Sunday, November 8, 2015

Paris Windows and the Liminality of Retirement

I loved the graphic patterns in neutral colours in this fall window in Bordeaux
Oh my goodness! I've been home over two weeks now, and my post-travel thoughts on transition are at grave risk of being stale-dated. Still, having put so many early morning hours into trying to sort my ideas, I'm going to post anyway. Perhaps you'll notice that I've sweetened the pot with windows from Paris and Bordeaux. . ,

Notice the short slim pant leg, the open-front coat. (although yes, wide-leg pants also in abundance)
On that far-too-long-ago post promising I'd develop my response to the discombobulating contemporary phenomenon of being There one morning and Right Back Here that afternoon--There and Here being an ocean and a continent and a culture and a language apart-- Annie commented that she looked forward to what I had to say about liminality.  Her word is actually more apt than mine: "transition," moving from one state to another, seems to me to emphasize the terminus of the movement; it has what my academic self might once have called an eschatological thrust. It implies the certainty of getting wherever you're going.

If you can peer past the reflected buildings, you might be able to see that these wide-leg pants are just below knee-length.
 Clearly, my perspective two weeks ago, peering out the window seat on a flight from Paris, certainly expecting to arrive in Vancouver, was a perspective of transition. But while I've clearly arrived back home, made the transition from there to here, the transition has made me aware of a much broader liminality that I experience.  The threshholds-- "limina" in Latin -- that gave us this word are more keenly perceived in my retirement, but I'm increasingly aware of occupying and having occupied an in-between space in several areas of my life. And I'm not sure which doorways I want to push through and which ones to walk away from. How long can I pause on the doorsills? Will some lock automatically behind me, or can I go back and forth between, not choosing to stay on one side or the other?

Again, the open-front coat. . . This wouldn't get much play in my climate, but it's a smart look for a few weeks. . . .
The word has been used, throughout its etymological history, to signal a middle part of a ritual, in a transition that one was expected to complete, the same eschatological thrust I've wanted to avoid. Right now, I prefer to think of liminality as a state one might even choose to stay in, exploiting the riches of various cultures, experiences, places, even though the state is also inevitably accompanied by an occasional sense of alienation. This is closer to the meaning of the word when I was first exposed to it in Critical Theory classes in the early 90s, back in school as what we politely call a "mature student."

Textures and neutral on neutral was something I saw over and over -- and loved!
And then in grad school through the 90s, so many conferences in the Humanities focused on Border Theory, an inevitable extension or complication of earlier decades' sorting of "identity politics." The focus was on subjectivity/identity at various intersections or borders -- gender, race, sexuality, class, being prime among those. Stripped of academese, the primary concept might be understood by considering a First Nations (indigenous, American Indian, aboriginal, if you're not Canadian) female lab technician married to a white man who works at the local car wash and considering how she might experience/express/perform her identity differently than if her partner were a female Asian physician. The politically useful 60s-70s identification with her First Nations peers gets entirely complicated by other allegiances or identifications she might have -- with lesbians of the First World, for example, or with union workers of various races or with university alumnae from her Alma Mater.

Less politically, perhaps, most of us move regularly across identity-constructing borders: we chair our departments then pick up kids on the way home to eat a dinner our husband has made before heading to book club -- Professional, Mother, Wife, Friend. We argue vehemently with a friend over an upcoming election -- Friend, Political Partisan. We try to explain to a friend what we still find compelling about religious attendance despite our intellectual reservations. . . and so on. And so on.

Again, limited visibility, I know, but it's the play with neutrals that intrigued me, the stripes and plaids and wovens . . . 
Some of us, it seems to me, cross these borders with fewer difficulties than others. They find little strain in being consistently themselves, comfortably different than others, in whichever environment they move to. I'm not one of those people. . . Oh, as I've been saying, I cross the borders often, or at least straddle them. But I regularly feel more like the narrator of Karl Knausgaard's A Man in Love who says, in the context of getting together with two friends, "I liked both of them . . . but my life had always been like this, there were heavy bulkheads between the various parts, and I behaved in such different ways with each of them that I felt caught when they came together and I couldn't behave in one way or the other, but had to keep mixing the styles, in other words behave oddly or keep my mouth shut. I liked Espen a lot precisely because he was Espen, and Geir a lot precisely because he was Geir, and this character trait of mine, actually pleasantness, at least in my eyes, always brought with it a sense of hypocrisy" (297).

And perhaps this is where I can finally explain the relevance of these photos of Paris and Bordeaux shop windows, full of the latest fall fashions. I've been catching a glint of guilt in my eyes as I turn quickly away from the mirror, catch it in my eyes in the odd selfie, those awkward WhatIWore shots. Or not guilt so much as an awareness of something like hypocrisy. No, even more subtle than that. Something much more, well, liminal, more fleeting even, than either of those words suggest.
What's going on is that part of me has been ogling these windows and desiring their array of clothing and accessories and even buying a sweater here and a pair of boots there. . .

More play with neutrals via layering and mixture of fabric weight and texture. . . 
But the other part of me, even before I retired, even before I left to visit France and Italy, was becoming impatient with a constant demand for variety and renewal. I was delete-clicking away a daily myriad of fashion retail offers. And as much as I was cranky by our last week away with the limitations of my carry-on wardrobe, overall I found it a relief to be freed of too much choice. Since I've been home, in fact, I've added two pairs of jeans into the mix and another sweatshirt and sweater, but I'm surprisingly unmotivated to pick up the . . . hmm, I'm hesitating here, because the word that keeps popping up is "burden." And I think that would be an exaggeration, and I know that I enjoy dressing up much more than that would apply. But it's the word my subconscious is throwing me.

Not that there was no colour . . . this burgundy kept showing up . . . 
I offer up these Bordeaux and Paris windows, then, not only to lighten up a potentially precious, if not turgid, theorizing of where I'm at these days (In other words, to ward off the "OMG, but she's over-thinking!" response, and slow your fingers from scrolling right through or, worse, clicking right away). I hope they do that, but I'm also including them here as an excuse to talk about how my relationship to my clothes is shifting, or has shifted. Some of you will suggest, even insist, that this is most obviously a consequence of retirement, and I would have to agree that this is surely part of it; I can no longer justify purchases as linked to my professional appearance (and that was probably always a spurious justification anyway).

