(Trying to do my best Delvene Delany. Look at this fabulous clocktower.)
It sounds small and ridiculous to mention. But I know that a whole host of readers will understand. Not just those with a form of Dysautonomia. But a whole host of people who live with chronic illnesses and disability that can make even the most commonplace tasks difficult. Time was getting dressed was just something that I did. I would dress for work, and for uni. I'd dress to take my kids to school or go to coffee. To potter in the garden and do housework. For most people it is an act with no thought. Maybe some irritation at having to dress in a certain way for work. Or a pain to get their hair dried and styled for work while multi-tasking making school lunches, looking for a misplaced shoe, feeding pets and making sure the iron is off. Pyjamas on weekends or on holidays were bliss. A treat to be savoured.
Recently I participated in Helen Edwards', from Recycled Interiors, 30 Days to a Happy Healthy Home challenge. When I say participated, I did bits and pieces that gave me the biggest bang for the buck, eg filled my home with flowers, and did the rest vicariously though the many fabulous photos people shared. But there was one day where the task was to stay in pjs all day. I looked at it and felt absolutely no connection to the task. I am in pjs most of the time. And their wearing didn't represent happiness. I read her piece on pyjama days and tried to pick where that simple act had moved from joy to chore. But there was no single event. Just a gradual movement. It snuck up when I wasn't looking. It was easy. And suddenly there I was. Miserable in pjs, not even good pjs, but sad comfortable flannelette that really should have been binned a long time ago.
In 2011 I was lucky enough to win a shopping spree with the lovely Phoebe from Lady Melbourne (more here). My request back then was to find pj alternatives. Fashionable comfort. I knew back then that I was slipping. And I needed a boost and Phoebe and the stylist delivered. I needed it back then and I need it now. Bad news, new problems and a perceptible decline have weighed me down. More than I want to admit. And the spiral down was beginning again.
I have written a lot about my love of fashion over the years (eg here, here, here, here, here, here, here). I've gone out of my way to find fashionable compression stockings and comfortable clothing. I applaud, Karolyn Gehrig's #HospitalGlam initiative. I even used fashion to raise funds for Dysautonomia research. There is a need to hold onto my old self who loved fashion, within the constraints of my health and my non-existent budget. But I get stuck at times.
When my body is hurting and my heart along with it, doing becomes difficult. My clothes tend to reflect my mood and my mood reflect my clothing. So I made a decision. I decided to get dressed. Not only get dressed, but take a photo to prove to myself that I did indeed get dressed. I'm not sure how many days I've done it now. In a sense the number doesn't matter. When I look through my Instagram I see photo after photo of me dressed. It reminds me that I achieved something. A small something but a something all the same. It's surprising what that does. It tells me I can. It tells me that I am still here. It tells me that I am living life. A changed life. But a life nontheless. I look at the pictures and there is a hint of the old me. A hint of what still exists under the layers of illness and exhaustion.
A friend asked me if it was worth the effort. And the simple answer is, yes. For me it is wholly worth the effort.
Will others agree? Some will and some wont. We all have to find what works for us. What is worthy of the effort. What it gives back.
For me getting dressed and remembering fashion is worth the effort. It helps my mood. It reminds me of me. There has been a joy in uncovering clothes I had forgotten. Clothes that have stories and hold memories. I have been a bargain hunter for years. $20 was always my magical figure and one I still use. The better the bargain the more satisfaction I felt. I don't pretend I have style. And I've never really followed trends. But it's not about that. It's an expression of me. And in the end it brings me joy.
(All frocked up and occasional places to go besides my laundry or house entryway.)
At a time when writing and 90% of other parts of my life are difficult it is a small act that is achievable and meaningful. For me it works.
Plus, I want to get back to a place where being in my pjs is a luxury, that I can enjoy.
If you want to follow along or join in, please do. You can find me on Instagram @michelle_roger (As it's sort of evolved organically I haven't really thought of a hashtag though I've been using #upanddressed as that's pretty much my achievement.)
Given I've just seen the David Bowie exhibit at ACMI this seems an appropriate musical accompaniment. Go along if you can it's fantastic.