INSIDE OUT - ANGELA

Tied at the waist, it pulls at me

Down through my bed and the floor beneath 

Through earth and clay and stone 

Down into pockets of water and air 

and stone again 

Ending in the middle of it all 

In the fire of molten rock 

And here is where it pulls me

 

Waking for the day 

It pulls


 

Seventeen steps to the washroom 

It pulls 

 

To shower, I sit

To dress, I shift it up and down and between each

Rest 


 

Mid-sentence 

A word then nothing 

It pulls 


 

there is joy and laughter 

And under that, it remains

Under a layer of cloth and shame 


 

Because It isn’t hard to tuck away

Into a waistband 

Under my skin 

 

At times I surrender

lean against it 

Let it hold me for a bit

A moment of weightlessness 


 

Then, unceremoniously, it folds me in two 

There is no hiding it now

splayed open with limbs flailing


 

“Where is all this coming from?”

 

- Angela D Reimer

INSIDE OUT - ELISSA

A few weeks ago, Elim shot me an email and asked if I would pen something for the newsletter in support of Mental Health Awareness Week.

"Dear God. Am I emotionally stable enough to write about mental health?!" I spat back, half joking.

If you don't know my story, I'm wading through the wilderness of a very uncertain season: a recent and semi-permanent move across the country, an unexpected third baby, a serious health scare, a pending transatlantic move. Life has me on my knees. Did I mention I cry even on the best of days? Ha. Happy or sad, I don't know why I even bother with mascara anymore.

That morning, the voice in my head--the wrong one--piped up when I read Elim's request. "You're not worthy to talk about well-being and mental health," it said. "You're in the thick of the mess."

But here we are. I'm acknowledging my mess, typing from a farmhouse in upstate New York. You're reading my chianti-fueled thoughts from God knows where. The voice that attempted to shut me up is cowering in Toronto right where I left it that morning when, staring at my phone through tears, I said yes. 

I said yes because I knew I had to speak up.

Depression and anxiety sneak in and cripple people because so many of us stay locked in our thoughts out of fear.

We fear we'll appear weak.
We fear being misunderstood.
We fear we're the only one struggling.

I'm here to remind you—to remind myself—that the journey to freedom begins with speaking up, cracking open so the light can seep in and illuminate our minds and hearts.

Shortly after saying yes to Elim, I took a messy fall.

I could write about what happened next in vivid detail, how I lost my footing on precarious stairs, how lukewarm coffee baptized me as I fell, how the pristine ivory carpet below suddenly wore a mug's worth of liquid sanity, how my body shook as I sobbed in the stairwell staring at the mess: the mess of our situation, the mess in my head and heart, the mess on the floor.

But that's not the point.

What I'm meant to share is this.

As I went about blotting up the coffee in tears, a contemplative melody pouring from a nearby speaker brought me out of my head and back to reality. It was almost a divine appointment, a forced meditation, if you will. Blot, listen, ponder. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I'm going to take some liberties here, string the varied choruses together, and let you contemplate what had me weeping that day in case you too could use a trip away from any swirling negative thoughts. The song is called Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane.

--

Do not let this thing you've got go to waste
Do not let your heart be dismayed
It's here by some random disclosure of grace
From some vascular great thing

Let your life grow strong and sweet to the taste
‘Cuz the odds are completely insane
Do not let your spirit wane
Do not let your spirit wane

Do not let this thing you've got go to waste
The pain and the beauty so strange
Do not let your spirit wane
Do not let your spirit wane

Get the fuck out of your head if it says,
"Stay cold and be deathly afraid."
Do not let your spirit wane
Do not let your spirit wane

--

Friends, we cannot stay locked in our thoughts while our spirits wane.

Maybe it's a trusted friend. 
Maybe it's a therapist or a family member. 
Maybe it's any willing ear.
Maybe it's your sweet friend's newsletter audience. (Thanks for the nudge, Elim.)

