I’m in no way fashion-forward, but I do sometimes think there is a certain common sense to knowing what is objectively considered beautiful or flattering. I think there can even be a case made for knowing what is stylish, and knowing the difference between what is stylish and what is flattering. But, I think there is also a time and place for abandoning the rules for the sake of things we love. So here are four very ugly things I own that I just LOVE.
- My glasses. Stylish? Yes. Flattering? Not so much. They distract from my eyes and make my nose look bigger. But I just LOVE them. I love wearing them. I feel very chic. I am also taking advantage of geek chic being a thing, considering I am a geek (or really a nerd) whether or not it is “trending.” Added bonus: they are healthier for my eyes and make my morning routine easier than wearing contacts every day.
- My Miche Bag. Remember these infomercials about the purse with the interchangeable cover? Well, I bought one. In my husband’s words, “It just looks… weird.” But I love it! I had kind of forgotten about it, but re-discovered it recently and bought a new cover.
- My “librarian sweater.” This sweater was my mom’s, which means I have been coveting its ugliness for about twelve years now. It is super comfy, great to throw on over something, and I love the soft colors. Maybe I won’t see it on Pinterest any time soon, but love how I feel when I wear it.
- My “sparkle shoes.” Sure, they have great shape, but they look like a bedazzler was left in the hands of an over-zealous middle-school girl scout. Aren’t they fun, though? They are really the only “bling” I own, and they make me very happy.
At the end of the day, I just want to wear things that make me feel good. Sometimes, that means those things flatter my shape or my coloring. Sometimes, though, things make me feel good because they are fun or because they speak to an aspect of my personality. So, as long as they add a bit of ‘sparkle’ to my life, I will wear them, whether or not they are considered to be beautiful.
Is there anything you have that is objectively “ugly” but that you love?
So here’s what happened. Last week, due to a to-do list of things I have been dreading that has been hanging over my head, I had decided to take a week of “No Magic Fixes” and tackle one difficult task every day. They were all tasks that I absolutely hate to do and for some of them there was some big emotional involvement as well. I started this project on Saturday and some of the tasks weren’t going so well, so by mid-week I was… stressed. Okay, I was a bundle of maxed out brain cells attached by a spinal chord to a full-speed train wreck.
Now, if you have followed my blog for a while now, you might have guessed that I might be the kind of person who likes unicorns.
In truth, I don’t like unicorns. I LOVE unicorns. I even wrote a blog post about them.
And so, when I heard that Starbucks was coming out with a Unicorn Frappuccino, I just had to try it.
I had been anticipating this beverage for quite some time. I thought it was cool that, true to the magic of the elusive unicorn, the drink would be only available to five days. And, even better, it would change color AND flavor as you drink it. I mean, come on, I had to have one. I thought it would be a great reprieve in the middle of a difficult week and thinking of it was really helping me to get my tough to-do list done.
Day One: Before I try the drink myself, I share a post of a negative review, hoping against hope to get some positive feedback from friends (“Au contraire Stacey, it’s the best magical potion I have placed in my mouth!”). This did not happen. I receive a barrage of (mostly negative) comments, some saying they didn’t like the taste, some criticizing the drink for how unhealthy it is and urging me not to drink it.
Now, to be clear about the health factor, I do eat a largely plant-based diet and I don’t drink alcohol, juice, or soda (with very rare exceptions). I also try to avoid added sugar, other than in a small dessert now and then. I don’t usually drink Starbucks other than a plain iced coffee now and again with a little cream. I generally try to be a healthy person, so I don’t like to consume things that I know are terrible for me.
It’s not that I don’t respect my body. I just respect unicorns MORE. Because magic.
So, I am reading all the negative comments and articles hating on the mythical unicorn beverage, and somehow, I can’t be quite sure how it happened, but somehow, I went into full meltdown mode. With tears. (Remember, I was in the middle of a “scary tasks” desert and unicorn magic was my only oasis. Or at least that’s what I told myself.)
