasn’t enough of a compelling reason to shop and buy anything — I knew I could find something similar, or cheaper, or even the same, somewhere else.

But the sea changes for me and style are generally internal. since my whole “zen wardrobe” moment, I think of my closet as valuable real estate, and I don’t want anything to take up space unless I absolutely love it. It’s nicely curated in there now, and has been for awhile — I take pains to keep it that way and I’m really happy with my general fashion serenity as a result. And with clothes, it’s very much a “love at first sight” thing for┬áme. In fact, I’d say shopping is the only time when “love at first sight” is a valuable barometer of anything. And I wasn’t fully in love with anything enough to consider taking back to my little Midwestern retreat with me.

And also: I think this year is the first I’ve really reckoned with being an adult woman who loves clothes. The key words are “adult woman,” which were not words I used to use when I thought of myself as a fashion/style being. Those words, and phrases like “growing old gracefully” or whatever, used to make me gag. I think part of this was my own fear of getting older and losing what I thought youth was giving me. But I’m happy not to be a kid anymore. But does that mean I have to retire my beloved sweater with the fox on it? Can I still wear mini skirts? Such pedestrian yet mind-absorbing questions!

The truth is that, as a kind of bohemian lady type, there is no real template for being a grown-up. I don’t associate grown-up-ness with the state of my real estate portfolio, whether or not I’m married, or if I have children. I know plenty of dumb-ass immature people with all those things. For me, being a grown-up is the ability to commit, whether it’s to a person, a life purpose or a calling, the ability to take full and complete responsibility for your life and actions, the ability to feel compassion or at least understanding of viewpoints outside your own and having integrity to what’s important to you — and having the superpower of saying no to what you truly don’t want to do is a bonus, as well. As far as fashion, being a grown-up is just something I’m starting to explore. I like the ideas of dignity and sovereignty, of authenticity and independence and developing your unique eye for beauty — and I don’t think it means having to wear pantsuits or giving up miniskirts or fox sweaters. How does a quirky-inclined gamine with romantic and Goth/punk tendencies grow up? I guess keep tuning in to find out…

Thanksgiving is the Best

I had a beautiful, wonderful Thanksgiving. It is always my favorite holiday, though it saddens me that it is associated with the sad, tragic history of Native Americans in the U.S. But the food, the late-fall weather, and oh yes, the food: I love Thanksgiving. This year’s was especially lovely; I felt really rich in love, family and beauty.

And, more and more, I’ve come to appreciate the idea of giving thanks, and gratitude in general. I don’t need to write about how great gratitude is — lots of people do it on the Web, you just have to Google it. Myself, I do like to note the things I appreciate on a daily basis (and often lately I do it on my Twitter.) But I do want to add that a constant stream of thanks does add to an awareness of how life is rich with graces both great and small. It is this awareness — coupled with a more immediate understanding of mortal existence’s beautiful fragility that only the press of time can give you — that I think makes for being my version of a good grown-up: wise, alive to beauty, not willing to take any of it for granted.

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