So long as we let that damn voice thrive alone in our thoughts, let it taunt us, oppress us, and rule us, we simply cannot be free. We need to say yes when it comes to talking about mental health.

--

The appointed hashtag for Mental Health Awareness Week is #GETLOUD.

I find this highly entertaining. The band responsible for the song is Gang of Youths. I saw them play Toronto a while back and was greeted by a wall of sound.

Their latest album, Go Farther in Lightness, is ministering to me and my thoughts in some strange way, the brutal honesty and noise and chaos and stillness.

The final track wraps up with the lead singer practically screaming "Say yes to life!" like some spectacular battle cry.

If I could add one more line, it would be this: Say yes to speaking up about your mess when you would rather hide.

Life was never supposed to be a pristine ivory carpet devoid of blemishes and coffee stains. Let's not treat it that way.

- Elissa Watts

MORE OR LESS

Once upon a new year, key moments caused two friends to embark on a challenge: choose not to buy any clothes for 3 months. Gillian and Lizzy share their story:

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By day, Lizzy supports storytellers and filmmmakers, focusing on underrepresented voices in front of and behind the camera. By night, she's busy with book clubs, making playlists and mixes, connecting with women, hosting storytelling & community building events and going on long walks with her husband Pat and their pooch Farley.

After years of avoiding starting her own company, GIllian is now the proud and terrified owner of Pilot Creative. When she isn't busy working as a Brand Creative Director, she is hanging out with her dog (and all the other dogs), takes part in book club, sings, works out and runs an entrepreneurial women's support group called BOD (Board of Directors).

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Why did you embark on this no shop challenge?

Gillian: I was getting married and had been shopping NON STOP for things like dresses, shoes, stuff for the event...it just became a regular daily habit to buy something on Amazon and honestly I felt kind of gross and empty afterwards. We chose sparse decor but even so, there was still so much garbage and clothing I was never going to wear again.

It made me really sad but it also helped me realize that I can do SOMETHING to change my habits. I want to become more aware of my purchases and WHY I am shopping. Also - Lizzy and I are super into being accountable to each other so I asked her to join and help me stick to this challenge.

Lizzy: This article by Anne Patchett (a favorite writer of mine) showed up in my newsfeeds last December. Her story eloquently illustrates the power of simply saying no to buying and when this act challenged her. She tells a story about scrambling to buy a new dress for an interview with Tom Hanks and then realizing that Tom Hanks doesn’t give a shit about what dress she is wearing, nor does the audience - she needs to feels good.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an event, party or big meeting and attempted to squash my anxiety or insecurities by buying something new. Anne's idea really spoke to me and is what inspired a shorter version of this challenge (three months to start). All challenges are better with partners-in-crime, and Gilly is that accountability buddy - along with a handful of other fantastic folks around town.

Before starting this challenge, I wrapped up 2017 with a closet clean out supported by Lizzy Marks. Donating over 50% of my closet felt freeing and empowering.

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What was hard about not shopping?

L: Once I noticed my triggers to shop - I’ve been surprised how easy it’s been. Shopping is so linked to confidence for me: feeling professional or polished, sexy or cool. Maybe I would feel nervous about something and then would cover up that feeling up by piling shit in online carts and having it follow me around like a ghost online. That was difficult for me to observe. 

There were a few things I did do to minimize triggers: unsubscribing from fashion brand newsletters and making a promise to not enter stores to browse. I thought saying “NO” would be so much harder, but in fact it’s really freed up the decision making part of my brain which feels sooooo good. 

Also, by cleaning out my closet and simplifying my options, things feel fresh again. I was given some BEAUTIFUL hand-me-down from my pal Kim, which I’ve integrated into my wardrobe. For those who are interested in taking a break from shopping - it helps doing it at the beginning of a season, rather then during a “transition” time.

But, I have to confess - I cheated a few times. I bought this shirt, these pins, and a gig shirt from the  DJ crew Soulection.  As far as cheats go, not too terrible and it helped clarify how, when and why I really want to buy. All these purchases were bought directly from the maker and the purchases speak to my big passions (supporting women in film, everything dog and music).  