So, yes, I was literally reduced to tears over a Starbucks drink. I don’t even usually DRINK Starbucks. It apparently wasn’t even a GOOD drink, according to the reviews. I decided to pull myself together, take a bubble bath, and leave the Unicorn Frappuccino for another day when I was more able to appreciate a magical elixir.
Day Two: I realize that a guest is coming into town and the house is a wreck. Frantic cleaning and errands ensue to get things somewhat passable. This guest works for another gourmet beverage company, and was very critical of the Unicorn Frappuccino. (I.E. proceed with caution). By the time I finish chores and errands, I realize I still haven’t gotten my unicorn goodness and it’s really late. Was Starbucks even still open? I decide to go in the morning before work.
After all, there was no rush aside from my own desire; it would be available for five days, right? Right?!?
Day Three: I find out that I need to meet with two clients today instead of the one I had planned. I don’t have time to stop and get my Frappuccino. I don’t consume sugary stuff on the job so as not to be a bad influence (I work in in-home care), so I decide to stop by after work.
Then I remember I also have other errands to run after work on the other side of town. I run those errands as quickly as possible and then FINALLY pull up in the Starbucks drive-through in eager anticipation.
ME: Yes, um…I would like a UNICORN…latte?
BARISTA: I’m sorry, we are all out of Unicorn Frappuccinos.
ME: Oh no! Um… uh… um… I’ll come back later. (Drive off slightly panicked and feeling somewhat dumb and guilty for not ordering another drink. Start calculating closest distance to next nearest Starbucks, which is 20 minutes away. Decide to go home and maybe coerce husband and guest to come with me, since I’m already late. Would guest come? He works for the enemy. Is this allowed?)
I get home, and my husband tells me that several Starbucks around town have run out of the drink. I decide to go in the morning, figuring they would re-stock by then.
Day 4: Okay, now it’s full-on panic mode. MUST find the mythical unicorn drink of goodness before it is gone!
I go by the other Starbucks, where I learn that the entire town is out of frappuccinos. The barista herself didn’t even get to try one. And they would not be re-stocking. I spiral into a tunnel of sadness. I might never get to try the mythical drink of my hopes and dreams. Guest is trying to console me by talking about the benefits of using real mango in drinks rather than fake mango flavoring and how mango leaves a certain sheen when blended that is not found in other fruits. Guest, it turns out, is a mango connoisseur. I sadly nod along, trying not to think of my terrible misfortune.
Day 5: I awake in a world that is still full of icky gross things to be done but devoid of magical unicorn drinks. I start to wonder if they ever truly existed. Were they just a myth? If they once existed, does that mean they still do? Or are they, like their counterparts, not actually real anymore? (And yes, if you are calculating, I am now on day eight of my week of no magic fixes and still not done.)
But then it occurred to me: I could make my own.
I decided to use it a reward for finishing my awful to-do list, which would be done on Monday. And I decided to make it out of some of my favorite things rather than follow an online mock recipe. I started with a base of Nutella. (Was it a statement about the dark sadness of my unicorn journey? Was it unicorn poo? Do I just really, really like Nutella? Hint: it was the latter.) Then I added a milkshake made with gourmet salted caramel ice cream and added a food coloring swirl. I topped it off with whipped cream, pink sugar, and a candy garnish. There was no coffee in it, but I heard the original didn’t have any either, so I was okay with it being basically a milkshake. After all, I figured if it was my own unicorn fantasy, I could make it however I wanted. It did kinda sorta change color from pink and blue to purple, but the flavor didn’t change.
I learned many life lessons this week. The early bird catches the worm. Don’t put all my eggs in one basket. Don’t procrastinate on the tough stuff. The biggest one, though, was one that Glinda taught Dorothy years ago; to paraphrase: I always had the power to make unicorn magical goodness; I just had to learn that for myself.
Once I finished all my difficult tasks, I slept easier than I had in months. Never again would I put off important things just because they were difficult or scary, and never again would I fall for some commercial marketing ploy, even if it played into my love of magic. Life’s magic, I realized, couldn’t be found in some external source; it must come from within.
But then today I found out Katy Perry is launching a limited edition MERMAID MAKEUP line!
