All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible. T. E. Lawrence
Well it’s been a little while, but if you found my short series on “How to be Audrey”, I thought it was about time to follow up!
Let’s start with diet! The rules I outlined based on her general diet were as follows:
No snacking between meals
Drink plenty of water
Fresh, organic, seasonal and local items are preferred
Eat small portions
Only eat until you’re 80% full
Watch the sugar intake
Overall, I did quite well. I’ve been drinking a lot more water, and for a little while at least was pretty good at not snacking between meals! I had been more firm with myself for the first month or two and while some habits stuck, some did not. I will continue to increase my water intake, since I really never did drink enough. I’ve cut down on the snacking, although I will have a snack-attach occasionally – usually for my home-made dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Which I am currently out of. 🙂 I always buy as much fresh, organic, seasonal and local items as I can, I always have a supply of fruit! And I’ve been pretty good about the sugar intake… although I’ve just always had a weakness for chocolate and certain pastries.
I also attempted to sit and eat and do nothing else, but I wasn’t always very good at that. I like to put on something to watch while I eat, like The Daily Show.
For my daily menu, I tried to stick to something similar to hers for at least a month. This was an average breakfast, although I alternated with a whole wheat bread and a sourdough, and also found that I’m better at making my fried eggs than I am at boiling them. Have to work on that.
After a while though, I got sick of eggs. So sometimes I would have one, sometimes not. The coffee habit didn’t really stick with me, although I will have a cup here and there.
For lunch, I would take some yogurt (sometimes dairy and sometimes vegan) or cottage cheese (which I learned is actually not even vegetarian… there’s rennet in there… way to ruin cottage cheese for me!) with berries. That’s a habit I’ve kept. I don’t always want something heavy, and I love fruit, so that works. I’ve decided for now that my favourite yogurt is the vanilla flavoured Silk soy yogurt.
Dinner was usually some kind of vegetable-based dish, and I keep that up… however I’ve gotten lazy again and revert to frozen things from Trader Joe’s or Sprouts. I would also make more pasta, and I’ve been relying on that lately as well. Growing up, we ate a lot of spaghetti with tomato sauce, to the point that as an adult I gravitated towards alfredo sauce just because it was so novel, and not tomato-based. However, with the right veggies added to it, I’m OK with the tomato sauce now.
I was very good with the snacking for a long time, and limited myself to only one or two of my dark chocolate peanut butter cups a day. However just recently somehow I ate 50 of them in about 2 weeks. And now I have to make more. Thank goodness for Trader Joe’s 4 pound chocolate bar. I suppose it’s still progress that I just eat a lot of chocolate rather than biting my nails, when I’m anxious. I’m a recovering nail-biter but these days they look pretty darn good.
I did one of the ‘cleanse’ days after a long flight from Europe, but not since then. I actually should try some more occasional fasting, since it’s supposedly good for you.
As for exercise habits.
In my recent research, I found that she would find time for daily ballet classes while filming Funny Face, and it appears she was taking them up until doing Ondine, as well.
I’ve been going to a weekly ballet class, although sometimes I have to skip them, like tomorrow (I’m filming something). To give myself more of a workout I’ve also been going to a trainer at a gym once a week. It’s torture. I’m not sure how long I can keep it up! Mostly because it involves such a long drive, though.
Audrey wasn’t a big fan of exercise for the sake of exercise, and neither am I. I walk my dog, I love dance classes and fun activities, but exercising… ugggg!
And how is my closet doing?
Well, I’ve managed to get rid of a few things, but I have a lot of things in the To Go pile. I had hoped to have a yard sale but that hasn’t happened. So I’m going to take a few bags to Buffalo Exchange and see what I can get. My closet is still pretty full, and it probably doesn’t have to be. There are certain items of clothing that I really would like to add to my wardrobe, to create the look I want and create more variety in what I can mix and match, and then get rid of more of what I don’t wear very often… however, it’s hard to find the things I want (they’re vintage-style) so I may have to find a way to have them made. Not ideal, but what else can I do? I’ve been posting things I want to sell on my alternate Instagram profile, @kendalscloset .
Last but not least…. her spirit. I’ve really been working on it. I didn’t have the benefit of a strict Victorian upbringing, so my approach to the world has been a little undisciplined! I’ve been slowing down and reminding myself of how Audrey might handle a situation, and trying to do that. It will take a lot of practice. Just this week I had a situation I used this “method” on… probably not soon enough, but I hope I recovered quickly! I had to take a little time away from the situation and ask myself how Audrey might react… and I had to just let it sink in until it became my own thoughts.
So that is the progress I’ve made, the changes I have made and am trying to make! I’m very glad to have discovered Audrey, because she has been such wonderful inspiration.
I wasn’t quite sure what to label this last post, but I thought perhaps the word philosophy might cover it. This is the most important part of what made Audrey who she was, the most important thing about her that we could emulate. And I don’t think I can really do her justice with my words.
Yes, she had a good sense of style (um, except during the ’80s when it seems nobody had a good sense of style), she had healthy habits (except for smoking…), and good self-control, but the thing that impacted the people she met, and even those she didn’t, was her sense of compassion for others, and her calm and soothing presence.
“For me, Audrey is still here. She is someone you can never forget for a thousand reasons, not solely to do with her beauty, her excellent acting abilities or her talent. The key reason lies beyond all that. Above all, she was human, deeply viscerally human, as she demonstrated throughout her life…. she devoted incredible energy to changing the world.”
Hubert de Givenchy
I believe this sense of compassion was ingrained in her early in her life by her mother, who has been quoted as saying to her, “Others matter more than you do, so don’t fuss dear; get on with it.” Added to that, going through a war with her friends and family certainly must have instilled in her a sense of community and empathy that lasted throughout the rest of her life.
Words are going to fail me here, in this particular post, which is why I’ve procrastinated at writing it. I’m going to rely heavily on the words of those who knew her, such as her producer from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,”
“Everything you have read, heard or wished to be true about Audrey Hepburn doesn’t come close to how wonderful she was. There is not a human being on earth that was kinder, more gentle, more caring, more giving, brighter, and more modest than Audrey.”
I don’t think I will be able to do her justice, having not even once met her, admiring from afar and knowing her only through words on a page. But I have never read anything terrible about Audrey. 99.9% of the time she seemed to be present and focused on whomever was in front of her, attentive and compassionate. She made everyone feel important, welcome and greeted everyone as though they were old friends even if it was the first time they had met.
“She had a quality I found in Eleanor Roosevelt. When Audrey said to you, ‘How are you, dear?’ she looked in your eyes and wanted an answer. It was not a form of salutation. It was a question from someone who cared. It was that one-on-one quality that electrified everyone. When Audrey was talking or listening to you, you possessed her totally and she possessed you…”
Roger Caras, president of the ASPCA
And it was genuine…
“Audrey was the kind of person who when she saw someone else suffering, tried to take their pain on herself. She was a healer. She knew how to love. You didn’t have to be in constant contact with her to feel you had a friend. We always picked up right where we left off.”
She definitely had her moments of stubbornness, if I recall. She insisted her dog be an exception to the quarantine rules of Africa to join her while filming “The Nun’s Story.” I recently read somewhere (when I find it again I will edit this!) that when a hotel in Paris couldn’t make her drink right at the bar, she switched hotels. She tended to travel with her whole household in her luggage and request the same room in a hotel, even requesting some of the same furniture if it had been moved to another room (if anyone has the references for this, please let me know. I’m going off of memory right now). However, I am betting that all of these requests were made with the friendliest attitude, none of the irritated entitlement one would expect from a film star.
“She was so wonderfully easy to work with and so unfailingly kind and caring to everyone. Genuine, unique, compassionate, true to her beliefs, honest and without any artifice, she stood out of the conventional image of show business, glitz and glamour.”