The richness of a simple palette rendered in different fabrics. . . 
But I think it's also a reflection of Age. Which, of course, is connected to Retirement, but which, I think, might also be exerting an influence all its own. I think that Retirement and the opportunity to Travel a bit more, to slow down, has helped me remember some things I've learned through living all these decades. And some of that wisdom, if it might be considered such, is gently, but increasingly, insisting that as important as presentation and appearance certainly are, and as creative and entertaining as developing them can be, there are so many other deserving aspects of life to focus on. If age dispenses any wisdom, surely it suggests that Retail Therapy is a therapy of last resort. Might we not have a role to play in modeling less Consumerism? Could we not put as much emphasis on our appreciation of the surprising joys and strengths of Delayed Gratification?
Again, neutrals don't have to be boring! These shapes are expressive in any colour. . . less agressive in rich tones of browns and greys.
And no, of course an interest in Fashion and Style doesn't preclude an involvement with other creative and intellectual endeavours; rather, they often overlap each other. Many of us juggle a love of clothes with political activism or with a commitment to any number of social causes. But sometimes social media yields a different impression. And I know I've brought this up before, but I continue to wonder if we "women of a certain age" risk giving the impression that our primary interest is in gaining visibility as Still Stylish.
But just to reassure -- there was colour!

Oh yes! You could paint the town red if you were so inclined. . . 

The photos I share here are pretty clear evidence that I haven't foresworn an interest in Fashion, Style, and What I Wore. But the Travel gave me a liminal space to hang out in, a space where the Desire to Acquire was easier to ignore. Having returned home, I'm not so keen to get pulled back into the temptations of Variety and Novelty.  I continue to delete the offers that pile up in my emailbox from Shopbop and The Gap and JCrew and Banana Republic. So far, I've managed to stay out of the shops when we visit Vancouver (an achievement given that our apartment is only blocks from a main shopping area). I haven't dared set foot in the new Nordstrom's, after watching the building being renovated for almost two years now.

But I'm wondering now about the Liminality of blogging space. Where are the threshholds, the borders, of our cyber-space friendships? How much of my writing here can be for me while it's also for you, whichever You that might be?  So many of us who meet here have bonded over exchanges about clothes or shoes or whether to grey our hair. I'm quite certain I won't abandon these topics -- after all, I'm still getting dressed every day, and I suspect I will regularly want to post an outfit I particularly enjoyed wearing. I know I'm still checking in, regularly, with bloggers whose Sartorial Style is inspiring or who fold their thoughts on Style and Fashion into their reflections on either expressions of Style and/or Culture.

Or for a less aggressive, perhaps more sophisticated, dash of colour . . . 

 I'm also, however, clicking less regularly in the direction of those whose posts are increasingly larded with retail hot-links, although I understand or respect their reasons for doing so. At the very least, I find it awkward to comment sincerely on these posts, and my relationship begins to feel strained and hypocritical. And some days, I'm aware that these posts ramp up my Desire to Acquire every bit as much as the mailbox offers I've been assiduously deleting. The border between friendship (and some of these blogging relationships feel very much like IRL friendships) and spam is a confusing border, a border whose sometime thinness exerts an influence, right there, in my closet. . .

You should know, if you've had the patience to read this far down the page, that the last three or four paragraphs have had me stalled on this post for the last half week. Trying to round this essay off, to make a clear Transition to some sort of meaningful Lesson or Conclusion still eludes me. Instead, I'm going to have to extend and perhaps embrace the Liminality, to stand outside looking in. I think that's okay, actually. I think that Travel, especially over enough time or distance to truly disrupt, should demand and effect change. There should be a resultant discomfort as paradigms shift, even just a little. I hope you'll agree and be patient with my wittering and wondering and blathering and pondering. . . .

Comments are very welcome, as always, whether you want to agree or to argue, remonstrate or applaud, chide or chivy. . . .or simply to drool with me over one of the pieces in any of these windows.

79 comments:

  1. So much to chew on here, and process. I was having a conversation with Lisa at one point when we were hanging out at Tish's book signing, about how she and you and a few others are sort of paving the Retirement Way for many of us. Watching and reading as you all navigate these shifts is a good reminder that it's not a simple, linear emotional process. And maybe some of what hangs us up is that we expect "linear" when in reality the path may meander, or circle back, or sometimes seem to dissolve completely.

    One of the things that was so encouraging, and Lisa mentioned this in a recent post, was how many women we met were talking about "what's next," were looking forward to the next phase, the next project with real enthusiasm. I think I would feel lost without that sense of "what's next" but that's probably a very real issue to grapple with after retirement, even if it's a "to" rather than "from" impetus.

    And with regard to clothes and style, it seems to me that part of the process now is to figure out how to shut down that constant desire for "newness" for it's own sake and be comfortable with what we know works for us, while at the same time not shutting ourselves off from what is current, because I do think that's important for keeping our brains and outlook open.

    I'm looking forward to seeing others' responses to this. It's very timely!

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    1. I couldn't have hoped for a better first comment to this post, which I "Published" with considerable trepidation. It's true -- as much as my brain has long known that this wouldn't be linear, I think there's still a gut expectation of something like that. It's so odd not to have the solid walls of a work schedule on either side of my path. But I was prepared in many ways by bloggers who retired ahead of me, and I hope I give those who will follow me into this Happy State some indication of what to expect (even if it's just that expectations should be loose).
      And you're absolutely right about finding out how to turn down without shutting off the demand for novelty -- I want to continue looking as if I'm engaged with the contemporary society I live in. Thanks so much for your input.

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  2. I think one of the really nice things about the images and thoughts you are sharing here is that you are separating appreciation from acquisition. That in itself is a liminal space, and one that's quite possible to hang out in (and well worth doing so) rather than move quickly through. I like seeing what you noticed, and I can have all sorts of reactions ranging from "oh, textured neutrals, that's interesting" to "I'd like to try combining my striped shirt with something tweed" to "I'd like to buy a red dress like that." No pressure either way. Puts dressing in its proper place -- a creative endeavor, but not the most surpassing in importance.

