This week’s list is one full of material items.
While I don’t exclude material things – objects and products and bits and baubles – from these lists, I don’t make a specific point to include them. I know deep down that I don’t value them as much as I value the intangible bits of life, and that it’s what they inspire or provoke in me that’s electric, not those material things themselves. So, if I naturally feel compelled to write about them, I do; if not, I try to avoid simply listing the material things that offer me comfort or intrigue or surface-level happiness.
But if I’m to do right by this blogging project I’ve embarked upon, and if I’m to be completely honest with you, then I should know that ignoring the real, actual, and (yes) often tangible breadth of my world and my gratitude does not a good “5 things electric” make.
Our hyper-visual, heavily branded culture cultivates and perpetuates our toxic relationships with the material, the commercial, and the artificial (none of which are mutually exclusive of the others). Resultantly, we all have our vices and we all have our emotional ties to possessions. My own are plentiful and varied.
But I don’t think all of our relationships with material things and with the commercial world are toxic, or at the very least, that uncomplicated, that black-and-white. So many of the literal things at my fingertips are inspirations for my writing or generators of critical thought, and they are useful to me not always for their intended purposes but for how they propel my thinking forward. Many of my material possessions provide me proof of one thing, questions about another, a memory here, an emotional trigger there. There are products in my life that are sources of relief, comfort, or sensual pleasure. Frankly, some of them are just plain enjoyable regardless of how brainwashed I was when I bought them. That’s reality.
The material things I am grateful for also often ground me. As someone whose brain functions on a torturous level of overdrive (the best therapist I ever worked with kindly dubbed it “the Maserati”), its wheels spinning furiously though piles of abstract, big picture thoughts, the material is a necessary and soothing source of grounding for me. When panic takes hold, my body craves what’s tangible and familiar – what it can physically hold onto. When I’m afraid to walk out into the world, social anxiety running high, my favorite shirt or my prettiest pair of boots makes all the difference in my self-confidence. That may sound silly, but it’s true and worth noting. I think it’s worth understanding, appreciating, and being grateful for those literal things – artificial, maybe, but no less real – that we relate to, that affect our experiences.
So here are this week’s things electric – all materials and objects and commercial products – and all things that I am unashamedly excited about or grateful for.
Speaking of that favorite shirt.
Do any of you identify distinct periods of your lives that are associated with the most-worn or most-loved clothing article you owned at that time? I absolutely do. The first piece of clothing I ever loved stems from one of my earliest memories at age 3. It was a white ruffled tank top with rainbow-colored, flower-shaped buttons down its front, paired with bright pink bicycle shorts. I remember third grade by another distinctive top – a swirly blue t-shirt with a glittery, bejeweled moon-and-stars motif on its front, paired with – again – matching swirly blue bicycle shorts. My weekend uniform for my first two years of high school was an oversized black hooded sweatshirt with a Good Charlotte logo across its front. Oh yes. My everyday uniform for my last two years of high school was a navy blue knit pea coat that I wore until the sleeves became tattered. For four summers in a row throughout college, I practically lived in a knee-length, olive green strapless dress that was far from flattering but all sorts of roomy and comfortable.
These days, my love for articles of clothing and the comfort and self-assuredness they provide is less obsessive and more tempered by practicality (I just don’t want to do laundry enough to wear the things I love every. single. day.). I also tend to treat them less like Velveteen Rabbits and more like keepsakes, gently hanging them in my closet and saving them for the days when I can keep them on the longest or I need their self-confidence boosts the most.
Currently, my favorite article of clothing is a red plaid flannel shirt that is as soft as a baby bunny’s inner ear, roomy but not oversized, and deliciously resistant to noticeable fabric pilling. Its material is the perfect weight and consistency – it’s not so thick that it’s boxy or unflattering, but not so thin that I’m cold wearing it (or unable to wear it multiple times before washing it, if you catch my drift). It’s trendy but classic. It suits my personality. When I put it on, the bright red color makes me smile, makes me excited. It is cheery and happy. I feel good in it! I really, really love it. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve worn it, but I can safely say that “a lot” would cover it.
Wearing it is like wearing a socially acceptable security blanket with sleeves stitched into it. Napping in it feels natural. Whoever invented the Snuggie must have owned, worn, or at least been inspired by a lot of extremely excellent flannel shirts. Either that, or good flannel shirts should really be cutting into the Snuggie market.
When I’m afraid to walk out into the world, this shirt does the trick for me. And I’m grateful for that.
Speaking of clothing.
I finally own a pair of fingerless gloves.
You know when you’ve been circling your exact need in a particular area for a long time, aware of the problem but not its fix, taking a stab at the solution here and there and never quite coming up with it? And then suddenly, you serendipitously come upon that glorious thing that ends your tiresome quest? You know that feeling of sweet relief?
That’s what it was like when I spied a pair – no, 2 pairs – of fingerless gloves on a rack in my local Marshall’s this past Thursday evening. Sweet relief.
I generally start wearing gloves – or wanting to wear them, anyway – when the temperature reaches anywhere below 55 degrees or so. I am sensitive to the cold to begin with, but chronic pain that affects my hands also means that going outside without a pair of gloves results in fingers with the appearance and rigidity of icicles.
However, I have never owned a pair of gloves in my adult life that I actually liked. Leather gloves have always been out of the question – they’re too expensive and not practical enough. Cheap cotton Target gloves always fall apart on me, and are way too porous to insulate well. Those gimmicky, overpriced “touch screen” gloves with the magic fingertips don’t work that well and make my hands look like Darth Vader’s. Chunky wool gloves render my hands so thick that simple gestures are difficult to produce. Mittens are cute, sure, but not that practical when you want to pick up anything. I’ve owned at least one pair of each of the above within the last 3 years, and each has left me either cold, paralyzed (either from said cold, or from their construction), or hyper-aware of my Darth Vader hands.