She was very thoughtful and diplomatic in her interviews and interactions, I’ve noticed. She didn’t seem to want to offend anyone. She once stood in for Patricia Neal to present the Best Actress award at the Oscars, but due to her complicated situation of being overlooked for “My Fair Lady,” and presenting the award to Julie Andrews for “Mary Poppins,” she neglected to mention Patricia, was reminded, and apologized profusely. I’m sure she felt terribly guilty for ages.
After a tribute to her at the Lincoln Center in 1991, at a post-tribute dinner, the following occurred:
“She had to make sure that everyone who had come long distances sat close to her, but she couldn’t bear to decide who should or shouldn’t. So she had us make one tremendous table by pushing ten together into a giant oval that went on for miles. It was perfect. Nobody’s feelings were hurt. It never happened before or since at one of these events, because most people don’t care. But Audrey did.”
While living in Rome, she made many new friends but apparently never quite fit in, because she refused to engage in conversations about others.
“She never integrated because she was not a gossip.”
Anna Cataldi, friend
However, although she was kind and considerate, she was also withdrawn.
“She, in some mysterious way, kept me from being totally intimate… I longed to get closer, to get behind what was the invisible, but decidedly present, barrier between her and the rest of us more mortal human beings. Something… was there, holding me back from getting as close as I wanted.”
I believe that this was a mix of her mother’s teachings, and also a self-preservation method she adopted as an actress. I’m sure when she was younger she learned to hold back information to protect her privacy. But also, being a sensitive person, she may have held back parts of herself more frequently as she aged to protect herself from disappointments and betrayals.
“I sensed a sort of reserve, a hesitancy in her relationship with people. She was always prepared to withdraw from any event or discussion – she could quickly, almost abruptly, bring it to an end. I’d give her an ‘A’ in closure! It made her not less but more interesting.”
Dr. Ron Glegg, Rob Wolder’s brother-in-law
“She was not chatty about her personal feelings. She was British in that way – friendly, kind, but with that reserve of ‘Don’t get too close to me.’ ”
Sergio Russo, her hairdresser in Rome
But she did trust a select few. Audrey had a very small circle of close friends. An older friend of mine was married to a screenwriter “back in the day,” who was working with a producer who was working with Audrey Hepburn. She has stories of so many celebrities she’s met in her life, but the one she wishes she would have been able to meet was Audrey. But “she was very insulated, and didn’t want to meet many new people,” she told me.
“She had almost a child’s need or capacity to trust and to entrust herself to someone. Once she trusted someone, she would give them her life.”
Although she seemed to keep only a very few number of people get close to her, she wasn’t afraid to show love, even if it wouldn’t be returned.
“Audrey was a great cutup – very impish and playful. It’s a quality you find in children and in puppies, which might explain why she was so drawn to animals – and perhaps had more trust in animals than in human beings. Sometimes when she would show a great deal of love for someone on whom I felt it was wasted, I’d say, ‘Don’t you expect something in return?’ She would say, ‘No. My love for them doesn’t mean I expect anything back. It’s like with an animal.”
Having lived in Hollywood for quite some time, I have to say that this quality should be practiced more often, especially in the film community! Los Angeles is a city where everybody wants something and they’re only nice to you until they’ve got it (or until they realize they’re not getting it). I love the fact that she would give love to anyone she thought needed or deserved it, without expecting anything from them.
“There is a moral obligation, that those who have should give to those who don’t.”
Always thinking of others…
Audrey never seemed to have any public displays of anger or ego, nor many private ones that I’ve heard of (I can’t imagine there weren’t any raised voices when struggling with romantic relationships). She had a tremendous amount of self-control…
“There are people who blow their tops, and people who don’t. I am told it is bad to bottle it all up inside you, but then if you blow you have to go around apologizing… I suppose I should just let it come out of my ears.”
However, it seemed she liked to keep more than herself under control, and perhaps wasn’t very spontaneous. From an interview with herself and her husband at the time, Andrea Dotti:
“It’s difficult to have both [security and love], especially for women, since security is based on a fixed social and economic situation, a status quo with prearranged agreements or contracts, while love is wild, unfixed, unpredictable… No doubt Audrey’s childhood experiences intensified these drives. She’s a perfectionist, with a strong need for security. She must have matters under control and she’s afraid of surprises. For example, if she has to go to Geneva next month, she buys the ticket now. I do it the day before, and maybe then I’ll change my mind and go to Sardinia.”
“No, love, you wouldn’t fly off anywhere, because for Sardinia there’s always a waiting list.”
Though she wasn’t stuck in her ways and still took joy in exploring life:
“I think Audrey was much more comfortable with Sister Luke than with other parts. It was the story of a woman who investigated life, who was constantly on a search. As Audrey was.”
Audrey didn’t talk much about her spiritual beliefs, but from what I gather, she was raised Christian Scientists, considered herself Protestant for a while, and later on in life seemed to be thinking more about the spiritual aspect of life. Around the time of “The Nun’s Story,” she was quoted as saying,
“I have been educated in the Protestant faith and shall remain Protestant even though I have great respect for those who profess the Catholic faith.”
In 1956 she mentioned religion in an interview with Phyllis Battelle:
“Two things I never talk about are salary and religion. I find them sort of intimate things, and besides, it [her salary] changes all the time… My religion has been the same for 27 years but I won’t tell anybody what it is. Not that I’m Mohammedan, or anything surprising. I just keep it to myself.”
Her son, Luca, stated,
“Mom thought that religious education was an important part of our cultural background and had great respect for all beliefs. Worship was something intimate and personal for her, that extended to every little action we make. She believed in the struggle between Good and Evil and had faith in Love as the single element that bonds everything.”
Stepping back a little to the self-discipline Audrey possessed, I have to say she impressed me very much with her work ethic, especially early on in her career. She certainly was hustling.
“[Landau] said one day that anyone who’d like to make an extra shilling could be in cabaret. So after Sauce Tartare, at 11:30 at night, I’d be at Ciro’s again at midnight, make up and do two shows. All dancing. I made £11 for the first show and £20 for the second. So I was doing 18 shows weekly and earning over £150 a week. I was completely nuts.”
Around Christmas, she added in children’s shows, playing a fairy, and doing eight matinees a week.
“I got home at 2am [from Ciro’s], slept and was up and in rehearsal at 10am. I was very ambitious and took every opportunity. I wanted to learn and I wanted to be seen. My voice was pitched so high that my mother said I sounded as though I were about to take off.”
And throughout her career, she worked hard, studying her script at night and on the way to set, taking vocal coaching, dance and movement classes… she was a hard worker (although I did hear that she spent a lot of late nights out with her fiancé during rehearsals for Gigi and got scolded for her poor performances the day after!).
This has been a long post, hasn’t it?! Kind of rambling… there’s just so much to say about her, but I tried to keep focused on the wonderful attributes that she exhibited and that we can learn from. So now comes the part where I apply Audrey’s admirable qualities to my own life, in my effort to emulate her. As I said, the idea is to emulate her good qualities, the habits that would make a positive difference in my life. I’ve covered self-control when it comes to food and exercise, and have been examining my closet (and I’ll write an update on how all of this is going, later), but now I’ve added a focus on self-control when it comes to interactions with others, and self-discipline when it comes to work.
Having been raised differently than Audrey, and with different experiences behind me, I’ve always found it difficult to suppress when I am upset, displeased, or dissatisfied. And in the age of digital communication, it’s made it even more difficult! With email instead of letters, texting instead of calling… every interaction seems more intimate and casual than it used to be, or should be. I’ve been re-educating myself on the rules of communication, and figuring out how to retreat a little from the casualness with which I normally respond to things.
For in-person interactions, I would like to be a bit more proper, however it doesn’t come natural to me. I am always feeling nervous and insecure and unsure of how to address anyone, always in some way feeling insecure or inferior. When it’s my own party, for example, I feel much more relaxed and in control, but when I’m the outsider I don’t know what to do with myself! I suppose practice makes perfect. I’m also discovering, through a book on French-American cultural differences that I’ve been reading, how Americans communicate differently than the French. Now, I know Audrey wasn’t French, but she was not American and I wonder which communication habits she was more familiar with. Learning about my own culture from an outsider’s perspective has been interesting.