    And yes, in case it isn't obvious, I share your discomfort with the constant offers and affiliate links. (Though there are some bloggers who use affiliate links in what I consider to be a thoughtful, value-added way.) I guess that's the flip side of the incredible richness and variety of clothing we have available to us, and how that enables self-expression through dressing to what I suspect is a much greater degree than in past eras.

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    1. Another really thoughtful and productive response -- thank you so much! (and why have I not been following your blog? That changes NOW! ;-)
      Yes! Appreciation and Acquisition, two different processes, and learning to keep some boundaries between them is so helpful -- and also a process. . .
      I also find that some bloggers use affiliate links considerately, usefully -- Sue, who comments above, is a stellar example.

      And "self-expression through dressing" - surely more than in past eras, at least extending through more economic strata. Generally, I think this is a good thing, although I sometimes think Visuality-Visibility takes on dangerous powers. . .
      Thanks so much for taking time to comment today, Sarah. I have high hopes for the conversation that may follow, with such rich initial responses.

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  3. Having just returned from a 6 week trip to Europe I, too am having difficulty readjusting. The incredible differences in culture, weather, people and life in general has hit hard this time. What next I keep saying to myself. The jet lag sleep deprivation isn't helping either. I miss my son and daughter in law dreadfully and know I won't see them for at least a year or maybe two. They are my family. I constantly read that retirement is what you make it. I'm in the throes of deciding whether to join my local art groups.

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    1. It's a bizarre effect of contemporary travel that we should be expected (or that we expect ourselves) to adjust so quickly to these differences. And then the separation from loved ones. Technology helps, yes, Facetime, etc., but I know how deeply that cuts, that being apart.
      I do think that retirement offers us so many rich possibilities, but for me, it's important to take my time before joining. The 6-week Watercolour Class is as much commitment beyond family as I want right now. But you've been retired longer, perhaps, and ready to take the plunge. ;-)

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  4. Yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes.

    Except that if content is thoughtful and enhances my aesthetics and knowledge I'll read, affiliate links or no.

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    1. OH, thank you! You guys are making me feel as if I might have been more coherent than I felt as I was flailing around trying to articulate something delicately enough while still sketching its contours.
      And I'm with you on not minding the affiliate links if the content is thoughtful and helpful/broadening.

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  5. This resonates with me... and the other commenters are spot on in their answers. Thank you all!

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    1. Thanks for taking time to comment, M-O. Isn't it a great community?!

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  6. How well your photos resonate with your text (and state of mind),basic on basic,but textures are rich and different,and colour pops now and then! The rivers and meanders,investigations,decisions.......To have or to be,old's Fromm's dilemma.
    I'm sure we can have our cake and eat it-how often I like something,oh it's beautiful,I like it,I like it,I want to have it.....and then do I have to have it or can I just admire for a moment ( long moment....for ever.....do I have van Gogh's canvas? Do I need it? Do I want to have it? No) and than let it go! I think I have to be responsible to world as well and stop making too much waste
    We can still have,be and choose a lot of things,I'm not talking only material this time! But not at the same time. The wisdom,experience,ability to make a choice-we earned it through all this years!
    And yes,it is much more behind The Look ( despite the media or peer pressure or self branding),but sometimes it helps,sometimes we enjoy it,sometimes we want to play......and sometimes we don't. And this is life and this is all good.
    I like clothes very much but I always want to make it accessories to the woman I am and want to be. One has to remember (think about,try....) who she is ( one is not deleted if retired) and after some wandering,to choose where and how to go. One may travel many roads ,only have to look after oneself and not to get lost. I exist in my eyes,I am not invisible for myself,this is beginning and it counts
    Perfect quote from Knaausgard!
    Dottoressa

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    1. A great analogy -- of course we can admire a painting in a museum without expecting to bring it home with us. We can admire clothes and accessories in a window the same way, even go inside the shop, try them on, see what they bring out in our appearance, but leave without them except that they've informed us somehow. The seductions are many and not always easy to resist or ignore. Sometimes they call us very close to the perilous rocks and we have to plug up our ears....ah, the metaphors abound, don't they? Mostly, yes, we have to know and remember who we are and remember that we can choose. . . (So many perfect quotations in Knausgaard, aren't there?)

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  7. Really enjoyed your piece- a first time reader in the UK I saw your comment on Alyson's that's not my age blog and wanted to read more. I'm still transitioning to a new life post "retirement" from a successful career in the health sector for 25 years. I have embarked on or rather returned to my first love and first not very successful career, acting. A very different world and one in which I feel I can finally dress as myself. It's taken nine months for the effects of the transition to really start to be felt but it's great. A much lower income automatically makes new clothes purchases really thought through but then I don't feel the need for that kind of relentless retail therapy any more! Good luck with your transition
    Maureen

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    1. Maureen, I'm so pleased you took the time to follow that comment on Alyson's blog and then took the trouble to add a comment here. Welcome! What an exciting career change you've made, opening up this Third Age in such a transformative way. I would imagine you find so much more freedom to express a side of yourself that's had to be long suppressed. Very cool!

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  8. I echo the earlier comment with "timely". Although I am not retired, I have just left my teaching life and am looking for a new job. This is harder than one might imagine since I have a long work history and a large skill set and trying to find the right employment is not always an easy match. So I am very liminal at present - almost Janus-like, one face forward, one face back. I also really understand the clothes aspect since I have been overhauling my wardrobe and, while not actually wanting to buy, am really enjoying looking. Hence watching Dior and Me on Netflix - the joy of beauty without the desperate urge to purchase. I think, overall, that is called maturity and goes hand-in-hand with your dislike of overt consumerism. It is a time to take some risks and see how far you go. After all - you are retired now. Dread, dread phrase...it implies sitting down beneath a motorised awning, having a chair that moves your legs for you, going on a terrible cruise, literally standing back. No way. On we go. The last third will have opportunities we could not dream of.

