Welcome to Carolyn Cowan Online; Designer, photographer, teacher, mother, counsellor and bodypainter.
Archive for April, 2008
I have been blessed with the gift of avoiding things I do not want to do.
Why is it a gift? Because it is a rare area of my life where I feel little guilt by contrast to the waves, swathes and layers of guilt that blanket other parts of my reality.
Plus there is the joy, as an employer, of asking someone else to do it for you. Charmed, I am sure.
I am good, in as much as I do not take advantage. I do not ask people working with me to collect my children or do my laundry, but dusting, hoovering and other delights I can delegate and do.
There are other areas of my life where I experience cowardice on a baroque scale. Window dressing is one, I hate to do it alone, another is sorting out the rails. I shirk, shy and cower at the thought. Why? I have absolutely no idea at all. I can admit to being rather stunned by my lack of willingness to tackle both the windows or the rails.
Up to now I have done the windows on a weekly basis, girded my loins, taken a deep breath and dived in. Each time has been a resounding success, really it has. I have taken responsibility for myself and my business and triumphed.
But laying out the clothes on the rails. Argh!! In the most childish, mouse-tortured way possible I put my hands to my face and hide whilst I scream, I hate it. I have a woman who works with me and she does an amazing job. She loves doing it, takes all day and just transforms everything. I look at what she can do and feel way down on the scale of rail dressing skills. So I dis-empower myself, waiting for the lovely Sam to come back and rescue me yet again.
But recently my patience wore thin. The rails looked messy, bundled up, nothing could be seen and it was not singing arias in the way I feel it can, should or ought to. Philip came to my rescue. He actually asked if he could change the whole thing around. Oh, Joy! I quietly swooned inside at the thought of just so much rescuing. Phew, Hurrah, Oh my God yes! and various other displays of delight escaped from my lips. I left him to it and had a day off.
Of course, I came in today and….. (I know he will read this) I hated it. But I loved him for it because it was done out of the best kind of love and friendship, it was good, it was great, but not how I wanted it. I dragged my husband upstairs and together we changed it all around, completely and utterly. It was exhilarating, fun, challenging and looks fab. How brave am I, courtesy of some one else?
Now I am about to call the tax office. Is there no end to the challenges one has to take on as a grown up?
I ran early this morning and it was so wonderful. At 5.30am the sun was just beginning to rise, and as I got warmed up and into my stride, running through the dew and the perfume of may blossom, suddenly there was that amazing moment when the rays of light cut through the shadows, the birds are still and silent for a moment, the shadows suddenly seem so dark, the light spreads it’s wings and it is morning.
It is the most blissful moment and I miss it every day, either because I am asleep or my practice is being done inside. I forget how wonderful that time is. I forget how wonderful so many things are in my longing to be elsewhere, doing other things. But today I was absolutely there. Breathing, watching, running and loving every second. I even managed to keep a mantra going and thought of nothing stressful until I ran across two very unsavoury characters on bicycles. Luckily I had the very large poodle with me.
And now it is belting down rain.
Otherwise, designing clothes is an interesting life choice. Then personally selling them takes it to a whole other level. I meet wonderful people. Not all women, but mostly, and it is such a great experience to help them go through the choices and find new ways to look, new ways to feel about themselves. It is similar, very similar to making a beautiful portrait or doing a transforming piece of bodypaint or a great beauty make up on someone and they look in the mirror and see something so very different than their usual perceptions of themselves.
I spent a couple of hours with a woman yesterday, going through all manner of different options and by the time we had finished she looked so great. So comfortable and so happy. But not because she was wearing a “tunic” (as I was offered the other day in a shop, so I could hide myself away in it) but because she had found clothes that brought out her elegance, her colouring and her character. I loved every minute. It also makes the drama of the making and the shipping so worthwhile.
I am looking into manufacturing here, but I cannot truly see that it will simplify anything. I think it will just add more drama and responsibility to an already huge task. But I will not be daunted. I will pursue the idea until I know for sure that it is or is not viable. To this end I have signed up for Drapers Record and am attempting to make sense of the short courses available at the London College of Fashion. Argh! They say they have no more catalogues and their website is a labyrinth.