The biggest challenge for me is learning how to better express concern, appreciation, and attentiveness. I’m not very good at expressing anything with words, in my opinion, so this may take a long time to master. I think I need to find a lot of good examples, perhaps letters, to study. I do enjoy making others feel good, but I fail when it comes to finding the words to do so. I was not raised with parents who exhibited a natural skill with words, and never thought much of it until years later. So I have remained quite shy and quiet, which can be easily misunderstood. Working on this.
I feel as though I can look into the future by observing Audrey and how she handled her pain. I didn’t include text about that here, since I wanted to keep the focus on her good habits and not on the things I didn’t want to emulate. But after several relationships had ended, apparently she carried that grief with her for a while. I don’t want to end up with pain that others can see. I want to learn how to deal with it and not carry it with me. I haven’t quite figured out how yet…
As for worth ethic… I think sometimes I’m a hard, dedicated worker, and sometimes I’m not. As I get older, I have less patience for things that I have to do simply to make money, things that seem like a distraction from more important things, and things I just don’t like doing. I’ve been a bit spoiled, working online, though when that’s not going well, I do lock myself inside and work hard to pay my rent! In fact, I’m usually always working on something, though it doesn’t always lead to money. I could stand to have more focus and discipline with the things I say are important to me, though. I have to really narrow it down and prioritize, otherwise I just get into a state of overwhelm. I love to do so many things!
In short, really, to emulate Audrey I must be sensitive to others, learn to express happiness and gratitude and to deal with anger and frustrations gracefully. I mustn’t gossip, and I must give without expectations of receiving. I must be careful whom I open up to (and as an American with the tendency to talk to strangers more, that book I mentioned finally makes sense of why we may do that) but also find a way to deal with pain so that it doesn’t stick around later on and negatively impact me or my relationships.
I wish I could already be like Audrey in these ways, but it’s never too late to improve oneself. Nobody can be Audrey, just like nobody can be you, or me – we’re all unique and we all have something different to offer the world. But personally, I see room for improvement in my attitude and outlook and behaviour, and Audrey has been my measuring stick, as she is the embodiment of grace, tact, gratitude and love (to me). I want to leave the world better for having been in it, just like she did.
Help me, Audrey, to become the best version of myself I can be!!
“Again, that’s the element X that people have, or don’t have. You can meet somebody and you can be enchanted, and then you photograph them and it’s nothing. But she had it. And there will not be another. Today, there is Julia Roberts. She is quite capable, very funny. . . . I loved her instantly in Pretty Woman. But no actress should be expected to be Audrey Hepburn. That dress by Mr. Givenchy has already been filled.”
This is not quite the end of this little series… I’m going to post an update later, in case anybody is interested. I also am going to mention here (and in the next post) about my almost-secret project. I’ve been talking with two friends of mine about going on a grand Audrey adventure across Europe, and making a film about it. I will tell you more about it later, or you can just go to On How To Be Lovely and see what’s there. 😉 I’m really hoping to make it a reality! If you think you may be able to help us with it, please let me know!
So I’ve been working on my self-control with not snacking during the day (which is harder than I thought! But apples are a good and healthy snack to fool your stomach. Not quite as good as peanut butter cups though), and my discipline with exercise. I’ve even decided to go to a gym once a week and work with a trainer. It’s something I’d thought about in the past but it seems like now is a good time to just do it. I know I’ve got the potential to be healthier and stronger than I am, and I don’t want to regret waiting any longer than I have! It’s one of those things I never felt that I could afford, but I feel like my body needs it, and what better time than now? I have to fit into all of these gorgeous tiny vintage dresses that I adore!
In this post, I’m going to cover Audrey Hepburn’s style, and look at how I can apply her fashion sense to my own wardrobe. What we choose to wear, or how we choose to wear what we have, is one way in which we shape the image of ourselves that we present to the world. Everything we wear says something about us. About how we see ourselves, or how we want to see ourselves. About our status, our preferences and priorities. It is in many ways an outward projection of our inner selves. Or at least as much of ourselves as we want to let others see. And personally, my wardrobe has not always really reflected who I was or am. I had always wanted a large vintage wardrobe, because that was what I loved, but it was always easier and more affordable to buy the latest trends. In high school I would shop at the Goodwill and other thrift stores, but usually what I found was not in good condition. I’ve finally decided that it’s time to revamp my wardrobe into what I’ve truly been wanting. However, even putting together your vintage style takes a little thought and planning! Audrey to the rescue…
“Some people dream of having a big swimming pool – with me it’s closets!” Audrey
On How to be Audrey, Part III – Style
In 1949, when Audrey was living in London and working in the theatre, her wardrobe was quite different from how most of us think of her.
“She had one skirt, one blouse, one pair of shoes, and a beret, but she had fourteen scarves. What she did with them week by week you wouldn’t believe. She’d wear the little beret on the back of her head, on one side, on the other side – or fold it in two and make it look very strange. She had the gift, the flair of how to dress.” Nickolas Dana, High Button Shoes dancer
Audrey had less than most of us do in her closet when she was starting out. And her method of making it work for her was to get creative! You can make almost any outfit look new and different by changing up your accessories. I would love to see what Audrey did with those scarves (I could use the inspiration). She was so innovative with clothing that at one point, to earn extra money, she would purchase plain little hats to embellish and re-sell. Now that’s inspiring me…. and making me wonder where all of these hats ended up. A hat made by Audrey Hepburn, wouldn’t that be a treasure!
When she left for France to work on Nous Irons à Monte Carlo, her co-stars Geraldine and Cara gave her some of their own clothes, seeing as she didn’t have much of a wardrobe. And apparently they all bought their first bikinis at the Monte Carlo Beach Club!
Eventually, with more work and more money, and a new friend in Givenchy, she settled on what would become her signature style. Casually, she would be seen wearing pedal pushers or cigarette pants, with a button-up shirt tied around the waist. Formally, she favoured dresses without patterns or details that would date it, in flattering cuts with very defined waistlines.
In 1962 she gave an interview to the Baltimore Sun and went into great detail about her fashion sense. I will let Audrey take over now.
“I have come to realize two important factors about myself. First of all, my coloring lacks definition. I therefore prefer to wear black, white or muted colors such as beige or soft pinks or greens. These colors tend to make my eyes and hair seem darker whereas bright colors overpower me and wash me out.
Secondly, I am quite tall and of angular build. Therefore I don’t wear padded or squared shoulders and often cheat on my armholes and collars to give an illusion of narrow rather than wide shoulders. I wear low-heeled shoes to give the impression that I’m smaller than I am.
Another thing I have learned, in order to avoid the cliché, “I don’t have a thing to wear” in spite of a closet full of clothes, is to prepare a clothes chart for the coming season, just as I do when handed a script of a new movie. I start by writing down all the things I have and then eliminating the ones I feel I’ve worn out or outdated. Then I try to visualize what my needs will be during the upcoming season, all, of course, depending on where I might be. I then go about buying rather purposefully just the things I need to fill any gaps, such as a new suit or a coat or dinner dress.
As I rarely have time for shopping, I have to plan ahead, which saves me from being tempted by that one dress I shall never wear.
Also, I have a problem which is peculiar to my nomadic existence and that is packing. I try to travel with as little as possible. This brings me to my next point, which is to buy things adaptable for many, rather than just one, occasion. That is another reason why I like conservative colors such as beige or black, which will look right at almost any hour of the day or evening and in almost any weather.
This enables me, too, to cut down on accessories. I have only black or beige shoes and bags and wear only white three-quarter-length gloves. The only exceptions are an evening purse and one pair of white satin shoes.
The principal contributive factor to the way I dress is that I am fortunate enough to be married to a fashion-conscious man by the name of Mel Ferrer, whom I think has infallible taste.