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    1. I like this: "the joy of beauty without the desperate urge to purchase." I'm still working on quelling my urges to buy, but I did find the recent travel shifted those quite a bit -- realizing that I could look quite decent with the contents of a carry-on, and then coming home to clothes that seem quite superfluous to my current needs yet seeing so many new possibilities for sartorial play . . .For now, I'm rather tempted to cover my ears and chant "I'm not listening, I'm not listening," like a sulky child, except that my hands would be over my eyes and the chant "I'm not looking" . . . ;-) Might look at Dior and I though . . .

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  9. "If age dispenses any wisdom, surely it suggests that Retail Therapy is a therapy of last resort. " One of your best sentences, ever, ma!
    I appreciate this post not only because echoes my own fatigue the cheerleading re consumption one finds in a number of blogs. Yes, we all need stuff, and sometimes we just plain (still) want the lift of a new bag or boot. But I don't give a hoot about visibility.

    As for the rest, as the Buddhists say, impermanence is the foundational situation. We are always shifting and changing. Retirement is hard for many persons because it signals proximity to the last phase of life. And our culture (not you, personally) will fight every sign of that inevitability, which is about as useful as buying an open coat in a Canadian winter.

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    1. This is so much of what I'm thinking about, really, is impermanence as foundational. And honestly, I think about death because. . . 62 (to turn a conjunctive adverb to its trendy current use, sorry to grammar purists)! Okay, it's not necessarily right around the corner, but it's not that far down the block. So by the time I get there, I'd like to think I've focused on the stuff that counts, which isn't my own visibility to the wide world. . . .

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  10. Yes, yes! There is so much in your post that resonates with me that I could not write a coherent response last night. Knausgaard's image of the bulkheads especially struck a chord with me. Sometimes I just have to be alone and unknown because navigating between the separate chambers is exhausting.
    Retail therapy has lost its charms but I find that those shopping links just keep coming.
    The dress that I glanced at chez Nordstrom continually appears in a sidebar. I am still
    interested in wardrobe but I don't need to think about it every day. I still enjoy a beautiful Paris window or a glossy decorating magazine but I am not moved to make an acquisition. I can live quite happily with one suitcase in somebody else's apartment.
    Liminality...I am looking for another adult to teach because I miss teaching. I don't miss
    staff meetings, report cards, Ministry imposed changes but I do miss shared reading, discussion, writing and language practise.
    This fall I started working with a therapist to determine which parts of my life I want to keep and which parts no longer work for me. Liminality will be my word for our next discussion.

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    1. It can be very exhausting, that navigation, can't it?
      I'm still susceptible to the charms of retail therapy, but they too often arrive with a dose of something like shame, an awareness that I didn't really need what I bought, especially given how many other needs are so obvious in the world. So I've been trying to avoid going into shops, although I suspect there will be some budget-busting moves coming one of these days.
      If we lived closer, I'd love to practise my French with your help. . .

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  11. Thank you.

    I returned home from three weeks in Europe on Saturday evening. Today is my first 'real' day of retirement (it is the day I would have returned to work). So, emotional, yes; largely positive but still intense. An analyst would have a heyday with my dreams (I do not know where I am at all. I woke up about 10 times last night and had to struggle to orient myself in my own bedroom. Hm. Analyst may be a waste of money here.).

    As I read your thoughtful post and the wise comments that followed, I thought of applying to the post-work life the guidelines my daughter and I use while travelling: mix planned and spontaneous activities, move at a pace that is comfortable to you, ensure you have some quiet time, and, most importantly, plans can usually be changed.

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    1. For me too, the reality of retirement is only hitting now, although I've been getting the pension cheques for a few months now. Term began without me in September, but we were away, and it's only now that I'm thinking of my colleagues in front of new classes only a few kilometres away. It is emotional. And yes, I wonder how much analysis would help -- I suspect we just have to get on with it, learn as we go. I love the guidelines you and your daughter have developed. Perfect for travel, perfect for life, really. (and you'll have to tell me more about your trip -- highlights? -- I thought after our last exchange that we should have tried to meet in that brief window in Paris -- another time)

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    2. A missed chance, but it is nice to think another opportunity may come!

      I am still thinking over the days of the trip and trying to digest the surfeit of every kind of wonderful thing we did/saw/heard/tasted/smelled. I did somehow, despite my vow to NOT BUY BOOKS, pick up My Brilliant Friend in the Rome airport. EF has once again said something that I found very thought-provoking and I will try to work it out and tell you about it (maybe on 'Reads', if the conversation goes there).

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  12. Thanks so much for this Frances. How do you do that??? Get inside my head and say what I've been thinking so much better than I could say it myself. Except for the critical theory discussion. I was not familiar with "border theory" even though I did several critical theory courses in the 90's to upgrade my teaching qualifications. I loved that bit. Reminded me of several colleagues who are still teaching and who I don't see often, and the wonderful conversations we had over a quick sandwich at lunch. That's the part of working I miss (well, one of the parts) those connections with people that you wouldn't necessarily be friends with but whom you like and from whom you can learn all kinds of cool stuff!

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    1. I've always loved that part of arbitrary networks like work or, once upon a time for me, mom-tot groups, or soccer-parents friendships -- "connections with people that you wouldn't necessarily be friends with but whom you like and from whom you can learn all kinds of cool stuff." Some of those friendships will survive my leap into retirement, but many will not. And that's okay, but I'm looking around to see how I'll discover the next potential network. . .