It is my day off and I have a long list of tasks to complete. Will I get to the end without stopping and relaxing? How many of the more hideous tasks will I try to side-step? How responsible and grown up am I, really?
Two odd experiences recently, both worth a mention. One was a film Shortbus, lent by a friend. Not for the sexually squeamish, but not pornographic, either. An interesting tightrope walk between the two, all about orgasm or not. The other was being directed towards Tainted Love by Marylin Manson. I sat on the sofa with the children last night and went through the punk years of my youth, looking at Toyah Wilcox and the Thompson Twins, Madness and Bowie all neatly corralled into some delightfully lightweight arena by Marilyn Manson. Strange. Good, but strange. Talking about body image, as I frequently do and have done today, knowing whom he was married to, seeing his face and his version of reality it was a little odd. Not bad or shocking, but I then watched him being interviewed on some USA talk show with Dita and after a few minutes gave up. Wrapping paper. Pretty, but highly disposable.
There are so many levels of reality, so many versions of who we are, who we think we are, who we want to be and who we curl away from. So many things we hate, about ourselves, the world, our history and the reality of others. Where is the centre of it all? Where is the place of total acceptance, no judgement, no history colouring now, just exactly how it is and it is fine?
I often wonder if when I get there, will I just disappear? Will it all peel away and reveal some totally other existence? Will I be astral travelling through the Eagle Nebula? Ah, my dream trip.
Today has been great. The art of relaxing taken to the nth degree, and I do feel so wonderful.
It has been several days of unalloyed pleasure recently, friends, laughing, good food, fabulous children and learning to relax -at last.
Truthfully things, life, has been so stressful recently that the levels could not be sustained. Something had to give, and the result is the ability to be still, to read a good book, lie in a comfortable hammock with two children and a dog, take long hot baths and watch good movies.
For me, that is all I need.
A perfect Sunday.
I am having a good day. Not just financially, but in myself, too. I have been surrounded by people that I like and love all day and it does make such a difference to my outlook on life, but it passes. I still long for endless continuity; wanting things to stay good all the time, but is so childish and I am working so hard at being a grown up. Here I am, 48 years old. Third or fourth career, mother of children, married, washing machine, 4×4 car and I still feel like a child most of the time.
I look around me, at times, and wonder if all other women feel the same. Do they look in the mirror and wish it was different? Suck in the cheeks, tilt the chin up slightly, bring one foot forward and then lie to themselves? I honestly think they do, but they just hide it better. Or perhaps not even that. I am sure I hide it really well and that there are those out there who know me, but most would think I have it wrapped, sorted and ready to go.
So there we are. I do not, and as I ponder yesterday’s epiphany, I can see that my entire adult life has been spent in the field of body image. From a body painter to a photographer, a yoga teacher to a clothes designer, it has all been focussed on the body in some form. Most of it, probably all of it if I really think through, has been about transformation, change, illusion, alteration and archetype.
I have always had my own body issues and endlessly deal with those of others. As the mother of a daughter, now I really do realise the extent of the carnage we all move through. All the time. I can rant, I know I can and have been told that I do, but I would like to propose that on the new website, that Devotion will present in a couple of weeks time, there is a section on body image. I know it is not a purely female issue and if there was a way of opening a forum for all of us who deal with this to add comment it could be interesting.
How it will then move anything in the public arena, I really have no idea, but within each of us with issues there is so much angst that can be so painful and being able to see that we are not the only ones is a powerful tool for change.
I watched two drunk women in mini skirts the other night. Such high heels they could barely walk, and thought about how that is an acceptable face of women as far as the current media projection is concerned. It is a sad sight, but as far as licensing laws, alcohol advertising, fashion magazines and so on, totally perfect. Of course I could be so wrong, that there are other ways, and hey, what is wrong with a pair of heels now and then? I can be seen as being judgemental of the choices of others, I know, but at the same time I can look at the most successful boy at my children’s school and see that he is chunky, bellied and badly dressed. By contrast, the most successful girl is skinny, well dressed and preened to the cheeks. Quite a contrast.