It is tremendously rewarding for a woman to have a husband who notices. Mel has a real interest in clothes, and we enjoy choosing my things together. I have become greatly dependent on his taste and guidance. After all, I think any woman dresses mostly for the man in her life.” Audrey
And as a bonus, she gave “Four Rules for the Hepburn Look”
Audrey also didn’t wear much jewelry. A pair of hoop earrings were a favourite early on, and she always had a pair of pearl earrings on hand. Occasionally she would wear a bracelet, and never a watch (She had been noted saying that she strongly disliked the initial cold of the metal when touching her skin and the heaviness of the watch).
I also have to mention that Audrey did NOT always dress up. She wore t-shirts and cozy sweatshirts and sweaters like the rest of us when she wasn’t expecting to be photographed. Doesn’t that make you feel better?
So to distill it down to a few points, and to analyze my own habits and see what adjustments I should make…
Audrey Hepburn’s Rules of Style
Know your colours. I have similar colouring to Audrey and upon examination of my closet do find it quite full of muted colours, black, and white. I don’t know if it was really intentional, but I do see a pattern. Most of the more colourful things I own, I don’t wear, and are in the “to go” pile now as I pick through my closet. I will definitely make note of what I feel is more complimentary to my colouring.
Know how to create the proportions you find pleasing. Although Audrey and I are the same height, I don’t have a big problem with being tall, except when I’m around women who are much shorter than I am, or men who won’t match my height in heels. I like the look of heels with certain skirts and dresses. However, flats are always more comfortable and practical! I also have wide shoulders and hate any kind of shoulder padding or puffed sleeves, so those are avoided. Perhaps that’s why I’m not a fan of the ’80s.
Go through your closet regularly and visualize how to have the wardrobe you want with the least amount of pieces. This, I am in the process of doing. I have way too many pieces of clothing that I don’t actually wear anymore. I want to simplify and only have clothes that I actually love and wear. Living in California for so many years, I never felt a need to separate my winter and summer clothing. I just added coats. And in France, well, I usually lacked any storage space, so everything hung out together there, as well. I do sometimes examine my wardrobe and think of something I feel is missing, and go on a quest for it. But I also went on spontaneous shopping trips with nothing in mind, and returning home with bags of new garments. I’m cutting down on that! Which brings us to:
Shop with purpose. For several years I have had a major Crossroads Trading Company (it’s a secondhand store with amazing finds) addiction, and would just walk in looking for buried treasures, nothing specific. And this is how I end up with more than I need. But I haven’t set foot in a Crossroads in at least four months now! I have been shopping with purpose on etsy. Pat me on the back.
Buy quality over quantity. I’m getting better at this. Slowly. However, with Crossroads, I felt like I could have both quality and quantity. Dior shoes, Mark Jacobs jackets… but now my closet is full.
Buy tops and bottoms that are interchangeable and versatile, especially for travel. This is something I have to pay more attention to now that I’m not wearing jeans as much. Jeans go with nearly every top. But now that I’ve got a green skirt, and a tan skirt, and a navy skirt… I can’t just wear the same white shirt with all of them all the time, I need at least one or two other shirts that could go with them and create twice as many outfits. This is already how I travel… seeing how many different outfits I can create with the least amount of clothing. And I usually stick to two pairs of shoes – the black and the white, unless I have room for one or two more. With the cost of vintage clothing (which I’m buying more of nowadays) being usually more than the things I find at Crossroads, I have to pay extra attention to how many outfits I can make with each piece.
So those are my challenges.
Get rid of the things I don’t wear and narrow down my closet to pieces that are versatile, interchangeable, timeless and loved. Simplify and organize.
In my first post about Audrey Hepburn, I went over her eating habits and outlined a diet for myself to follow. So far, so good, although I got thrown off the other day when I had to be on set at 7am (way too early to be hungry…) and then gorged myself at the lunch buffet. And also had some snacks from craft service. But other than that, it’s going well! I’ve added my own discipline to it and am trying not to eat after 7pm and definitely no earlier than 7am. Not snacking has been a challenge, but I think with practice it will become easier.
Today I want to cover Audrey’s exercise habits. Less is known about this aspect of her life than her diet, it seems.
On How to be Audrey, Part II – Exercise
Audrey grew up immersed in ballet, however the only reference I’ve seen to ballet class in her adult years was one mention somewhere of her attending class while she was working on Broadway, in New York City. She also danced for her film, Funny Face.
During the filming of Green Mansions, she did a spread for a magazine showing her in various stretching poses similar to yoga.
A couple of websites claim that Audrey discovered yoga and made it a part of her daily routine, however, I haven’t found any mentions in her biographies or official sources that this is true. It’s always mentioned on yoga websites, so I’m not sure how accurate their information is! I can imagine that being a former dancer, she probably did have some kind of daily stretching practice, but perhaps we will never know for sure.
However, dancing and stretching will be part of my “emulate Audrey” month. I already have a history with ballet (in my early 20’s) and yoga (a couple years ago), and recently have started back up with both.
I suppose I won’t be adjusting my habits too much when it comes to exercise. Saturday morning ballet (and eventually back into the adult pointe class, I hope) and daily stretching/yoga.
Again the key here is discipline. Audrey was very disciplined, very focused. According to her,
“I have often thought of myself as quite ugly. In fact, I used to have quite a complex about it. To be frank, I’ve often been depressed and deeply disappointed in myself. You can even say that I hated myself at certain periods. I was too fat, or maybe too tall, or just plain too ugly. I couldn’t seem to handle any of my problems or cope with people I met. If you want to get psychological, you can say my definiteness stems from underlying feelings of insecurity and inferiority. I couldn’t conquer these feelings by acting indecisive. I found them only way to get the better of them was by putting my foot down, by adopting a forceful, concentrated drive.”
And it served her well. So throughout this exercise, I’m hoping to adopt a similar more concentrated drive by introducing more discipline into my everyday life. I know I have always had an issue with focus – so many exciting things to explore in life! It’s a constant battle I fight. What I enjoy about ballet and yoga is the fact that once you get into the “flow”, you stop thinking about anything else. You’re focused solely on the present and being in your body. It also feels good to regularly set aside that time for yourself, as if telling the world, “I care about myself and want to treat my body well. I insist on taking this time out from my concerns to open up, and to dance and to breathe and let everything else go for a while.” Afterwards, I feel refreshed and focused and motivated and ready to tackle the world! And so I shall!
Hello, all! It’s been a while, I know. I have started a few blogs in the past and I’m disciplined for perhaps a year and then I trail off. There are times in my life where I feel I will have plenty to write about, and times when either I don’t, or I simply don’t feel like writing! Which is why I will never be a professional, full-time blogger, I suppose!
So I was watching a video on YouTube recently, Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill and when he came to number 18 (the video picks up there, if you click on the link) I immediately thought of Audrey Hepburn. Oh yes, there are plenty of things I admire in other people, like Katharine Hepburn with her strong, independent spirit, but when it comes to choosing a role model for myself, it always comes back to the other Hepburn. Perhaps because our basic quiet, anxious natures are similar, so although she has many traits I aspire to, she is also relatable. I’ve always sort of viewed her as something like a cousin whom I admire but never get to spend time with. You’re told stories and you see pictures and you wish you could spend time with her and you want to be like her… at least that’s how I felt about my actual older cousins growing up, and it feels much the same with Audrey. I didn’t have an older brother or sister, but always wished I had.
Oh, don’t let me go on like this! Let’s get to the point of this post!
So I was watching that video and when he came to number 18, I thought of Audrey. I thought, OK, let’s do that, why not. And I decided that, to keep myself accountable, and to perhaps inspire and help someone else who may be having the same idea, I would blog about it. So I started making a mental list of what I knew of Audrey that I could apply to my life, and decided that I would make a very conscious effort for at least one month to follow in her footsteps. Because she’s been my role model for years already, I have a head start on some things. But we’re going full Audrey for August.
Good timing too, because it will put me in a good mindset for my next few adventures, which I will tell you about soon!