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  13. So much to process and yes a journey with many twists and turns, definitely not linear. While much of it is physical, visible, more I think is not. It may be a process of making visible who we are at this new threshold and we may not know - I definitely don't! As for hurrying up and deciding - IMHO that is exactly what we should not do as hard as it is to resist. I retired a little over 2 years ago and finally decided in this new, not old old space, I will explore. Some will be down paths I chose not to take previously and other explorations will be down paths I did not or could not see or maybe did not even exist then. I think, as hard as moving into retirement is for men - defined by the workplace, it is even more challenging for women on many more levels. One example is clothing - I try on lots, not because I need more clothes, heaven forbid, but it is more about who I am now and how or what do I want to make visible to the world. I look at things, think about buying but don't buy much any more. I have also avoided stores more as I move through this exploration. Some days I don't know what I am looking for and others I am very focused. Right now it is a journey and I cannot tell where I will end up. I know more about what I don't want than what I do want - a process of elimination? I retired knowing I could go anywhere, do anything and be any way in the world - an overwhelming number of choices so I started by elimination. I still have lots of work to do. My guiding mantra has been to make conscious choices. Your comments and others are very reassuring that I am on the right path and not alone. Thank you. Sue

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Sue.
      This seems to be a thread among many of the comments, the notion of trying on without needing to buy. For now, I'm not quite trusting myself to do that, but I know that it can be a very good approach. As you say, this is the time for exploring what paths or approaches work for us and which to eliminate or move away from. How fortunate we are to be able to hold "make conscious choices" as a "guiding mantra," to borrow your words.

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  14. I read your words without really paying much attention to the Parisian shop windows - so I'm not quite sure what that means? There's a lot to think about here, I am aware that my blog - and blogging - has changed since I started out over seven years ago. I do use affiliate links now, initially I felt very uncomfortable with this but I try not to overdo it and would prefer readers to visit for the content, no obligation to buy. Also, I read recently that Instagram has led to an increase in people buying new stuff for the sake of a selfie, which quite frankly revolts me.

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    1. I have to admit that the windows were primarily included to leaven what I worried might be Too Many Words, Too Much Thinking. . .
      And I wanted to make it clear that I'm still interested in the new and the lovely, but somehow holding back . . . I hate if I made you feel defensive at all about the links on your own blog. You (and Sue, above, and Lisa, and Duchesse) tread the fine line considerately, and I don't feel obliged to buy although I sometimes have to guard against Twinges of Wanting. There's a difference between the links used to illustrate principles, to provide examples of how to use a trend, and those posts that are obviously simply designed to showcase a particular product.
      What a sad, desperate use of Instagram, which has so much more potential than the Selfie. . .

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    2. Oh you didn't make me feel defensive, Frances - just trying to explain that there came a point when I had to make a decision about monetizing and being a bit more business-minded about blogging.

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    3. That's a relief, A. And I understand the decision and continue to visit your blog because there's so much value there.

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    4. I felt a rush of annoyance to read that that I "tread the fine line", because unlike others with whom you've grouped me, I accept no commission from vendors. I do not run advertising or accept merchandise in exchange for reviews. I have written a number of posts against the buy-and-display style of blogging and mindless or competitive consumption. And you can count one one hand the number of WIW posts I've published in eight years. If that is "treading a line", ma, I'd like to know what being forthright is.

      I am not denigrating others' approach but honestly, theirs is quite different from mine.

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    5. I understand the annoyance, Duchesse, because I've sloppily connected the (sponsored) links on other blogs with the retail links on yours (and, occasionally on mine as well) that are unsolicited and unsponsored. I'm very sorry for this. That is NOT a fine line being treaded, but a very clear distinction, I know that you've always been thoughtful about consumerism and the overly quick turnover of retail fashion and you're right that I should have been much more careful in my characterization.

      My only justification, besides the tendency to take less time editing responses than I do with a more carefully thought out initial post, is that whether the links are sponsored or not, whether any remuneration is received, they still tend to ramp up this Reader's Desire to Acquire. And that's really the issue I'm trying to sort at the moment. That said, that is my problem, obviously, and it's a situation I'm complicit in via my own WIW posts. In no way does it justify my looping you in here (in fact, I'm wondering if I initially meant to write Hostess rather than Duchesse!). I do hope you'll accept my apology.

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  15. So much to think about, so well expressed - and I strongly feel the need to rein myself in from free associating after each paragraph (I generally give in, though, which has its own rewards). As I age, I notice that my swings between Making an Effort and just finding something that fits and isn't noticeably dirty or damaged are becoming more frequent, but I'm not sure what particular influence makes me lean in one direction or another. I do know that after travel, I am more prone to dress thoughtfully and it is more fun; but at the same time, when I am deeply engaged in whatever might be my current preoccupation at home, I give less of a hang about what I put on my body. When my current preoccupation, however, becomes preparation for a special event (daughter's wedding), I find myself in the interesting position of caring hugely about how I will look then, particularly when actually trying on potential dresses, even as I fuss less about my immediate appearance. I am hoping that as the months pass, this whole thing will settle down and I will feel less schizoid about the ongoing and eternal issue of What to Wear. Your posts are a resource for thoughtful perspectives, and I value them greatly.

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    1. Interesting, Marsha, and thanks for commenting -- I think I might be swing-susceptible myself. . . and not always sure what the influences are, but sometimes I think I indulge myself in a wee bit of possibly misguided iconoclasm. . . . I'm sure your daughter is pleased you're caring hugely about what to wear to the wedding -- is there much longer to go? Have you got close to finding THE dress yet? (I've been lucky that our weddings have been relatively casual events, 2 of the 3 -- so far-- happening beach-side. . . )

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  16. "Too many words and too much thinking" harsh words, for this is the essence of what you do and from the comments you can see your ruminations are enjoyed and resonate with many. Ultimately I think the fear of invisibility plays a key part as we age and I don't mean this simply on a fashion level. I am interested in how you appear to disparage those who use instagram to showcase items to sell them. Not my thing but "a sad and desperate use" ? Do those who use it to post pictures of their cats, food, homes, families have the higher moral ground? Is someone with affiliate links to Nordstrom's somehow superior? Just curious. I avoid blogs that are trying covertly or overtly to sell me something as I always feel they are somewhat compromised. Just my opinion and each to his own . You make an interesting point about consumption. Much food for thought here and I like the photos a bit of light relief! Mary

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    1. Yes, well, Mary, I'm a harsh self-critic, what can I say? Thanks for speaking against my inner editor. . . ;-)
      I'm not disparaging "those who use instagram to showcase items to sell them." If you reread my comment in the context of That's Not My Age's comment, you'll see that what I'm finding "sad and desperate" is that some are apparently buying clothes simply for the purpose of enhancing their Instagram Selfies. Given the creative possibilities of Instagram, the arguably initial impetus of the platform in the desire to share creative photographs, this seems sad to me. No claims about moral ground being made. . .