I cannot change any of that, the journey for every one of us is profoundly personal, but I can change me and my reaction to myself. And the most powerful tools for change are identification, awareness and a desire to do things differently. For me the shop is a huge statement of the other options and the dressing for work each day in the clothes I make, another. But there is more to grounding one’s self than just what is worn. The more it is part of the consciousness, the simpler and easier it gets. The most engaging and attractive are always those who totally accept themselves. Victoria Beckham being an excellent example of someone who does not accept anything about herself at all, and so she never looks real, comfortable, attractive.
Gosh, another sweeping judgement. Could also be an observation. Let it be just that.
Gently peeling an onion
Sounds like part of a recipe, I know, but it is not.
I wish it were, I would have a certain sense of control over the affair, but it is a term used in recovery from addiction.
It is the process that happens to someone who chooses to change, to put down the thing or things, like alcohol, drugs etc that are causing harm and issues with daily life. I choose my words carefully because it does seem to be outside of one’s control, to a degree. If one does not change, one being me, for now, I will use again and that is a given. So I have to move into another space of being. Anyone who wants to stop acting out addictively has to look at big life changes. Friendships, lovers, social life, work, family, all of it has to change. It can be messy and it is doubtlessly hard but infinitely worth it.
As time passes, the layers of pain, fear, anger, depression, loss and inadequacy peel away. Therapy helps, talking, new friends on a similar path and some version of spiritual practice all lift away the layers and things change.
Over time, say 5 years, the first hard cracking heavy and protective layers are gone. After that it is the tighter, more intense layers that are peeled away until the kernel rests. Please do not for a moment think that the kernel is just one event. It is not. The prophet, Kalil Gibram says ‘your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” It is the hardest thing to crack. The cracking releases so much emotional pain and suffering that I certainly find myself avoiding it. And then there are layers to the kernel, too. Like some massive cosmic joke, it seems to be endless.
I am there, inside the kernel, listening to the laughter but not actually finding it funny at all. I have been describing myself as feeling like a snake in a chapatti tin for several weeks now, but I had an epiphany about two nights ago and I now stand looking through the crack and finally see the bottom of it. The steaming, smoking fires of growing up and taking responsibility. Argh! 48 years old and still trying to shirk, contort and fall over to avoid being an adult. It is just so tiresome, but here I stand, looking at myself with amazement that it really has taken me so long to see myself and my games.
The gently part is not really true of the process at all, but it worked better as a heading than the reality of tearing away the screaming flesh of all the walls with tears coursing past.
God, such drama, and all without swearing. Actually, giving up the expletives has been easier than I expected. They do slip out occasionally, usually two a day, in quick succession, but so far today there has been nothing.
And I am taking more and more responsibility. I really am.
I was putting my five year old daughter to bed last night and made a comment. I cannot remember what it was, but her reply was “get a grip, lady”. Sweet.
And it has been a nice day. Lots of people to lunch, good home cooking, laughing, playing and even half an hour of relaxing with a book with the complete co-operation of the children. Very sweet indeed. I miss them being babies, but really enjoy them growing up. Jogging in the park with Louis is just so divine. I love it. I just want to endlessly hug him and tell him over and over how exquisite the experience is. But I don’t. I zip it firmly closed and just enjoy the warm feeling inside.
My days next week are going to be taken up with the joys of getting the right stock out of India, and negotiating with the manufacturers about the excess of clothing they made for me and now expect to be paid for. This is something that I really do not enjoy. All the work, all the hours spent being really clear. Emails all written in block capitals, endless phone calls and it still goes awry.