There are several aspects of Audrey to be covered, and rather than making one giant blog post about them all, I will cover one at a time. I will cover diet, exercise, philosophy and style in four separate posts. Today, I’m going to start with diet.
So let’s get started, shall we?
On How to Be Audrey, Part I. Diet
“She was always very careful about her diet, did not drink alcohol except an occasional glass of wine with dinner, and avoided desserts. She chose her diet as a dancer would: plenty of protein and lots of vegetables and salads. She ate sparingly and rarely splurged. But we did have a yearly feast of caviar in a baked potato.” Mel Ferrer
Audrey’s slim figure is one of the things she’s well-known for, generally being quoted as 5’6 ¾”, 110 pounds, 32-20-35 (although I know someone who owns one of her dresses from the 1960’s and the waist measures 23 inches. This is a weird fixation for me, because the 20 inch figure seems very off and I can’t resist solving a mystery).
Fortunately, I don’t have to really wish for Audrey’s figure, being 5’6 ¾” myself, between 112-116 pounds, and 32-25-35. But because diet is such an integral part of everyone’s lives, it’s important to me to incorporate her eating habits into this challenge. I want to see how changing up my diet and adding additional discipline might affect me.
Audrey’s diet changed throughout her life (as is true for most of us), so I’ve taken the information I’ve gathered and created my own Audrey-based diet from it. In general, her rules were:
No snacking between meals
Drink plenty of water
Fresh, organic, seasonal and local items are preferred
Eat small portions
Only eat until you’re 80% full
Watch the sugar intake
“I eat everything. I eat a great many vegetables, fruit, and…um…otherwise, I eat meat and fish and all those things. I like chocolate and sweets but they are not good for my skin I noticed, so I can’t eat very much of them.” Audrey
While Audrey ate everything, I on the other hand, am mainly vegetarian (and sometimes vegan), so I will be making some adjustments to suit my own dietary preferences but still stay close to her diet.
Snacking: “Don’t build this bad habit!” Audrey says. Yes ma’am. This one is also difficult, but I’m going to make a conscious effort to avoid snacking.
Drink plenty of water. This has been a struggle for me for ages. I know I have to drink more. I just hate spending so much time in the bathroom! This is the month to get into the habit though. Being properly hydrated is very important!
“It isn’t very interesting to eat something that is completely white, so it also can’t be that good for you.” Audrey
My meals normally include fruits and vegetables, so as long as I don’t get lazy, I’ve got the colour thing down!
“She was crazy about the pasta, she would eat it almost every day. Her absolute favorite was spaghetti with tomato sauce. She could live on that alone.” Luca Dotti
I’m always tempted to buy pasta for my meals, however I am not entirely sure that it’s a healthy thing to regularly eat! I believe her pasta addiction appeared when she moved to Rome, as I haven’t seen mention of pasta in earlier accounts of her diet. Although I will include some pastas for dinner occasionally, I won’t be eating it all day every day! As for tomato sauce… I was raised on a lot of spaghetti with tomato sauce and now as an adult am taking a long hiatus from that particular combination. However, seeing as it is my month living like Audrey… I will make an effort to include it in the menu. In fact, I started with a pasta lunch today so we’re off to a good start!
“She was very strict. When it was breakfast, lunch or dinner, her feeling was, you should take your time for meals and stop what you are doing.” Luca Dotti
Sometimes when I’m eating, I do so in a rush, standing at a table, or eating while working or watching a video… but for this month at least, I will stop everything when it’s time to eat, and focus on the food. This is actually a healthy practice. According to some studies, we tend to over-eat when we aren’t paying attention to what we’re doing… if we’re eating while watching a movie for example. When we slow down and enjoy our food and eat mindfully, we don’t over-fill ourselves.
On Sundays, Audrey would have breakfast in bed, with “homemade madeleines, quince jelly, or cherry jam, along with toast, coffee, milk, butter, a small rose from the garden in a tiny vase, and on the side of her tray the International Herald Tribune.” according to her son, Luca. I may not do this, as it’s my Sunday habit to go to Lake Shrine temple and then have lunch with a friend, but perhaps I’ll find a day for it! And I’ve got her recipe for madeleines in Luca’s book, Audrey at Home!
One of the most specific menus I’ve found for Audrey states that for breakfast she would have a glass of water, 3-4 cups of coffee (with hot milk… cafè latte… café au lait), 2 hard-boiled eggs, and a slice of 7 grain whole-wheat toast. For lunches she would have either yogurt or cottage cheese with raw fruits and vegetables, and for dinner she would have a meat and cooked vegetables (GoodHousekeeping, 1959).
“I don’t like fancy food at all. I much prefer an extremely simple meal that’s exquisitely done; a perfectly cooked steak, a beautiful salad, some raspberries.” Audrey
Simple and easy, just how I like it when I’m cooking at home! However, when I go out to eat… I love finding things that I would never take the time to make for myself!
As for her daily meal plan, I will be following this with some adjustments. I tend to prefer fried eggs, sunny side up, so that I can dip my toast, so I will most likely continue doing that on most days. However, I will hard-boil some eggs as well. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, but for you, Audrey, I will try a cup in the AM. With soy, almond, or coconut milk though, since I try to limit my dairy. For lunch, I will have yogurt or cottage cheese with fruits and vegetables. I’ve already started doing this, and it’s quite pleasant. I like the predictability and not wondering what I’m going to make for lunch. I’ve purchased various brands and flavours of yogurt, and have found some vegan options as well. As far as I know, there are no vegan cottage cheese options. For dinner, I will be replacing the meat with other sources of protein (although I might occasionally have fish).
“I have seen her resist the most tempting dessert to guard against one inch more on her extraordinary size eight,” friend Radie Harris
I have a confession to make. I am a fruit tarte addict. I love desserts. Love love love. However, I have been watching my processed sugar intake and will continue to guard myself against it this month (and moving forward). If Audrey can do it, so can I.
“Chocolate was my one true love as a child. It wouldn’t betray me. I’ve always said it was either chocolate or my nails in those years. There was a lot of anxiety.” Audrey
Audrey also loved chocolate, but she managed to discipline herself and have only one square a day. Personally, I’m addicted to my homemade dark chocolate peanut butter cups, and I’m going to limit myself to one a day as well. Oh this will be hard!
I think perhaps chocolate is my replacement for nail-biting as well. I think I only managed to stop shredding my nails in my mid-20’s. These days my nails are doing well, thanks to my ever-present nail-file, but those peanut butter cups go fast! Not this month, however! *sigh*
However, there is a glimmer of hope for me…
“Mr. Ferrer was a little fussy about food, but she ate everything and always wanted to experiment. For a tiny woman, she had an enormous appetite. I really doubt those bulimia or anorexia stories. She loved to eat, and they had all kinds of things with butter and cream. They liked chocolate soufflé, roast duck, rich things.” Florida Broadway, her chef for 2 years.
Apparently dessert wasn’t always off-limits. Big sigh of relief!
“I associate food with happy times, primarily because those times when I was unable to eat were so miserable. I guess in some convoluted way, I’m afraid if I eat when I’m sad, I’ll be feeding the sadness.” Audrey
I’ve also heard various things regarding alcohol consumption. Mel, above, mentioned only the occasional glass of wine. However it seems that later on, she did like some whiskey, as her friend John Isaac told me. And to quote from a recent Facebook post of his (got to show my sources, right?!):
I told them a story about how Audrey Hepburn and I used to have a swig from my whiskey flask while we were in Bangladesh. And one time I said to her that it is only 2 O’clock in the afternoon and should we have one for the road? She said to me, “I am sure it is 6.pm somewhere in the world” John Isaac
As I said, we’re being a bit picky-choosy here and following the healthy habits, so drinking and smoking are not on my to-do list!
Once a month, at least later in her life, Audrey would go on a detox. She would drink a gallon of water, and for meals eat yogurt with grated apples.
