When I was little, we had The Wind in the Willows on tape. Almost every night, my sisters and I went to sleep listening to Mr. Mole abandoning his whitewashing and escaping his underground burrow to obey the call of spring. I heard this description from Kenneth Grahame so many times, it has become the way I think about waiting for a new season: “Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.”
Right now, I am longing for spring. I catch glimpses of it – a warmer breeze, patches of green under the snow, longer days. But the snow keeps falling and my heart falls with it. How do you handle the space between what you have and what you want?
This doesn’t just apply to waiting for spring (I’m not ignoring my California and Texas friends). This can apply to any in-between/transitional stage. The exercise-and-eating-better stage between the size you are and the size you want to be. The waiting stage between the job interview and finding out whether you got the job. The last quarter before school ends. The last trimester of your pregnancy. My personal least-favorite is when I know that I want a change, but I don’t know what exactly I want. I looked up the definition of ennui (a wonderfully descriptive French word) -it is defined as “a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.” Yup. That sounds about right.
The irony is that the Divine Discontent & Longing stage isn’t a great time to make big decisions, because any change seems like a good change. Save the major changes for a moment when you aren’t going slightly mad. The “don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry” principle applies here. An emotional decision feels good at the time, but it doesn’t always have the best long-term result. Wait until a more content moment and make a disciplined decision. I know you don’t like any of your clothes right now, but don’t throw out your entire wardrobe. You end up with no clothes. It’s easy to want to get rid of things, to tear things down, to run away to something else – but it’s a good time to build, to learn, to be creative.
Here are some ways to fight the onset of ennui during those waiting days:
1. Rediscover your favorite things. Turn on great music you haven’t listened to in a while, look through your closet, and find a few items that have great memories associated with them. Happy memories fuel us. A special piece is almost like wearing a Patronus charm. I have a special place in my heart for clothes that I bought traveling, because they transport me back to where I was when I bought them. Inherited clothes are also really special. I have some beautiful necklaces and clothes from my grandmas. Clothes are emotional, because they are so personal. After my wonderful Grandaddy Leonard passed away, all the grandchildren helped go through his clothes and it was a perfect time to remember his everyday life. I took one of his sweatshirts – it doesn’t look like much, but it reminds me of him and there’s love and comfort in it.
2. Change your perspective by trying something new. Be bold. I get to February/March and I’ve been wearing my winter clothes for so long, I need to change it up. I start mixing the patterns I’ve never mixed, I start layering shirts over dresses, I try to change the shapes of my clothes by belting, I wear boots to get through the snow and then change into fun shoes when I get to work…. I’ve never dyed my hair, but this is always the point in the year where I start thinking about it. If you want to try a new wardrobe without buying it, swap some clothes with a friend – chances are good that they want to try something new as well! This isn’t clothes-related, but going somewhere new can be great for gaining some perspective. Clear a Saturday and go find somewhere new. It doesn’t have to be far away, just out of your ordinary routine. Adventure is a good tonic.
3. Moneyball it. This is a phrase I use all the time when I’m talking about clothes, but I realize that it doesn’t make sense to anybody else. I’ll try to explain – it probably still won’t make sense, but here goes. In the movie Moneyball, the manager of a baseball team loses a star player and decides to not to replace him with another star player that has all the same strengths, but to replace him with a group of players. In the aggregate, their strengths add up to the strengths of that star. Have you been inspired by an outfit recently? Using what you’ve got, try to replicate what you want. It’s a really fun exercise, because it forces you to be creative. Like peplum tops? Create that look by layering a short top or cardigan over a longer top, then knotting or belting the short top at your natural waist.
4. Wear bright colors. When it’s gray outside, I need the contrast. I’m a contrarian by nature. I wear bright colors in the winter, because everything neutral outside (black, white, gray, brown). I don’t feel as much need for bright colors in the summer – I’m happy to just wear a black tank and jean shorts. When I really want spring, I start wearing a mix of spring and winter clothes (I still have to be warm enough). I’ll wear a navy sweater, a bright floral skirt, tights, and boots. A pastel sweater with my jeans. A spring dress over a long-sleeved t-shirt. Anything that adds spice and variety.
5. Try different accessories. This is another great thing to team up with a friend on – swap scarves or necklaces or earrings. I’ve been alternating between two pairs of boots all winter (because snow), and sometimes I bring cute shoes to change into for the office, because I’m tired of the boots. If my outfit is boring me, but there’s nothing really wrong with it, I’ll put on some crazy shoes or some big earrings (like my sneakers with spikes – I love those). I have strange jewelry tastes – I either wear tiny stud earrings or costume jewelry that can be seen from space. All that to say, I’m not great at accessorizing, but I know that changing up accessories can make a difference in how your clothes feel.
6. Make something. This is another point that isn’t about clothes, but creating something can really help turn around a listless mood. Draw a picture. Sing a song. Do some sit ups. Find a recipe that sounds delicious and make it (and have a glass of wine while you cook). Write down a little story. Start a blog and share something that you’re interested in (and find out everything that makes you insecure and terrified along the way – like being insecure about stating your opinions in public and terrified of writing….awkward). Make tea and invite a friend over and then make some good conversation. Make a list and check things off.
7. Anticipate and prepare for what you want. Start planning for what you want and do something about it. Do you want to be a smaller size? Time to start an exercise regime and start being more conscious about what you eat. Longing for spring? Get daffodils and tulips and scatter them around your house. Start spring cleaning. Use that wanting to do good things. Want to travel? Start saving up and plan your trip. In the meantime, find somewhere close by to explore and learn more about. If you get good at having adventures here, you’ll be great at adventures when you go overseas. If you feel listless and don’t know exactly what you want, FIND OUT WHAT YOU WANT. That’s the fun part. Maybe Step 6 (The Making of All the Thinges) will help you figure out things that you want to get better at. Don’t just bear with the in-between times – use the in-between times. Invest your time and make it worthwhile.
Come on, spring. I’m ready for you.