But on the brighter side, business is good. The curvy side of the clothing is starting to take off, and we are increasingly becoming known for the generosity of our sizing. It is such a huge market, but it is taking so long to get widely found. All ideas for expanding our reputation are most welcome. Expensive experience has shown that advertising does not work, no matter how good the person selling the space, so I am moving away from this aspect, and looking at other options. It is an area that I do need to learn more about, marketing and publicity.
I have tried to make an advert on facebook, for the store, but despite innocent wording about a clothes shop, re-written 5 times, it is constantly disapproved. I find this quite amusing, and now turn my attention to learning more about how to get known out there. All suggestions widely appreciated. Getting a grip…
A very drunk, blinded by drink, man staggered into the shop just now, clutching a can of beer. I very efficiently strode past him say “Come on, Out”. Help the door open and he turned on his heel without thinking and staggered back out again. Brilliant! It works. Give no crack for them to climb into and there is no where to stick. Scrambled eggs on glass.
But then I loose the plot. Doing business in India is turning into a wild and woolly experience. So much so that I feel completely stunned by it. There is not much to say, here, but it is a merry go round and I feel as though I am holding on as it spins faster and faster whilst I fly out at a 90 degree angle, being blown and tossed in the wind. It is not fun, it is uncontrollable awful, in fact, and I know their export figures are tumbling and I can well see why. Enough. It is what it is. That is all it is. Just part of the joy of being an Independent retailer in the 21st century and I have to get used to it. Apparently.
No swearing is interesting. Like weaning one self off sugar, I am down to two swears a day. Usually either first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. It is an interesting letting go. Perhaps most of you don’t swear. I do, and it is shocking for some, I know, but it is also a way of letting out frustrations, emotion, anger, fear etc. But I am working on growing up a little each day, and having my emotional response to my experiences quite so much in free fall is not too adult. So here I sit, restraining myself and it is fine.
On another note, I have agreed to run the marathon next year. Of course I may not get a place, but I have applied, and have started the steady climb back to being able to run for 20 minutes at a time. I am just doing 8 one minute runs at the moment and gosh, it feels fantastic. The yoga has kept up my stamina which I find quite amazing. I used to run almost daily before having children, so it is over ten years since I stopped. But once I started again, Wow! The pleasure was right back there again. I will keep a diary of how I do. Even if I don’t get to the Marathon, I will enjoy the summer and being outside.
I remember being in Goa, many years ago, staying in a hotel near a river and one morning fully grown adults were being baptised. Fully immersed in the water, they would rise up with a huge smile on their faces, looking up to the Heavens. It was biblical and quite fantastic.
Another time, in Khajurao, in the very centre of India, we arrived on the outskirts of the town just in time to see a naked Jain Saint being heralded by his entourage as he entered the town. Drums, trumpets, women clapping their hands as they walked and the ground in front of all of them being brushed clear of any insects by plumes of peacock feathers. It was a wonderful sight.
The Saint stayed in the town for a few days, causing a stir, and I decided I wanted to meet him. Baptiste and I made our way to the temple complex where he was residing and requested an audience.
We were directed towards a staircase with an open door at the top. At the bottom of the stairs were lots of beautiful women in brightly coloured saris. I did not, immediately get why, but we nodded to them as we passed and rose up to the entrance of the darkened room. It was full of men in white, and in the corner sat the naked Saint. He was giving darshan, an audience with blessings, and answering questions. I put up my hand and asked about his life.
The answer was long and was beautifully translated to me. He could never wear clothes, could only sleep outside with no covering at all. If an insect bit him, or an animal, he could never defend himself. He could only drink thrice boiled water and only eat food prepared by other Jains, so no passer by could donate food unless they were Jain, too. In all, the hardships totaled 22; moral, physical and spiritual. The ladies downstairs found it their job to tempt him into arousal, in his naked state. When asked how he defended himself from this danger he carefully explained that he thought about how disgusting and dirty women were. Sweet.
Another time, in Bhuj, I remember seeing a wedding car made of rampant silver horses with two huge silver chairs. It was impressive, moving slowly through the small market streets. I caught up and moved forward to get a better look. Tied into the two chairs were two women with their mouths taped up (to stop them inhaling bugs). It was a truly shocking sight. But it was not me up there, and they seemed cool.