“She did it once a month, but usually to get over a jet lag, because you feel bloated after many hours sitting on a plane. … Like a lot of people, she was coming back from trips in Africa and was exhausted — this would help with that.” Luca Dotti
I’m going to pick a day to do my detox and do the same, with or without jetlag, although perhaps I will make it more routine to do an Audrey-style detox after my long flights.
So I think that about covers the diet part of this challenge! Stay tuned for Part 2…
For more references on her diet, please check out the websites below:
I was reading one of those Facebook posts about lessons to learn in life and had one of those moments where I started thinking about my 20-year-old self and what an adventure she had ahead of her. So much unknown road ahead. So then I decided that I wanted to kind of write a letter to that girl… I know she doesn’t exist anymore (or does she? What is time, anyway… maybe everything exists at once…) but other young girls do. Sure, you might not listen to some random 34-year-old, or even your 34-year-old sister, the way you’d listen to a 34-year-old-self who came back to impart wisdom. But hey. I feel like doing it, so I’m doing it. And then when I’m 50 I’ll write one to my 34 year old self, and when I’m 80 I’ll be time traveling and saying it in person… but for now, these are some things I would tell her.
It’s all your fault.
That’s right. Everything is your fault. You decided to move to _____, you decided to pursue _____ as a career, you decided to date _____. Everything you decide to do won’t turn out the way you’d like it to, unfortunately. And those things you didn’t want to do today, for example practice French or the guitar… well guess whose fault it is now when you’re not that good at it? Not somebody else’s. You decide what to prioritize, what to push yourself with, and every decision you make shapes your future. You decide how your time is spent.
But that’s the good thing, too. You decide. You have control. OK, not 100% control, but your decisions and your attitude determine a lot. When you succeed, it was most likely because you were ready for the opportunity, you took action to meet your goals, and you got out there and met the right people.
Get advice from people who know what they’re talking about, and follow that advice. Be wary of advice coming from people who haven’t achieved the goal you’re aiming for. But backing up to that other advice, also remember that what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. But try it anyway.
It’s not your fault.
Sometimes things are just out of your control. You can do your best and react to situations, but there are so many factors in an outcome. Don’t beat yourself up over it. All the “what ifs” in the world won’t change it. Learn from it and do better in the future, if you think doing something differently may change the outcome. If you know you did your best, then be OK with that. You can’t do better than your best. It’s not your fault if you get robbed, or assaulted – you didn’t make that happen, they did. Nobody asks to be robbed or assaulted. And if you were acting with good intentions, with kindness and love in any kind of relationship… you did your best, but sometimes when it comes to other people, it just won’t be enough.
Whenever you have honestly done your best… it’s not your fault if it doesn’t go as planned. You may not always have the facts, the knowledge, or the experience to make a choice other than what you made, and other people will also make decisions that will affect you but have more to do with them than with you. Do the best with what you have, where you are.
It’s not you, it’s me.
You control how you react to other people’s behaviour. Your thoughts are a product of how you choose to view the world and the people around you. They may trigger your insecurities, but with a little work you can learn to rise above it.
It’s not me, it’s you.
Everyone else has issues too. And they may take it out on you. They may not know what the hell they’re doing, just stumbling through life, and knocking you down on their way past. Whatever awful thing they do to you was not about you. Because remember, you’re doing your best, right?! And as you control how you react to others, they also control how they react to you – though they may not be aware of this and may simply be responding to their own insecurities and taking it out on you. Some people (well, most people, you included, at times) simply assume things and don’t bother to clarify, then make their decisions based on this poor judgement. Some people will steal, assuming that you’re rich. Some people will flake on you, assuming that you won’t be inconvenienced or let down. Some people won’t communicate with you, assuming you already know how they feel and that they know how you feel. These people have not done the self-work that I’m asking of you. They simply go along with the flow and behave like the rest of the herd, even if it’s not the kind and loving way to be human.
Not everyone tries their best. Or maybe that is their best, at this point in time. In either case, they’re in their own world. You can’t place the same expectations on them as you place on yourself. And if their best is not respectful, thoughtful, or understanding, then let them go on their merry way, because you deserve better. You need to surround yourself with amazing people. Some people may respond to a gentle wake-up call, but others will not, and you can’t control how anybody behaves. Try as you might to convince someone that they are dishonest, or manipulative, or _fill-in-the-blank_, nobody wants to think of themselves as a bad person, so they will never see what you see. And if they haven’t learned to be honest with themselves, they will find a way to defend their behaviour rather than….
Say you’re sorry.
Don’t be too proud to admit when you’re wrong or you’ve done the wrong thing. Remember when you were little, and you accidentally kicked a hole in Dad’s Chair? What did you decide to do? Yep, you went straight to Mom and confessed. You knew it was better than the alternative. Sure, there were other times where you knew you did something wrong and didn’t confess to it. And what about that time – oh wait, it happened after you were 20, should I tell you this? Well, since this is what you did then perhaps it was because I told you to now! If you should find yourself in a fragile state while in a collapsing relationship, and you get a little too close to another man… take responsibility for it. Tell your partner that you know you didn’t make the best decision you could have (even though who really makes good decisions when they’re having a breakdown?). Be honest without being mean. Apologizing isn’t only about being kind to another person. Apologizing is being aware of your shortcomings. And apologizing is taking your power back. Crazy angry people don’t expect you to agree with them. You want to de-escalate a situation? Be a bigger person and apologize (unless you really think you have no reason to, but maybe you can find something to apologize for that you can mean). That’s usually what they want, and then you can try to move forward.
If you’re trying to do your best, you know when you’ve fallen short. You know when you’ve messed up. So just admit it. Yes, there may be consequences. Deal with them. But always say you’re sorry.
(Also see It’s all your fault)
But don’t apologize for following your heart, for doing what you know is right. Don’t sell yourself short and apologize in any way for who you are. Don’t rely on the approval of others to define who you are. You’re not inferior. You’re human just like everyone else. Be confident in who you are and what you have to offer the world. Don’t apologize for your existence or your opinion…. you have the right to both.
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
You don’t live in a vacuum, or on an island… the internet can only take you so far. To meet your goals you need to meet and work with other people. Find those passionate, motivated people and collaborate. Make yourself useful, be of service, and widen your circle of friends and acquaintances. Work through your shyness and anxiety. It’ll be worth it.
Never rely on anybody.
Although you need to know people and have friends… never rely on other people too much. People are self-absorbed and people can be flaky. Yes, we have to put our faith in other people, we don’t really have a choice. We have to believe that they’ll show up for work, or do as they say, if they haven’t given us reason to doubt them… but also know that people can and will let you down. They may for example tell you they want you for their film, and that they’ll call you…. and they won’t. Learn to get their number as well as giving them yours. They still may not return your call, but at least you were proactive. They may, in a relationship, talk to you about the future and make you feel loved…. and then simply disappear. If you’ve determined that they haven’t been hit by a bus… you’ve just learned not to rely on that person. Always be able to pick up and continue when someone lets you down. You’ve done your best, told the truth, been reliable and just AWESOME, so keep moving on (and see It’s not me, it’s you). You may cry out “But you SAID _____, how could you do this??” but the truth is, people sometimes don’t know what the f@#k they’re saying or doing because they’re just too self-centered to think about other people. As long as they aren’t getting hurt, they don’t care if they hurt someone else. Wish it wasn’t so, but it is.
Parting words of advice
Some random advice I keep rolling around in my head that probably would have helped you out…
Have courage, and be kind. (Cinderella, 2015)
Be of service.
…. maybe I’ll add on more later, since there’s always more to learn. 🙂 Good luck out there.
Well , no new adventures to speak of, but I wanted to check in! I’m actually in Los Angeles at the moment (so, sort of an adventure, but not a new one for me…) and looking forward to an adventure with a girlfriend of mine next month… that is, if my cat doesn’t require me to return to France sooner. I hate having to leave my pets, but sometimes it has to be done. And once in a while, one or the other gets too depressed, gets sick, refuses to eat…. this time it’s my cat. And I do whatever I can, and the pet-sitter does whatever they can… but it doesn’t stop me from worrying. Life would certainly be easier without pets, but they are also one of the greatest sources of joy in my life (well. The cat. Dog has been irritating me more these days. I don’t enjoy cleaning up shredded tampons if I forget to close the bathroom door before I leave).