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    2. Yes I saw that but arguably it's no more sad and desperate than someone creating vignettes of cosmetics on a toilet cistern or an allegedly pro ageing blogger who posts highly airbrushed images of herself having frequently deplored media unwillingness to accept and represent women of a certain age honestly. It's a fine and often blurred line. The culture of the selfie and indeed the question of how the internet allows us to invent ourselves is an interesting one ( perhaps a research project for my retirement). I'm tangenting a bit here . I suppose keeping it honest (while respecting people's right to share as much or as little as they like) is the issue, maintaining integrity if you like. Love that you always take the time to respond Mary

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    3. Mary, it's specifically the phenomenon Alyson refers to of Instagram apparently causing a spike in purchases. In other words, the drive to post their selfies is driving sales, is pushing consumerism. You're right, perhaps no more sad and desperate than any other form of keeping up with the Joneses at the cost of one's financial health, but I'm afraid it does seem sad to me given the potential of the platform. You don't need to agree with me.

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    4. Of course I know that and I don't. I see I left out the word "or" in my original comment should have read to showcase items or to sell. Enough said. We'll agree to differ on this one. Great interest in this post n'est pas? You must be thrilled M

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  17. I too did not really look at the Windows. Why not? I am interested and would have looked if I had been walking by. I was too taken by what you were talking about and essentially I am a person moved more by words than images. We are all just passing away. The task for me is to make the moment count, to still the call of analysis. It's hard. I am very proud of what my intellect has brought me, both in terms of professional life and of finding ways to manage my emotional life. But the task of now is somehow to think more lightly and experience more deeply. Forgive me if this makes very little sense.

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    1. Your opening sentences remind me that in my teens and twenties, I was impatient with magazines that had too many pictures. Words were always what I was interested in. Increasingly, images have moved into a dominanat role, but I'm finding myself wanting the complications of words . . .
      Yes, that's the truth, the one sure truth, "We are all just passing away." I'm not sure I would ever want to still the call of analysis, but I think I know what you are gesturing toward. Something about simply being present, which always seems much more plausible when I'm in Shavasana, listening to my yoga instructor's words....At the very least, I would like to get to Wanting what I Have. . . . thanks for commenting...

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  18. Great food for thought here. If a blog has something interesting to say, and has affiliate links I will still read it. I chose to start using them on my blog a short time ago when I decided it needed to pay for itself. I hate doing sponsored posts, so am now limiting myself to what I actually own or see that I like. It is a fine line. And yes, there is so much more to life than just what we look like.

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    1. I can see a number of good reasons for including affiliate links, and honestly, even doing sponsored posts I have to respect as someone's way of earning a potential living. But I need to guard against my own response to these posts, and to remember that as much as I obviously enjoy Social Media, it doesn't often represent real lives in their fullness. . . So many fine lines. . . ;-)

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    2. Many fine lines. It's not earning a living for me. Luckily I blog because I want to. It's having the blog cover its own expenses. Unfortunately I find social media is seldom "real lives in their fullness". I suppose that's why it's social media, and not lunch with dear friends. Hopefully I share my Image Consulting knowledge as I share links to what I like and own. If not, I've failed at my goal. .

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  19. Great post and lovely pictures! I'm a few years from retirement, I think, but I am definitely aware of my mortality in a way I wasn't before. I do spend time thinking about how I want to spend my finite time, energy and funds. That said, I may be alone in buying and wanting more when I am traveling to someplace I love, like France. I think buying clothes there feels like I'm bringing a little piece of the place back with me. It's a little easier to resist the familiar offerings at home. Sometimes, though, I just crave some variety and buy something even if I don't truly "need" it. But as long as I'm not wildlly spending, I don't want to get so set in my ways that I never experiment!

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    1. I know exactly what you mean about buying things in France. For me, there's not only an element of bringing back something of the place, of folding some French-ness into my daily life, but I also have a (foolish, irresponsible) sense of deserving because I'm on vacation. Or something like that. Unfortunately, I've noticed that some of the purchases made when traveling are not living up to their promise once home. Not surprising given that there's invariably something of the impulse buy about them. That said, I'm pretty happy with the boots I bought in Bordeaux this summer. . . like you, I'm trying to balance some restraint/resistance with a continued openness to at least some experimentation. . . Right now, I'm feeling that the restraint/resistance side is the side of the teeter-totter to hunker down on. . .

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  20. As someone who is thinking all too often about next steps and absolutely unable to make a decision I find your words from "the other side" gently reassuring. I'm usually able to make decisions, but, for some reason, the one on retirement isn't happening. I know I would miss my students terribly and be thrilled to be done with the bureaucracy. I keep hoping that one day the right thing will simply be there, but that's probably not true. So I try to spend time thinking what else I would like to do in the future, but that's not clear either....I agree that a key issue about dressing is not becoming invisible. I feel uncomfortable with a few blogs/sites where the clothing seems to almost be costumes (although I will stand up for the right of anyone to wear what they please), but I don't want the be the woman ignores anything new. I think I'm with all of you who are trying to find new and creative ways to be. It may not be comfortable right now, but it's not a bad place to be.
    Lynn

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    1. I resisted the decision for at least a year, Lynn. I was so sure I would work at least until 65, so much I liked about my job. But so much that wore me out as well and despite working to maintain fitness, I was tired far too often and inexplicably sad regularly. I was having to push too many of the things that mattered off to the side. And when I decided, bit by bit, in a series of steps, Even now, though, I wish I could have had the energy to continue, to keep doing the job but still do all the other stuff. . . I hope you'll figure out the right thing for you without too much of the agonizing I did. It's a big move, but I'm finding much richness on the other side of it.
      I'm ambivalent on the whole question of visibility (I think we might concentrate on Doing, Seeing, Listening and even on Being Heard as much as we do on Being Seen) but neither do I "want to be the woman who ignores anything new."
      And I agree with you that comfortable or not, we're not in such a bad place now/here. Thanks for commenting!