And then I saw those fingerless gloves.
What took me so long to realize this?! These are the perfect solution for the everyday person eager to prevent lockjaw of her hands and yet still carry out normal tasks outside of a heated building. The body of a well-constructed fingerless glove keeps the majority of the hand pretty warm, while the holes in the fingers allow a person to open doors, use pens, dial phone numbers, peel bananas, pull hairs out of the eyes, remove spinach from the teeth, apply potted lip balm to chapped lips, and effectively pinch companions. Sure, your fingertips get cold, but a good pair of fingerless gloves has an optional attached finger cover that folds over your digits to create a makeshift mitten for when your fingers aren’t immediately needed.
I was so excited by this discovery that I bought two pairs. It was Marshall’s, after all.
Here’s hoping that they stand the test of much colder weather once November’s temperature inevitably dips below the 50+ degrees its been so kindly hovering around here in New Jersey.
It’s always around my birthday when I start to get excited about Christmas. As you know, this stretch of the year, from October through December, is my very favorite time of year. Even when it starts to get cold, I feel like I’m wrapped in a blanket of sentimentality and security everywhere I go (when I’m not wigging out about something). Although I know that the annual premature post-Halloween onslaught of Christmas commercialism probably fuels my excitement in part, it’s not the primary source of it.
Most of my excitement still stems from my earliest memories of this time of year. The “holiday season” has always been a major event in my family, with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day being the grand fireworks finale after an already exciting lights show of fall birthdays, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. My parents have been hosting Christmas for our little family for my entire life. They get two trees every year, and every year we decorate them both. Walking into their house at any point in December is like walking into a pine garland forest. The number of Christmas traditions our family holds far outweighs the number we hold for the rest of the year. Some of my favorite memories of my parents come from Christmas.
Even though these days I can easily pick out the unhealthy aspects or dangerous sides of most things, the “holiday season” still seems impenetrable to my attempted negativity. My core memories of Christmas are my core memories of love, and of my family, and they’re too strong, it seems, to be squashed by what I know is the reality of commercialized Christmas.
So in a burst of predictable, premature excitement, I’ve spent the last few days browsing my online options for holiday greeting cards. This is the first year that Brian and I will be sending them out. Each year, we receive many, and each year I wish I had sent them out too. I know they are just tokens that most people end up throwing away, and I know that the act of buying and sending them is just an expensive declaration of cultural capital and social status. But I also know how happy it makes me to receive them, and how much I love to get real, touchable, mailed photographs of the people I love, and how heartwarming it is to string them up on the wall and see them every day.
I’m also just really excited to be at a point in my life where I can choose and send my own greeting cards, and excited to be all grown up and spreading holiday cheer of any variety in the over-the-top, joyous way my parents imbued in me.
A little less than two months ago, I invested in a new computer (a Macbook Pro) for the first time in eight years. I have yet to fully acknowledge in writing how much of a difference this had made in my life.
If you’re looking to really be wowed by your next technological investment, wait 8 years to take the plunge. Really. To further clarify, based on my own specific experience: if you’re looking to really, really appreciate the high speed and ability of an up-to-date computer, use outdated technology for 8 years before you make the switch. The shock value is unrivaled.
I feel like I am driving the Millennium Falcon to virtual work every day.
But in all seriousness: My day job is such that I work from home a lot of the time, and blogging is becoming a bigger and bigger part of my daily life. With personal and professional goals that hinge on my ability to both multitask with efficiency and also access the Internet, a good, speedy, powerful computer has become a necessity for me.
I am so grateful that I was able to upgrade my computer, that I did it, and that I now have the ability to do my work with greater efficiency so that I can get to the tasks I love the most – writing, blogging, sharing, and exercising my creative muscles.
In an abrupt departure from all of this appreciation for adult-y material things, this last thing electric is dedicated to my recent acquisition of a Minnie Mouse Pillow Pal.
Our wonderful friends Mike and Kim returned from Disney World last month within days of my catching a poorly-timed cold (which I’ve lamented at length in several posts from last month). On the day before my birthday, which coincided with the miserable height of my cold, they appeared at our apartment door with souvenirs. One such souvenir was a large red pillow, dotted with white polka dots, a plush Minnie Mouse head affixed to the top and complete with a large bow between her soft round ears. She quickly became affixed to me for the majority of my downtime that weekend, something warm to cuddle on pitifully. Since then, she has remained a semi-regular fixture on our chair by the window, always waiting patiently for those days when I just need to hold on to something.
My first ever toy was a rubber Minnie Mouse doll – Rubber Minnie – chosen for me by my parents when I was a few months old. Rubber Minnie is my Velveteen Rabbit. I took her everywhere, I slept with her every night, I clung to her when I cried, and I chewed/rubbed/licked/somehow removed most of the black paint from her squishy rubber nose. I adored her. Correction: I adore her. Even just 4 or 5 years ago, I still brought her on overnight trips. When I talk about her, I almost feel like I’m talking about a childhood friend. Rubber Minnie is the first possession that ever brought me comfort or solace. She is the first object that I ever used to ground myself in fits of panic or distress.
She still sleeps on the twin bed in my room at my parents’ house (and she came in handy during my messy move to our apartment a few years ago).
Pillow Pal Minnie is a far cry from Rubber Minnie; she is much bigger, much softer, and much cleaner, and much, much less loved on (though some of those comparisons are unfair, as she is also much younger). But she is still sweet, and more importantly, she is here, in the home I currently occupy, there to ground me if I need it.