G: It's only been 3 months so its not "hard" in the typical sense - not as hard as cutting out sugar or booze...or cigarettes or doing a Whole30 challenge or something like that!

But I've realized that one of the reasons I had been shopping so much in these last few years is because I'm not happy with my body. Shopping was a way to momentarily make myself feel "better" (hello serotonin spikes!). Without shopping, I've come to face this issue more often, directly and head on. It's not a bad thing it's just... a thing.

Something that has helped with body image and not shopping is unfollowing fashion brands on instagram and unsubscribing from their emails. I was spending a lot of time online window shopping. With the time I've saved not doing that, I'm more productive and that makes me feel really good. 

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How will this experience impact you moving forward?

L: In my work I am very focused on the impact of who tells stories and who owns businesses. Taking a break from mindless consuming confirmed this focus needs to extend to my consumer self. I am more committed than ever to purchase all things from local businesses - or direct from folks online. I want to go out of my way to buy from women, people of colour or creative folks using clothes or accessories to make a living.

Travelling to the United States during this shopping cleanse reminded me of the shopping stories I inherited as well: “COSTCO IS LIFE” - buy more, buy cheap, some of these ideas are deeply ingrained in me. I’ve loved digging into these stories. I'm fascinated by the insecurities that are showing themselves. When do we feel like we have enough? When we are enough? Who are we really dressing up for? How can our style evolve (or does it have to)? What else can we do on weekends together aside from drinking & shopping (spoiler alert: dog parks).

Post challenge, I have a very clear picture of what I need and who I want to support. I want to skip down Main Street to select something nice from Eugene Choo, perhaps a Banquet printed dress, and maybe a breezy top from Woo to See You. I’m also desperate for a new Utah Jazz uniform to work out in. Choosing consignment has also peaked my curiosity.

I have a short list of things I need, and have found more resources and folks online (cough cough, Elim) to help remind me why conscious consumption is empowering and necessary.

G: I'm so much more aware of what I reach for in my closet now. I understand what I feel best in, and what shapes and styles suit me and my body as well as the styles I love and have always loved. I've come to understand the differences in quality with each piece from t-shirts, dresses to socks. I want things that last a long time and am becoming more aware of those pieces already in my closet and what I'm on the hunt for. Because I'm shopping less, I'm thinking so much more about what I need long term, making lists, checking them twice, taking the time to research the brand, what they stand for and the impact they have on the world.

I've realized it's a choice, not just a purchase and that's been liberating.

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Would you recommend this challenge to others to try? Why?

G:  Absolutely. Start by purging your closet, it will help you see what you have. You might even find items that have been missing in the back of the wardrobe!

I find myself looking forward to getting dressed and being more creative with what I have, which to me feels so much more stylish. I have a uniform of sorts: jeans and a white t-shirt so when I go out I'm excited to try new, weird combinations and get "dressed up". I think 3 months is key and definitely worth doing over a couple seasons. The challenge is also within seasonal transitions, I find this is where we tend to buy new clothing. Also, PRO TIP: no one notices when you wear the same thing, in fact I get compliments on the same outfit by the same people, within the same month. So yeah, the short answer is YES, DO IT NOW.

Bonus observations:

  • It's easier to get dressed when there are less options

  • Maintenance becomes more of a priority (ex. dry cleaning)

  • Choosing to mend or repair instead of just giving it away

L: Hell yes! The pitch is simple: Save cash, feel grateful for what we have, actually daydream about dressing for the next season, discover local businesses and ethical clothing options, clear the inbox of SALES and give your brain a break from the act of browing and shopping online...I can’t recommend this enough.

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In a time before Instagram, Gillian met Lizzy at housewarming party. Upon greeting Gillian at the door, Lizzy declared them to be "best friends". Gillian thought this was very "forward and presumptuous" but after an evening of wine and quality conversation, she realized Lizzy was 100% right and they have been in love ever since.