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    2. I'm afraid agonizing is in the cards both for me and my husband. We are experiencing the same kind of exhaustion that you did, but faculty are not being replaced at our university, and we already have so many gaps in our course offerings that it feels self-indulgent to consider retirement. Yet if I drag into the classroom and have no energy for the other important things in my life.....and I would like to play occasionally.....
      Lynn

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  21. Food for thought - we don't have that image in German, which is a pity, because it is so apt. It is for posts like this one that I keep coming back to your blog. These last two days I have been thinking about thresholds and choices and age ... I'd love to comment but right now, THERE IS NO TIME! I may be back in a couple of days. Keep a door open for me ;).

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    1. I'm leaving the door ajar, hope you get a chance to come in later, but I know those busy days! Thank you so much for taking time out of them just to let me know the conversation has engaged you -- much appreciated!

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  22. I read you, Une Femme, Hostess of the HB, Privilege, and Passage des Perles a couple of times a week. Brilliant, empathetic women asking themselves "Am I OK?" "Do I look OK?" "Am I doing the right thing?"... but how often do we come across a similar offering written by a man? Maybe I look in the wrong places, but I suspect that those questions are much less frequently asked by men, at least not publicly. It's something I mull over more frequently now that I'm retired and prone to musing.

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    1. Quite honestly, I don't get see Sue (Une Femme) or Lisa (Privilege) or K (Duchesse at Passage) asking themselves these questions -- at least not with the implications of insecurity that seem attached here -- although I acknowledge that I probably do this frequently. And I think that to consider the gender questions (and they're undeniably related) with sufficient rigour here is beyond my current energy and, really, interest. I've always mulled this kind of stuff over and I'm not going to change anytime soon. I'm lucky right now to have this venue for mulling with others, and to have the time for it in retirement. I know some men who do think about those questions, but I'd agree that there's not much public space for that right now, and honestly, not my deal this time 'round. . . Maybe it's only brilliant, empathetic women who are ready to do this now ;-) (please take that tongue-in-cheek comment with a huge grain of salt!!)
      Suggestion: I'm open, for now, to Anonymous comments, although many bloggers have chosen to close that option. But I'd love to see you leave a name at the end of your Anonymous comment -- just so that I, and my readers, can identify you consistently over time. . . See Anonymous Mary and Anonymous Sue above, as examples. Thanks for commenting.

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    2. @ Anonymous: I don't think I have ever asked readers if if I look OK. (I really don't care what anyone thinks except myself and my husband. Used to care that my clients thought I looked the part, but I'm retired now. )

      And yes- I do ask if I am doing the right thing, if my consumption is a proxy for some other need, and the eternal "how much is enough". I appreciate that you read all of us.

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  23. Did I hear my name;)?

    I'll admit to asking myself about okayness in general. In part because I've always liked to examine everything, in part specifically because I am writing a blog and I assume that others ask themselves questions too. I assume that if I find an answer it's useful, and if I don't it's reassuring for others to know they have company.

    And I'm very happy, always, to hear when someone reads regularly. If not, then the writings really would be something like solitary anxiety.

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    1. so glad you heard your name! ;-) As always, your articulation is helpful. Your response echoes something I never thought to say out loud here (hmmm, that's not quite right, the metaphysics of that metaphor, is it?!). . . I always told my students that they shouldn't hesitate to ask questions because, from my perspective at the lectern, whenever someone asked a question s/he was obviously hesitant about, I could see five or six other students nodding in relief that someone had asked. . . .
      And yes, isn't it great to know someone reads regularly (personally, I was tickled that Anon @ 12:13 (thank you!) included me in that group of "brilliant, empathetic women" -- you, Sue, Duchesse, Hostess and Me. Woot Woot!)

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    2. I am so honoured to be included in that group of amazing women! It's an interesting journey that we embark on when we sit to write, then edit, close the computer and come back again to edit and embellish our posts. Hitting the publish key is not always stress free. We are sharing our innermost selves with our readers and are often quite vulnerable to opposing views and backlash....I constantly ask myself questions, I evaluate, re-evaluate and learn.
      My focus on fashion has changed since retiring...I dress using mostly what I already have in my closet and have fun with accessories. I have not stopped replacing items that are tired and worn but my core wardrobe is compact, functional and based on classic styles.
      I will be setting foot in Nordstroms and shopping South Granville very soon! There quite possibly will be a few purchases! No apologies!
      Keep writing thought provoking posts mater...we are all reading with great enthusiasm.

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    3. It is an honour for us, isn't it?! And sometimes it's stressful as well . . . mostly, rewarding, which is why we keep doing it.
      My wardrobe needs culling, and I imagine that's going to happen organically as I adapt to my retirement lifestyle. I have some clear footsteps to follow thanks to you, Lisa, other bloggers who are blazing the trail. . . ;-)

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  24. You write such fascinating posts ...I always enjoy reading them and will often go back to the longer ones and reread. You have made me look at my life ...in a good way! to consider what I can do to enhance it.
    On that note ...I m so glad to have found your blog and a couple of others that I read regularly. I think the interaction between writers and those who leave comments can become like a welcome chat with friends who would otherwise never have met! Hope that makes sense!
    I hope you're having a lovely week
    Rosie

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    1. Thanks for the encouraging, kind feedback, Rosie. It's so gratifying to know that my writing connects with a reader out there.
      I absolutely agree about the interaction feeling like a chat. As if we're having tea or coffee together. And yes, I'm having a very good week -- hope you are as well!

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  25. Not only is your writing wonderful, but so is the writing of your readers, who are also thoughtful and eloquent. Reading is really an interaction between the reader the text and the poem, and so for me your post reminded me that we read a text based on our own experiences. It's so interesting how your post resonated so differently with each person who has commented. Many years ago in graduate school a friend expressed surprise that I loved McDonald's french fries. He said that given the meals he had enjoyed at our home, and the restaurants that we loved, that it was incongruous that I could enjoy fast food. I don't think that it needs to make sense. We are all complex and our interests and enjoyments reflect that complexity and as such change over time. I think that we need to give ourselves permission to follow our gut, and to really listen to what our minds and bodies tell us. To me your posts make it seem like you do that very well, and it only makes sense that you are taking the time to listen now. Thanks for being so open and honest about your thinking and your struggles. It's much appreciated.

