Primark (or any other High Street store for that matter) might seem an unexpected mecca of healing but stick with me and let me explain…
2016 kicked our asses as a family . 2017 saw me wade through some pretty muddy waters and do some pretty hard emotional graft – making sense of myself, the universe and everything. That is not to say I have made sense of it all, probably all I have learnt for sure, is that there is no real making sense of anything – apart from the sense you give it. As in, the meaning you give something is the meaning that it has. What for one person might be completely meaningless occurrence or just a ‘coincidence’ is for someone else ‘a sign’ and the moment everything changes. Who is to say which way is right or to judge either person. If it shines a light in someone’s life and doesn’t hurt another then ‘so be it’ I say. We’re all seeking for meaning somewhere or other, be that on the terraces of your local football club, in the wilds of mother nature or in the aisles of a clothes shop.
I was coming to the end of bereavement counselling when I bravely confessed to my counsellor that I felt “OK” and that I didn’t really feel like I needed anymore sessions. This seemed like a big deal to me at the time, making a choice to move onwards and upwards on my own, without the outlet of another person to carry me felt slightly untethering. The truth is though, I had done tonnes of things beside counselling to get myself out of a pretty dark place in my life – journaling, yoga, meditation, you name it I’ve probably tried it this year. I luckily chose wholesome, healthy, healing pastimes rather than the self destructive / addictive ones that can be so alluring during times of intense emotional pain.
I spent a lot of time alone, possibly too much, but I craved it, peace, solitude and home. Escape is what I needed, so that’s what I did. I can see now that I created a little bubble bit by bit for myself, ignoring news, social media, fashion, music, current affairs even TV. It was exactly what my overwhelmed, overburdened brain and soul needed, but as time passed I have began to feel less and less ‘of this world’, out of step and out of touch with my peers and friends. So, unbeknownst to me, on a Sunday last September I embarked on my re-entry back into the world and began the final part of my healing journey. Completely unexpectedly – in Primark.
The last ten years of my life have been consumed increasingly by meeting the needs of other people. Beginning when I entered Motherhood with our first daughter, gathering speed with each subsequent child then then as though free-falling from the edge of a cliff at the arrival of our third child, the death of my father and the tragic and unexpected loss of our brother in law. This free-fall meant that any attention I paid to myself felt selfish, indulgent and basically immature and irresponsible. I found myself subconsciously thinking – ‘Who am I to spend this precious time thinking about myself/ spending money on myself or ‘having fun’ (‘eye roll’ ) when there is pain and suffering all around me? Surely I just had to get on with the ‘adulting’? There was just so much to do.
In trying to work out which way was up I grappled with the big issues in life and already a deep thinker it left me feeling that anything material was superficial and hollow and meant I was not aligned with the newly found spiritual part of myself. I read everything going and came across a fabulous book by the former Editor of Sunday Times Style Magazine, Ruby Warrington, aptly titled ‘Material Girl, Mystical World‘ – but I still didn’t feel it really applied to me. Surely all this soul searching must be serious stuff, right?
Having unburdened myself of a heavy load through counselling I had begun to feel lighter and lighter and was beginning to come back to myself. After an especially heavy session I left drained and exhausted and very, very sensitive for the next few days. This happened to coincide with a rare weekend away with friends, a weekend which very definitely pressed the ‘restore to factory settings’ button in the mood centres of my brain. The biggest part of which was been the healing I found amongst the rails of clothes in Primark.
My long suffering, fashion addict Bestie (@mealsbakesandbreaks is her insta handle) confessed her secret (not so secret really) dream of becoming a stylist, on the journey up in the car. So I decided to shuffle some pennies around and test out her skills. My appearance being something I had held very little interest in for quite some time, the top priorities for my clothes being (in order) that they :
b) were comfy
c) hid my baby bulge
d) were clean
e) matched or went together adequately so that I didn’t look like a completely crazy person.
I had no idea what would be ‘on trend’ and couldn’t tell you really what suited me or not. My lovely friend imparted her wisdom in a light and breezy way that flattered and boosted my bottomed out confidence and between us we heaved dungarees, tartan pinafores, floral skirts, sweatshirts, boots and dresses to the changing rooms. The two and a half hours spent there changed me. In an obvious, literal sense to the outside world – I had new clothes – but more on the inside than I would expect for just a shopping trip.
Firstly I was forced to look at myself, lots, and for a long time – something I hadn’t done in ages. I felt good, I felt stylish, trendy even and definitely not ‘Mumsy’ – no offence fellow Mums, but I think we all aspire to be Earth Mothers who dress like Kate Moss, don’t we? We left with 3 bags full of goodies that would transform my wardrobe, from basics to iconic ‘pieces’ – I know check me out – all for well, not very much money at all. And it means that each morning I spend a little bit of time thinking about me. What would I like to wear? How would I like to feel today? Questions you don’t need to ask yourself when you just reach for the mummy uniform of jeans and trainers. I even began styling my hair and painting my nails, with no where to go but the school run and the child-minders’.
As a stay at home mum I have no need for formal clothes and on odd occasions when I do work or actually leave the house in the evening I have had nothing to wear that is even vaguely appropriate. I hadn’t realised until now how boxed in that keeps me, the hurdle of going back to work or going out is made ever harder by the fact that I would have nothing to wear and would have to invest in a tonne of new clothes. Cue a headache and a decision that it’s easier to stay at home.
But now my clothes are making me think about a future when I might work again, and even what I might wear. I’m beginning to picture myself in my shirt dress drifting around an office / teaching a group of people / wafting fabulously around a school. Feeling good about how you look isn’t superficial I realise, it just depends on where it comes from. Whether what you look like reflects who you are or whether you are using the way you look as a status symbol or even worse a mask. Having fun with clothes feels like a nod to the outside world which says ‘I’m back’. I’m back in my own skin and out of my head and I’m feeling good enough on the inside to spend the time and effort on my outward appearance. My whole energy has changed. I am receiving compliments about my new wardrobe, and the way I look, which obviously fuels the positive feels and I am finally feeling ok at shining again, at attracting attention. I have so wanted to avoid the world that my wardrobe also became a way to pass unnoticed, almost a uniform, in part so that choosing what to wear wouldn’t add to the list of damn decisions to make that day.
So Fashionistas, I am joining the ranks, kind of, dipping my toes really, but am definitely adding my new mindful way of dressing to the tools in my spiritual belt. Each morning just taking a few minutes to think about ME, choosing what I want to wear based on how I want feel that day. My clothes have become symbolic to me of my intention for that day, so that each time I get a compliment or catch a glimpse of myself I pause, remember how it is I want to feel and I come back to that. So you see Primark, you healed me, along with a good friend you burst my little bubble and brought my mind, body and soul back in line, and for that I thank you.
*Other stores are obviously available and will be visited in the very near future ;-).