Are you familiar with that kind of hollowed out feeling that follows a sleepless night? Maybe you’ve tossed and turned, worrying or grieving, or replaying a stressful encounter in your mind? You get up too early because you might as well. You’re not sleeping anyway. And you make a cup of tea and watch the darkness turn to light?
It’s kind of like a hangover, except without the wine. Or the party. Or like the disconnectedness of jetlag caused by an uncomfortable, sleepless overnight flight. Except you’re still at home. And not in Paris or Buenos Aires. Your stomach feels empty, but you’re not hungry. And you feel lightheaded and wooly. Stupid. As if you might look at a speeding car approaching as you are about to step off the curb, and step off anyway.
A second cup of tea makes your stomach feel better, but now the caffeine makes you shaky and you know you need something to eat. So you make toast and sit back down to watch the rest of the sunrise. Then you get up from your chair, wash your face, get dressed, and start your day.
Does that sound at all familiar to you? It does? Well then… how do you deal with the days that follow those sleepless nights? What calms you? Or gives you respite from your worries and from your stupid wooly head?
This will sound hopelessly shallow and silly, but I have always found that planning, organizing, collating, tidying, and taking stock of my wardrobe, even if the stock-taking is just in my imagination, is the best medicine for me. Fashion is kind of my cure-all for what ails me. I know! Weird, eh?
Sometimes dreaming up outfits helps me to stave off a sleepless night. The night before my first day at university, I fell asleep only after I began to plan what I needed to add to my fall wardrobe to make the perfect impression on campus. Early in my teaching career, on those nights when I lay awake reliving confrontations with students or anticipating them, I sometimes planned what I would wear for the rest of the week. Being well dressed and loving what I was wearing always boosted my confidence. That may be shallow, but that’s how I roll. And how I always have.
Sometimes losing myself in outfits takes my mind off of my pain. Literally. The summer I had shingles, when I lay awake unable to find a position that didn’t hurt, I conjured in my head the outfits I would wear when I could finally wear real clothes again. The winter I retired, when Hubby was in hospital awaiting his heart surgery, I reorganized my sweater drawers. Bought new hangers at the dollar store and did the same with my closet, hanging jackets with jackets, jeans with jeans, and blouses with blouses. Doing that helped relieve the pain I felt in my own heart, and drove away fears that he would not be coming home again. I never told anyone I did that. I mean, really, how silly.
Sleep failed to find me again the other night. Switching sides, rolling back and forth, changing pillows, turning the fan off and on, opening and closing the window, and even switching bedrooms did not help. Finally at 5:30, I got up. I made a pot of tea, took it out on the deck, and watched the sunrise. All night my brain had roiled, worrying about my mum who is back in hospital this week. Thinking about when and if I should fly home again. Worrying about my sister whose husband is in hospital in the last stages of dementia. She is exhausted and stressed and sad. And I’m sad for her. And worried about her too.
Then, as one does once one climbs aboard the worry train, I worried about everything and anything. About things that may never happen. And even about things that have already happened and about which I can do nothing, except feel sad and regretful. Sitting down on the deck with my tea in the pre-dawn was a relief. As long as I didn’t trip in the darkness, fall off the deck, and break my leg, or slip and tumble into the river trying to take atmospheric photos. Ha.
After I finished my tea the other morning, I came inside. I washed and dressed, ate breakfast, read my book for a few minutes. Hubby was away fishing so the house was quiet. I answered texts and left phone messages with the care agency and the social worker in New Brunswick. Then I went for my walk.
Back home, I showered, changed, and began to reorganize my closet. A really thorough organization that I haven’t taken time to do in ages. It took me several hours. I pulled all the garment bags out of the closet where I store my off-season pieces and reorganized everything, including those items that had been hastily put away last week. I emptied storage drawers and vacuumed them, piling all the clothes on the spare room bed. Zippered containers were emptied of fall pieces and refilled with summer things. One storage container was filled with heavy sweaters and knit dresses that won’t be worn for a couple of months.
Clothes that have been languishing in my “maybe” category were assessed, and packed up ready for donation. A few of the pieces I set aside for a good friend who I think might appreciate them. The remainder of my spring/summer pieces that I won’t wear until next year were packed away. I hand-washed fall tops and sweaters and hung them on towels on the clothesline in the sunshine. I cleaned and relined my sweater drawers, and then refilled the drawers with clean, neatly folded sweaters, tee shirts and a few pairs of jeans that I don’t wear regularly.
Then I sat on the bed in the spare room sipped a fresh cup of tea and surveyed my handiwork with satisfaction. “I may not be able to control everything in my world,” I thought. “But this I can do.”
I have no clue why I find organizing my closet restorative. I get that creating order out of chaos can be satisfying. That’s part of it, but not all. I just simply love clothes. Whether that’s planning what I want to buy, working with what I have to create new and different looks, organizing my closet so that I can see what I have, or taking care of what I own… I love it all. It’s like how some people love gardening, or animals, and everything that goes with that love. Fashion makes me happy. And some days it can break through what is making me sad or worried, and make me feel hopeful. I can’t explain why, it just does.
I’ve been a bit sad and worried this week. I’ve had a couple of sleepless nights. And as a result a couple of those hollowed-out, wooly, hungover but not hungover, jetlagged without going anywhere days. But my closet is organized, and my drawers are pristine, and I’ve been planning several new outfits… and somehow that makes me feel a little better. Somehow fashion has cured what ails me this week. Or if not cured, then at least it’s helped .
My friend Frances, who writes the blog Materfamilias Writes, published a post about fall fashion a few days ago. When I was in the midst of my worried nights and closet-revamping days, in fact. Frances is a clever, accomplished woman, someone whom I admire and am proud to call a friend. And she loves clothes. She raised the question, in her post, about the value of caring about fashion.
And then there’s the whole question about whether or not we can “spare any bandwidth” (as the expression seems to be these days, symptomatic of the times in so many disturbing ways) to think or care about wardrobe. About how much we find some solace in that caring, if we indulge. About how reassuring is the rhythmic regularity of that seasonal change. Or not. The seemingly superficial always connected to the bigger, supposedly deeper, supposedly more important questions.Materfamilias Writes
“Yes, YES,” I thought as I read her post. Fashion which is “seemingly superficial” IS connected to the “bigger, supposedly deeper” things in life. Of course it is. For me, at least. And for lots of other women out there. As I have learned in writing this blog and connecting with many of you. It’s not everything, of course. But it’s not nothing either.
Call me shallow if you want, but fashion, wardrobe planning and organization, and dreaming about outfits can cure what ails me. Sometimes. Sleepless worried nights, and troubled days don’t go away, but they are easier to bear.
What about you my friends? Can fashion and outfit dreaming or closet organization cure what ails you?