See Your Shadow this Winter Solstice

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The Winter Solstice occurs this week. On the shortest day of the year, we cast our longest shadow. I recall a memorable walk I took on the Winter Solstice last December. I was alone, except for the comically exaggerated shadow that playfully followed me.

As my shadow mocked my every move, I felt like Peter Pan, whose shadow was a distinct character in the novel by J.M. Barrie. At its insistence, I finally stopped and addressed the figure that boldly stretched more than fifty feet across the ground as the late afternoon sun hung low in the horizon. My shadow seemed to plead, “Look at me!”

Had I been accompanied by a child or a friend with my sense of wonder, I imagine I would have waved, jumped, danced and laughed out loud at my circus-like shadow. Instead, I just moved my arms and legs a little and giggled, hoping no one was watching.

When we look at our shadows, we don’t see facial features or skin color. We don’t see signs of status or wealth. We don’t see talents or insecurities, good luck or misfortune, successes or failures. We only see the shape of a human body, a vessel that carries us through every moment of our lives.

Despite our individual quirks and idiosyncrasies, we are more alike than different. Line us all up shoulder-to-shoulder around this big blue marble and deep in our shadows we all want the same things ~ health and happiness, equality and respect, love and peace.

Psychology has much to say about the shadow self. My limited understanding is that it’s the darker side of our personality containing parts of ourselves we might not even be aware of or want to admit to if we do. Psychiatrist Carl Jung said, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”

The dark shadow I cast on that sunny winter day didn’t reveal all the things I try to hide about myself, traits I’m convinced are negative, undesirable and embarrassing. The truth is our shadow self is what makes us unique, and understanding it helps us lead a more authentic life. As Wendy said to Peter Pan, “After all, one can’t leave his shadow lying about and not miss it sooner or later, don’t you agree?”

The Winter Solstice marks the beginning of brighter days. It comes at the end of another year filled with stunning moments that should make us re-evaluate who we really are, what we really stand for, and how we really want to live. When the Winter Solstice arrives on Wednesday, I will take my daily walk along an open field. Without any concern for who is watching, my shadow and I will joyfully turn a very sloppy cartwheel. §

“The shadows are just as important as the light. ” 
~ Charlotte Bronte, English Novelist

Five Simple Steps to an Inspiring Spring Closet

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The only place in the world we might be able to create complete peace and harmony is our own clothes closet. Overwrought by the chaos in the world, I decided this week to tweak my closet so opening its door would bring me a fresh boost of organization, color, and inspiration.

I spent most of a day and just a few bucks creating my happy place. I’m not offering extravagant ways to design a celebrity dream closet, but I do have a few specific ideas that can help you turn an ordinary closet into one that inspires your own brand of elegance.

Five Simple Steps to Creating an Inspirational Spring Closet ~

  1. Take everything out and clean every nook and cranny.
  2. Take stock of your clothing and accessories and pull out those items you know you will absolutely love wearing this spring.
  3. Store everything you won’t be wearing this season. I stored all off-season and less-than-loved items in bins on the top shelf or in a bedroom dresser.
  4. Display your spring wardrobe in your closet as if it is your own little boutique.
  5. Now, here’s the most important part. Carve out a little space for inspiration. Depending on your closet, this could be a shelf, a wall, or door. I used the back shelf and wall area. Here’s specifically what I did to add some personal inspiration.

First, I cut thick foam poster board to fit the wire shelf and create a sturdy flat surface. (This is also a great way to prevent folded clothes from getting indentations.)Then I decorated the shelf with things that inspire me.

I included a weekly calendar, a daily devotional, a vase of flowers, a necklace holder, and a floral reed diffuser. There’s also a tray to hold earrings. On the top shelf, I arranged decorative boxes to add a dash of spring color and charm. Just for fun, I tied grosgrain ribbons on my plastic storage bins.

In what is probably the nerdiest feature of my closet, I printed out and framed my personal style guidelines. After getting dressed for sixty years, I should know what colors and styles work best for me, but I still get woefully confused. So I compiled a checklist to use before I hang something in my closet more suitable for someone else. I’m certain this guide is going to save me loads of time, money, and frustration, and help me step out of my closet each day feeling my most authentic self.

Finally, I hung a framed poster titled Making It a Lovely Day. It happens to be from the book Lessons in Loveliness which my friend, Natalie, and I wrote and published a few years ago. The section outlines simple ways to make the most of each day from morning until night. (Please come back next Wednesday when I share more about this.)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened my closet door the past few days just to get a peek inside. Hopefully, there are some ideas you can use, too. Creating an inspiring closet isn’t going to change the world, but it just might bring a little joy to your corner of it. §

“Opening up your closet should be like arriving at a really good party where everyone you see is someone you like.” ~ Amy Fine Collins

Unmasked – the joy of removing masks of another kind

Donning a face mask in public has become second nature now. At first, I double-checked I put it on correctly. I didn’t want to be like the suave politician who slipped one elastic ear band over his head while the other one dangled below his chin in an epic mask fail. Most of us now wear our masks like a pro.

Then again, most of us have had a lot of practice wearing masks of another kind.

Masks I’ve worn include the good girl, dutiful daughter, tireless teacher and martyr mom. My mask said strong, when I felt like mush. It said perfect, when things were anything but. All too often the mask I wore said yes, when I should have said, “No. Nope. Not a chance.”

Author Rick Warren wrote, “Wearing a mask wears you out. Faking it is fatiguing. The most exhausting activity is pretending to be what you know you aren’t.”

As a young woman, I learned to put on another type of mask in the form of make-up. Cover, girl! For most of my life, I rarely left the house without a light coat of six cosmetics. I came to view putting on make-up as something classy women do to hide the real deal and present something more acceptable.

Then there is the full-body mask I wore in the name of fashion. Uncomfortable styles. Unnecessary details. Unpractical fabrics. Unaffordable trends. All in an attempt to say something about myself through what I wore on the outside, instead of who I was on the inside.

I knew it wouldn’t be long before designer face masks were in vogue. Louis Vuitton masks are already sold out. Marc Jacobs has a $100 mask available. Givenchy sells one for $590. Yes, you read that right.

As George Benson sang, “We’re lost in a masquerade.” 

The face masks we are asked to wear now aren’t meant to make a statement or hide behind. They serve a practical purpose – to protect ourselves and others from Covid-19. They aren’t cute or comfortable, but they are necessary for the time being.

I wear a simple mask we bought in bulk. When I put one on, I notice my body language becomes more important. I move in a more intentional way. My word choice and tone, though muffled, become more precise. I’m more aware of communicating through eye contact.

The mask somehow intensifies my desire to live more authentically. I’m seeing my bare face without judgment. I’m sparing my hair from the daily assault of styling tools. I’m wearing my most comfortable clothing. I’m moving through life at my own pace and listening to my own voice – which always leads to more joy.

I’ve spent much of my life masquerading as one thing or another. Yet under the cover of a pandemic and, ironically, a face mask, I’m becoming more and more comfortable exposing my true self.

Uncovered. Unadorned. Unapologetically unmasked. §