Anyway, I guess that’s the topic today. Stress. I don’t know that I’ve ever really dealt with it well. I was kind of a stressed out kid. Bit my nails a lot (never leave home without a nail file now!). In the past couple of years I discovered meditation, and in the past two years have gone from meditating like, once a month, to meditating nearly every day. From only 5 minutes, to 30 minutes a sitting. Even last summer, I couldn’t hold still for 20 minutes. My goal is at least an hour a day.
I realize as I’m writing this, that although I’m on a mission to de-stress my life… it’s more about learning to deal with the inevitable stress in a healthy way, rather than eliminating the situations that bring me stress. What I’ve been trying to do for years is drop things and people from my life that bring drama. Trying to find solutions for things that stress me out. Too many things in storage. Too many things at home. Finding reliable pet care (they are always with a different person every time I have to travel, most of the time in an unfamiliar environment). Uncertainty about income, about living arrangements, inability to plan too far into the future. I keep working through all of that, but it takes time. And even when some of these things get resolved (no longer dealing with a mobile home as of this year!), other things come up. I can make changes in life, but the unexpected will still happen. And I need to train myself to just deal with it. What happens, happens. Stress is optional.
I have some internal stress that I think is a little strange, though, too. In the past few years I have had less motivation to focus my energy on work that doesn’t seem to have a real impact on the world. I love acting, I love dancing and singing and would love to do more of it. However, I’ve wanted to do something of more importance. I’ve wanted to work on myself, to make myself a better person. I’ve wanted to explore and understand the world and other people. I’ve wanted to lead a healthier life, and leave the urban settings I’m most familiar with. I’ve wanted to find a way to truly help others on the deepest level possible. I’ve wanted to find more like-minded souls, and have felt a growing distance between me and those who have no interest in the spiritual realms. Some of those people were previously very close to me, and don’t understand where I’m at these days. It can make difficult relationships (at least for me), to not be able to discuss what is most important to me. To me, it seems that they don’t see the value in my time spent studying and figuring things out, or the time I spend meditating. To me, it seems they would rather me be doing something active, something they recognize as productive. And when I need time away, or feel the need to seek something without really being clear on what… I feel that they think I’m being frivolous. So I feel a lack of support, which causes some stress. I feel unsure if I can count on them to help me, since they don’t understand my path. So I feel the need to sooth their irritation while at the same time trying to move forward on my path. This can lead to some melt-downs on my end, sad to say.
My inner world is still a bit of a mess, I suppose. And I’ve been trying to deal with it from the outside-in, most of the time. Because we’re all more focused on the physical world and tangible results. There are still definitely days when I feel I have so much to do that I skip meditating altogether. Which is completely backwards, but it’s so hard to change the way you’re used to thinking. I know I wasn’t raised to think there was value in sitting with your eyes closed for lengthy periods of time.
But during a recent meditation session (actually, a guided one, not at home alone) I had one of my moments of “what can I do for the world?” and the answer that came to me was that this, meditating, was the best thing I could do for the world. Because it changes me, and then I affect those around me, like ripples in a pond. It may feel like I’m doing nothing, but I’m really doing some important work. And then the meditation leader spoke, and repeated precisely that thought. I almost laughed.
I often wonder how long it will take until I tame my brain. How long until I have a peaceful outer world reflecting a peaceful inner world. How long until I stop beating myself up over how I feel I fail others and fail myself. How long until I no longer feel like I’m searching, but have found. And what will it be like on the other side of suffering? Will I allow myself to even get there? Because I even feel guilt over feeling happiness and feeling satisfied with life, if I know that others are not. Sometimes I almost feel obliged to suffer (If that doesn’t make sense, picture that friend you have who perhaps owes you some money, but you see pictures of them on Facebook out enjoying drinks, smiling… surely you’ve had that thought of “hey, they told me they were broke and had no money, what are they doing out spending money having fun?” You expect them to be suffering). It’s a long, somewhat maddening journey… but I keep going.
Have I mentioned how the new Cinderella movie may be my favourite movie? I just watched it for a second time on a flight and love how it inspires me to “have courage and be kind.” Another little phrase I add for myself (and I’m not sure where I picked it up) is “give first.”
For some people this advice seems to be effortlessly easy to follow. Though of course, that’s only my perspective of it. These people who gave of themselves without asking anything in return, these patient people who would never take things personally and always forgive you for being an imperfect human.
I wonder about the psychology of it. Does it come from being a very secure person? Someone who knows their needs will be met, and in turn can help others get theirs met?
I feel like perhaps it’s something I struggle with because as one of four children, we always had to compete for attention and make sure someone took care of our needs. We had to be a little louder to express our individuality. I’ve had a tendency to be more self-focused in times when I’m stressed, have little money in the bank, and little attention to spare because it’s all wrapped up in trying to figure out life. But those things should be no excuse for not being present and aware of other people’s needs.
It can be fairly easy with strangers, even if they’re rude or obnoxious, to remind yourself that it’s not about you and to be kind to them anyway.
But it gets harder with people closer to you, for some reason. It’s harder not to take it personally when they are expressing their insecurities. I have a tendency to want to put them in their place! My ego pops up and I want to say, “I think you have a problem that needs to be addressed!” But every time I do that, it only puts them more on the defensive. You’d think I’d learn. It can also be hard because they know you as who you have been in the past. You have a certain relationship with them, a certain way of interacting that can be hard to step out of. You both play a role, and a change in your perception completely changes the relationship between the characters in this play. Sometimes it’s for the better, though! Most of the time, I hope.
It’s quite an exercise, to try and always be aware of the needs of those around you. To stop being focused on your own inner world all the time and see how you can reach out to others. Of course we need to care for ourselves, we can’t just quit work to go help all the old ladies cross the street all day (or you could). If you have dreams and goals, you don’t have to put them aside. It’s just being aware of what you can do, when opportunity presents itself.
But if we’re not careful about our motives, we can get stuck in a rut of “I do everything for everyone else, but nobody cares about me.” I mean that’s one way of looking at the situation (and I’ve looked at it that way before). But I think in some situations this ties together being kind to others, and also taking care of our own needs. For instance, you could think you’re always being kind to a person who takes it for granted, and let it fester inside you until you blow up at them, even though all they did was accept what you offered as though there were no strings attached. If you’re a couple, for example, you could get annoyed that your partner always leaves their towel on the floor or something. Maybe you’ve pointed it out in a teasing way, but not in a way that is a direct request. So if one day you go strangling them with a towel, they don’t know what your problem is. Or perhaps you find yourself seemingly doing most of the dishes. You may just do it because it needs done, doesn’t take much time, and not everything in life is split 50/50 unless that’s what you actually agree upon at some point. But if you let it start to bother you and think it’s not fair, then you’re just making a victim out of yourself by not speaking aloud an agreement with your co-dish-washer. And it’s another story all together if one of you has a hard time sticking to an agreement, but then again you both should be kind and also take care of yourselves, perhaps swapping one chore for another.
Or you could be the kind of person who keeps a running list of how you’ve been kind to others in your life, and have come to a point where you don’t make it pleasant for someone to accept a favour from you. Or you create a great long speech about all you do and how you can’t take on any more, instead of simply saying “it would be really hard for me to do that right now, I’m sorry.” You may martyr yourself, doing things for others but making them fully aware of how put out you are by it. Nobody needs the story of your life when asking a favour, they just need a yes or no.
But my point is that we need to watch ourselves and make sure that we are kind to others because we genuinely want to be – we want them to smile, to have an easier time – not because we want recognition. We all should be kind. It’s not that we’re going above and beyond when we’re being kind. We are all falling short of the mark, which is to be constantly aware of how we can be of service, and also to forgive others when we feel they have been unkind or have failed to be kind to us.