My point? There is none, just reminiscence. Just thoughts passing by as I grapple with the experiences of the current economics and it’s impact upon my reality and consider whether there is an easier way to move through life.
Trust me, being a naked Jain Saint is not on my list, neither is it possible, I don’t think. Immersion in a river is also not on the list.
I suppose I am aware that there are so many other realities and we just settle in one, but we have so many choices. Sometimes it is hard to see the choices in the determination to make Now, work.
What I would like to know is how to instantly move ones’ consciousness and take up existence in another reality. Any tips or pointers most appreciated. Especially how to get into a reality that I could love, accept, and enjoy, but then, as Lennon said: Imagine there’s no heaven, no hell below it. A whole song about polarities. Endless bliss would in fact, apparently, be hell. Could I find out for myself or do I have to rely on here-say?
And the things people say. I can be so swayed by a moments’ thoughtless comment. I guess we all can. Sitting at a course yesterday on Retail Success, which was fabulous, so many things were said, 99% with huge amounts of thought behind them, but a few were thoughtless comments, not all by me. There are others who let thoughts emerge into reality with no guard at the gate. I am working hard on slipping far down the list of those who do not think before they open their mouth, but I am still pretty high up at the moment.
Digressing madly, as usual, I have decided another change. As I have slipped on the No News thing, and read The Week tonight, (It was divine. They always have the best property which I endlessly drool over, ) I have decided it is time for, after a throw away comment yesterday, me to stop swearing. Arghh!! I swear SO much at the moment it is shocking and apparently not good for my image. My husband calls me Swami every time I swear which makes me laugh, but does not stop me. It is when I realise that my children are worse than me that I can see and hear it is time for a modicum of self-control.
I wondered if I needed to punish myself each time I swore. A fine? Another sacrifice?
I decided that it would not be the answer. So I am doing this punishment-free. I am not sure that is an added incentive, and I will have to check with my therapist just how much I swore this morning, but otherwise there have been no expletives colouring my day today.
I think I need to start a reward scheme for all of us. What could it be? A swear-free day could result in…. suggestions please. Cappuccinos? No. Chocolate? Absolutely not. Raw carrot? How dry. Hmmm.
There are two strands today. One is the thought processes after I wrote yesterday, and the awareness that I could be read as being extremely arrogant in thinking that I could make a difference. I have no issue with what others think about what I can or cannot do, and happily the only weblog comment was wonderful in response to my thinking on the ethers, but what I am really clear about is that it only takes one person to stand up and really be counted. Obviously now, one would need excellent media connections, but one person saying what needs to be said, at the right time, not wearing sunglasses or carrying a guitar, and so much could change.
What about a Financial Services Regulator? Why don’t one of those boys (I imagine they are all boys) stand up and say Enough! Orwho? Mothers. All of us woman bringing our children into this mean world. Is it really up to us? It is looking increasingly like it may be.
I do not need an instant fix after the text of yesterday, but Oh God, it has been stretching out for such a long time. It has been dawning for years. Didn’t we all see it coming?
The other strand is a little bit more controversial. How many people protesting against China are wearing clothes made there? Nipping off to the High Street for a Primark Bargain, then loping off to their weblog or their protest on the street knickered by China? What about Gap, M&S, pretty much all the High Street brands are made in China and increasingly all the “smart” stuff, too. If you really want to stop China then stop buying products made in China, and it is not just clothes, I promise. Toy! Argh. Toys by the millions. Games. The list is long. Computers. Please join me here. What else? This is how to make China stumble, not waving banners and getting arrested. Gucci and Louis Vitton, all being churned out in that horrible, mean place that has risen above Bush in the Bad Person rankings. If you are so cross, then burn your underwear, your computer, your little handbag with LV stamped all over it. That’s what I think.
I wait with baited breath to see how many people read my weblog. Little fires all over the Kingdom as the Anti China protest changes course. I will keep you posted….