I am currently tackling a few projects that I have been putting off for a while because they are just not fun. Stuff like getting a part fixed on a car that can only be done at a dealership I don’t like, selling furniture that will probably involve some bartering and negotiating, changing a medication that will involve side effects, confronting someone about something I’ve been putting off. In short, stuff I absolutely HATE to do.
I am normally a huge fan of re-framing things, changing my perception of things so the not-fun tasks are more fun. But, sometimes that kind of over-thinking leads to postponing things if we can’t find a way to re-frame them. And then we get to my current situation, where the to-do list of icky stuff is piled a mile high. So, instead of finding a magic fix, I’m just going to grit my teeth and do one thing a day this week.
Magic fixes are great, but sometimes they can make things more complicated, or even be used against us. That magic health food fix will never compare to a whole foods plant-based diet. The magic sleeping pill or the super-caffeinated drink might be needed on occasion, but maintaining a balanced sleep schedule (if possible) is probably the healthier option. And those magical discounts, if not for things we really need, just mean spending more money.
So, this week, I am trying to keep an eye peeled for the ways in which magic fixes actually bring us down, rather than how they raise us up. It should be an interesting change.
Have you ever had a magic fix that went awry?
I’ll admit, most of my personality quirks and character flaws don’t bother me, but this one does. I read a decent amount for the average person, but not for a writer who has a blog based largely on fantasy literature. On a good year, I might read about 20 books, about half of which are fiction and about half of which are re-reads. On a more stressful year, I might read 8 or so books. This means that in any given year, I read maybe 3-7 fiction books that I haven’t read before. That’s not a lot for someone who largely blogs about the impact of fantasy fiction.
In fairness, I used to be a much more avid reader than I am now. Growing up, I didn’t have cable TV or video games or many electronics period, so I read. I was one of those kids that read 30+ books in a summer. I’d read a few books in a week’s time. My bedside table had a stack of 12 or so that I was reading simultaneously. (Some people find that confusing? It has never bothered me.) Around the time my mother passed away in high school, though, I started having trouble concentrating. I watched TV more because it was easier. I wrote more too, I guess, because I had a lot to process.
In college of course, I had a heavy reading load as an English major. I could do it, but I’ll admit there was a fair amount of skimming involved. Even today, I find myself getting side-tracked easily or I get caught up in the ideas behind what I have read instead of actually reading the book. Reading a lot of blog posts, newspaper articles, and watching a lot of documentaries also eats into my current reading time. Oh, and don’t get me started on Netflix.
On the one hand, I feel like a bit of an impostor. There are a lot of very popular books that I just haven’t gotten around to reading yet, though they are on my list. Sherlock Holmes. Moby Dick. Anna Karenina. One thing I have realized, though, is that I get more out of my reading experience now than as a child. I take time to pause and contemplate what I’ve read. I make connections between what I am reading now and other elements of my life. I let myself get lost in the thoughts that the book provides me. So, while I would absolutely love to tear through a page-turner in one weekend like I did when I was little, I have come to appreciate the experience of what I call slow reading, really savoring the words on the page and letting them impact my life in a meaningful way. I will also re-read books and pick up different nuances. So, I think -or maybe I hope- that my reading has just grown deeper, rather than being more prolific.
Do you have anything in your life that you feel you should be good at but aren’t? How did you overcome that insecurity?
The Original Phoenix wrote a wonderful post recently called 4 Ways Positive Thinking Helps Me that got my wheels turning, particularly since she mentioned some articles that were critical of positive thinking. I had seen some similar anti-optimism articles circulating lately and have been wanting to address both sides of the coin. When I worked as a suicide prevention instructor, I had given a lot of thought to when and in what ways optimism is helpful and when it is not so helpful. I decided to compile a little guideline to optimism from what I had learned through work and also through personal research.
1.Do practice gratitude.
Studies have shown that practicing gratitude has a very positive effect on mental health along with tons of other benefits. I like to think of what I am grateful for when I wake up in the morning. It puts my stresses in perspective.