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    1. So true, Laurie, and of course this is something I experienced so often in teaching novels, but you're right that it's even evident in the response to my post. Makes for such a rich conversation!
      I really like your example of the McDonald's fries -- Contradictions 'R' Us!
      I've tried to make a motto over the last few years of two words: Embrace Complexity. Efforts to simplify for clearer understanding too often seem to me to silence and to reduce. But it can be tough to resist this in a culture that wants always to rationalize. . . Thank you for adding so thoughtfully to the conversation -- which, of course, has become a much bigger "text" itself than I'd ever imagined. . .

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  26. Great post Frances. As retirement is starting to seem closer and closer for me (I keep saying it will happen in three years, but once 2016 hits, it will be two years away), I find myself thinking more and more about what and who is important in my life. I love your thoughts on the liminal and on borders. So often in life we cross a border without even realising we have done so. It's only in retrospect, we see that a small change can have profound reverberations. It's good to read your ruminations on the effect of all the changes you are going through. I think we need to get together to discuss Knausgaard soon! I am waiting impatiently for the English translation of the last two volumes.

    Brenda

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    1. Thanks, Brenda. It's a big border, the retirement itself, but I'm realizing there are others I've crossed in the process, often without even realising, as you say.
      I'll email you -- a Knausgaard lunch? (hmm, that might be depressing! ;-) I'm only just finishing Volume 2, but 3 came in the mail yesterday -- along with some serious competition, though....

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  27. Frances - what a fantastic post. Where to begin?! What I will say is that, as I was reading it, I was reminded about your former phase of sewing (which you've mentioned on a variety of occasions). I've wondered if you might take it up again with extra time (though I know how that evaporates) and a refreshed creative spirit. You know you can do it and it would allow you to be discerning and thoughtful about your relationship with fashion (which cannot end simply because the day job does!) Thoughts on that?

    Also, my blog, over the years has gone from being very fashion and clothing-focused to being focused on whatever I feel like. People continue to read. So just be yourself in your writing and I'm sure you will meet the needs of your readership.

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    1. I've thought about sewing again and I hope I'll get to that. I had my old Husqvarna tuned up a few years ago (actually, 5 or 6!!) thinking I'd start, and then haven't got it out once since then. . . And I'm not sure it would answer the whatever-it-is I'm feeling. . . which will either pass or morph or declare itself more clearly, I'm sure. . . and you're absolutely right, the relationship with fashion will continue beyond the day job, as my stopping in front of these Paris windows testifies.
      Thanks for the encouragement re the blog-writing. We do seem to have room to change focus (or ratio of that focus) to a surprising degree . . .

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  28. Life is unpredictable , thus retirement's equally unpredictable and no careful planning or good resolutions help . Perhaps that's true liminality ?

    Clothes-wise I belong to the I (Sort-Of) Will Not Disappear group of charcoal grey-clad women who wear bright scarves . A muffled "Here I am " , perhaps ?

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    1. So was the last sentence intended to be the clever pun it is? Or was that just serendipity?
      As for your first paragraph, absolutely, but I suppose that was true of my whole life and I definitely made plans for that, and then adjusted as needed....

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  29. You have kept me thinking about retirement, options, choices and the need for decisions all week. Still, I can't find the time to write down exactly what I'd like to say. But I came across a poem which expresses at least a part of what has been hauting me, so I give the floor to Robert Frost:
    The Road not Taken
    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveller, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth.

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    1. It's "haunting", of course.

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    2. Yes, it's a powerful poem for thinking about life choices. Of course, it insists that more than making the choice, it's the choice of taking the less traveled path that makes all the difference. there's a sonnet by Canadian poet Margaret Avison, The Swimmer's Moment, that I think continues the meditation in some way, a more complex and interesting way to me. It's easy to find online, if you'd like....

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  30. Becoming visible to yourself is the purpose of retirement.
    My credentials for stating this are that I retired at the age of 57 and I am now 75 years old. I married and had my family of four in my twenties. In my forties I developed a highly successful career with a software company and retired by choice.
    Retirement for me has been and still is my time to discover who I really am. For example my children have matured as they became adults but at the same time so did I, now they know me as I am today not just the Mom I was as they were growing up.
    I am still curious, continue to learn and grow but most importantly I am happy with who I am today.
    I am visible to me.

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    1. Oh my gosh, Jenny, I could have written those words myself. Thank you.

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    2. Well, I couldn't have written them, having no connection with software other than using a program or two, and never having been in business. But yes, I raised four children in my 20s, 30s, and 40s, and then went to grad school in my 40s, started an academic career in my 50s. I feel as if it's been a continuing process of being visible to myself, one that I hope to continue, rather than just embarking on it in retirement. I wonder if that's because the time in business doesn't allow as much self-discovery as the academic world. I would have thought it did, especially the creative work you were doing building a company. So cool to hear from a reader who has lived such a rich, full life, and is still excited about the possibilities at 75! We need models like you...thanks so much for joining the conversation!

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  31. Marvellous for me, coming so late to this - I have no idea how I missed it - and reading the whole conversation in one sitting. I have lots of thoughts but - apologies, this is a bit od a cop out - I think I need time to filter them before responding in any depth. The issue of visibility struck me most perhaps, and also the notion that we might arrive somewhere? Aren't we always becoming who we are? Always travelling toward what's next? Whether dressed for the occasion or not ;)

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    1. Isn't it a great conversation, Annie? I love it for itself and also as a great example of what a blogging community can be, even with all the proclamations that blogging is over. . .

      I agree with you that we are always becoming, always between, but I must say that I often feel that others are much more committed to "being" than to "becoming" -- or, at least, often it seems to me that others are more sure of who and what and where they are, while I often feel poised between. (Interesting, I just saw how positive that word "poised" could be, in that context -- quite a heartening perception, really!)
      The conversation continues, a bit, in case you're interested, in this post: http://materfamiliasknits.blogspot.com/2015/12/foggy-thoughts-from-margins.html

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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