I feel like much of my life, somehow, has been about making sure my needs get met, making sure that, when hordes of background actors run for the pizza, there’s a piece for me too. But I’ve been in transition, becoming the person who gives the best piece of… whatever we’re eating…. to the other person. The person who can enjoy something even if it’s not quite what she was expecting. The person who observes rather than gets angry, and tries only ever to have a kind word to say. The person who doesn’t keep score, and who volunteers herself with grace and without resentment, never being a victim. Because when you’re kind for the sake of being kind, for the sake of loving everyone as people who need to be loved, you always win.
So… what’s a normal reaction to learning that your car window has been smashed, and your car most likely burglarized?
1. Shout expletives
3. Roll over in bed
In my +/- 14 years in L.A., I have never been burglarized, and my property has never been vandalized. OK, when I first moved here, my purse was stolen at a party. Bad first impression of L.A. And my car got hit within the first month of owning it, but since then, also no real damage done.
But this isn’t really the story of my car. I’m only talking about this because I’m actually a bit in awe of my emotional reaction to the situation. It was like watching a different person. And I really believe it was because of meditation and mindfulness. This is not a usual occurrence. I still have some emotions that get way out of whack, making me feel like the Hulk at times (aaaahhhhggggg, Hulk smash!!!) but I’m really thinking that eventually, that will be a thing of the past! Petty irritations be gone!
I’ve been just drenching myself in all sorts of reading material on how to get rid of stress and worry (check out Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living) and I think it’s beginning to set in. The meditation and prayer are definitely powerful when emotions are overwhelming me and I need to give up the need to try to control a situation. And I’m faster to frame things in a more positive light now, which is why when I overheard my neighbour talking to someone about a car…. realizing she was describing my car… having been broken into… I didn’t go into a panic. I closed my eyes again. Because really. It’s been done, right? I’m not going to stop someone in the action. Whatever I have to do is what I have to do, and surely it can wait 15 minutes. Unfortunately she woke me up knocking on my door (really couldn’t wait ’til I took the dog out or something?) so I walked down to see the damage.
The thing that bothered me most was that my Elsa cape appears to be missing. That is a frustrating loss because it meant I had to pay over $80 to order a new one to “rush” ship from China, and make a temporary cape for the meantime. The insurance company told me, “oh yeah, the window will cost more than $250,” which is my deductible… and I wasn’t pleased about that, but ya know…. There are things I can’t change and just have to accept. So I threw on my Keep Calm and Let It Go shirt (remember that?) greeted the police, and then headed out to the repair shop.
There, I had a rental car waiting for me (free, thank you Geico. Just $11 for insurance, which makes no sense, because Geico is insurance…) and one of the guys told me that if they could, they would knock down the price if there was minor cosmetic damage. I enjoyed my Dodge very much for a few hours, before returning for my car, and a bill of…. $50.
There were some positive side-effects to this whole thing. I spent a minute talking to my neighbour, who is so loud sometimes I feel like she’s in the room with me. And I feel like we have more compassion on people if we know them better. Sometimes. I did hint that the walls and windows were very thin…. lol. Couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I also realized that maybe my love of taking photos of details could be put to good use. I’ve had a slow introduction to Instagram and finally decided that maybe I can share photos of small details, especially in “bad” situations, to encourage myself and others to slow down, to pay attention, and to see the beauty in everything.
I like taking pictures, but never really knew how to share them, or what would make them worth sharing. Now I have an idea. I’m sure I’m not alone in it, but I do have my own life and circumstances that will influence my photos. If you haven’t caught it yet, my Instagram feed is rigged up to a page on this website (look up at the menu bar). So please follow me if you’re interested! Let’s hope that terrible, inconveniencing, expensive accidents don’t come along too often, of course. But when they do…. I feel like every day I’m a little more prepared to deal with them. And it makes me so happy I want to squeeze someone!! I thought my mind would just always and forever be clinging to things, whining and upset, but it’s not true!
I thought I would probably always feel these things, and only learn how to control my reaction. But waking up and dealing with my car on Monday showed me that no, the feelings can actually be absent, too. I really can be cheerful, maybe even happy, when outward circumstances would make the average person boil over. It’s awesome. Give me more of that. I’m liking where life is going.
I love learning, I love “self-help” books, quotes from wise people, and try to appreciate it when I learn a hard lesson in life. But I feel like I’m growing so slowly! I look back on my life and think “remember that situation? If I knew then what I know now, I would have been able to deal with it much better.” But I suppose we all grow at our own pace, determined by many factors in our early lives. I know lessons I might have been able to learn sooner (remember my last post? I knew the book The Power of Now existed, way back in 2005. I even thought, “I should read it, so I know what on earth this girl’s character is talking about in this scene.” But did I?) but for some reason they came later. Sometimes I wonder if we pass up chances to learn and grow that we won’t get again. Or if we get a second, third, or fourth chance. If God puts something or someone in our path because we need it, but we say, “no, I’m not ready for that” or “I don’t want that,” and we lose out on this experience that would have shot us forward in our growth. I don’t have the answer to that one. I suppose the answer would be that even if it were true, you can’t change the past, so just keep moving!
Anyway, the lesson I’m struggling with these days is that you need to give to receive. For instance…
I want better friends! Well, it means I have to be a better friend.
I want more financial security! Well, I need to give, believing that God’s supply is infinite and I do not live in lack.
Basically… it can feel like I have to give what I don’t have. Give friendship to get friendship. Give money to get money.
But I get it. I do get it. It’s presenting an attitude of love and abundance, which draws more of the same to you. It’s not living in your head, for yourself, always thinking about what you lack, what you want, but focusing on others and how you can improve their world. In the process, yours improves as well.
Some prayer/faith/energy healers say that sometimes when they let God flow through them to heal other people, their own ailments are cured in the process. How could they not be, when love is flowing through you?
One of my favourite poems is one by Saint Francis of Assisi. I try to keep it memorized to recite to myself sometimes, because I think it’s the perfect reminder of how to move through life.
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
I can tell I’m not yet at the highest version of myself, because I can still get quite butt-hurt when I give and give and give and give and then get taken advantage of, or ignored, or hurt in some way. I know my time is finite, and I must be wise in who I give it to, but I also need to learn that I give because of who I am, not because of who the other person is (other than another child of God) or how they will “repay” me. But then that also gets confusing if you do have sort of self-centered motives behind it, such as “be a friend to make a friend.” So my mind runs in circles trying to sort out how I should behave and think.
And when I think of the advice to rely on God, and give of what I have to others who have less, because He’ll take care of me… I think, well, I’m already awfully close to the edge, it’s a pretty big leap of faith to give money when I’m in debt and have no savings… how do I really know You’re going to take care of me? I have to take the leap before I see the net. It’s very hard to let go. It’s hard not to worry about tomorrow, though I know it does no good. Plan, but don’t worry.
One thing I’ve learned recently is that when my mind is troubled, when I’m stuck on a particular worry, to meditate. To pray. To medi-pray. When worrisome thoughts are crowding themselves into my head and I find it hard to breath, I sit down and close my eyes. I pick a phrase appropriate to my situation and repeat it either out loud or in my head. I give thanks to God for everything I have in this moment, and give thanks again that He will deal with this situation. I know that by worrying, I’m not being productive at all. But by radiating love and gratefulness and saying, “Lord, I give this to you, because I can’t control it,” I find myself relaxing and refocusing. Sometimes I nearly laugh at myself. I could start a meditation sit sobbing my eyes out but by the end… I’m cool.
It’s really saved my sanity, and I believe is moving me forward to being the person I want to be. The person I know I am, underneath all the grim I’ve gathered on the first part of my journey.
So I guess I’ve covered two lessons in this post. Give what you want to receive (even if it feels like passing around the cake before you cut it), and don’t worry. I think these are the big lessons in my life these days. And I’m really excited for the day when I’ve finally, really learned them. What big lessons are you learning at the moment?