2. Don’t ignore your own feelings.
In America where I live, there can be this kind of expectation of optimism that sometimes makes it hard to NOT look on the bright side. Think about it: what’s the standard answer to the question, “How are you?” Do people really want to hear any answer other than “good?” But denying our own feelings isn’t helpful. We can be honest with our own feelings and still hope for a positive outcome in difficult times.
3. Do find the silver lining.
When bad things happen to us, it’s very easy to focus on what else could go wrong. I am guilty of this as well. While being prepared for the worst isn’t a bad thing, I do like to take a moment to ask myself, “what could go right?” What opportunities could come from a bad situation? What can be learned? How can this experience lead to growth?
4. Don’t be blindly optimistic when the consequences are high.
There are many times when it pays to be optimistic. When the consequences of failure are high, it doesn’t pay to be optimistic.* In other words, go into that job interview optimistic; what’s the worst that can happen? But don’t start up that full passenger jet plane with the check engine light on and hope for the best. Blind optimism in risky situations is not a good thing.
5. Do make optimism intentional.
It’s easy to fall into a rut of our traditional thinking and forget to be optimistic; I’ve certainly been there. That’s why I try to make time for optimism. Optimism can help with ability to cope with stress, our social support, our health, our career, our longevity, and more* so there are a number of reasons why it pays to be a little optimistic besides just “feeling good.”
6. Don’t forget to wallow now and again.
Is there anything more cathartic than a good cry? When I was little and I would cry, my mom would read me the Owl at Home story about “Tearwater Tea.” Owl wants to make his favorite tea, so he thinks of sad things like broken chairs and forgotten spoons until he has filled up a teapot with his tears. As silly as it is, it’s a reminder that a good cry once in a while is important. Just make sure that wallowing is a place you visit on occasion, and not a place you live full-time.
7. Do defend your own personal boundaries.
Don’t let others tell you how you should or shouldn’t feel. You are feeling miserable today? Feel miserable. Feeling optimistic? Feel optimistic. Exploring our own emotions is a very personal journey and shouldn’t be invalidated by others. It’s okay to feel what you need to feel. Even this post; if you’re not feeling it today, it’s okay to say, “no thanks” and come back to it another time.
8. Don’t force optimism on others.
On the flip side, it isn’t helpful to force our feelings on others when they come to us for help. Truly listening involves accepting how someone else is feeling with no strings attatched. I have found that when we listen in a non-directive way, it is easier for people to talk through their own feelings and to find a solution that works best for them. Often this process leaves people feeling much more optimistic in the end than if we try to force them to feel how we feel about a situation.
I hope this has been a helpful guide to optimism. And speaking of gratitude, thanks to The Original Phoenix for the inspiration. Be sure to check out her blog for posts about mental health, college life, and the power of human potential.
Source: Positive Psychology: Theory, Research and Applications, by Kate Hefferon and Ilona Boniwell
It took me six whole months writing a blog on magic to be accused of witchcraft and demonic influence. I can’t decide if that is a success or a failure on my part, since I thought it would happen much sooner. Perhaps it is a testament to the respectfulness and open-mindedness of bloggers on the whole.
While I try to make a point not to respond to those types of comments, this person did bring up a good point that I have been meaning to address. What do I mean when I use words like magic and enchantment? Truth be told, I haven’t delved into this much intentionally, because I am working on another project that goes into this distinction in much more detail and didn’t want to repeat myself too much.
My inspiration for this blog was primarily a quote from J.B. Priestly:
“I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.”
In short, I use the word magic in a literary sense as a metaphor for happiness and I use the word enchantment to mean having an optimistic mindset, since an enchantment in fantasy means a change in perception. Fantasy literature has, in fact, used magic in this same context since the late 1800s and rarely uses it in the spiritual/religious sense of the word.
That said, I also understand that I have readers of all different spiritual beliefs. If my blog inspires you, whether it enhances your mental wellness, your spiritual journey, or your literary understanding, I am very happy to have you as a reader. I don’t believe it is my job as a writer to determine in what ways my writing will (or won’t) impact my readers, and truly, it is the responses and interpretations I didn’t even think of that make my keeping a blog worthwhile. So please keep reading, and may your days be filled with more magical moments than you can count.