damselcorsets.com

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

I approve!

Lark, on her first birthday, after thoroughly enjoying lemon cake!

When I'm at the fridge, gazing into the depths for the 15th time in the last 20 minutes, and STILL finding nothing to soothe my panic, it's really good for me to ask myself TWO things. I am sure you've all heard these before, but reminders are helpful:
-Am I actually hungry?
Yes? Okay, what texture, flavor, or experience am I actually hungry for?
No? Okay, then...
-What am I ACTUALLY hungry for? *sigh* This one always makes me cry. Usually, when I am aimlessly hungry and trying to fill a void, there is one HUGE MAIN thing that I'm hungry for, and that is some sweet, vulnerable, self approval. It literally fixes everything for me if I take a huge breath and take a space and time to say, "You are doing an awesome job. You are doing the best you can. You are a kind, loving, giving woman, and many people love you. "

If I'm not reasonable at all, and I'm in the red zone, panicking because I had strong emotional reactions, I might have to start at a place like, "Even though you're in the very middle of eating this, I am happy that you are so in touch with your emotions, Michelle. It's really good that you are soothing yourself because you love yourself". This helped me last night, when I was in the middle of a handful of salty peanuts. I just told myself that I was grateful that I was eating those peanuts, and they were really damn good, and you know what? My breathing slowed down, and I laughed a little bit, and didn't need to eat any more peanuts. I still gave myself the love and approval that I needed, and I was suddenly okay. 
It's crazy, because a lot of us make this into a job for someone else...maybe our spouse, or our best friend, or the people we work with. We need them to notice us and approve of us BEFORE we can "approve" of ourselves.
Trust me, there is TONS more power in the question of "Do I approve of what I'm doing? Does this make me, myself happy?" than there is in blindly stumbling around trying to get others to approve of you.
And, as with the many ironies in life, I have found that when I truly, deeply, lovingly approve of myself, then all that static.....that worry, that self-talk and never-shutting-up-loud-brain-chatter.....it just falls away. It's enough to love and approve of myself. I don't need the food. I don't need the love "out there". It was in me all along!!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Best Thing that's Ever Happened to Me!

Hello beautiful friends!

I'm going to gift you one of my coping mechanisms that I have had to use a whole hecking lot lately! Now, I want you to know that this is only for incredibly imaginative minds. It does take a lot of brain power.  Phew. Anyhow, here goes. 

THIS is the BEST thing that's EVER HAPPENED to ME!!!

Yup, that's it. No frills. That is my affirmation. I'll tell you when I first used it for rills. I had been reading a fantastically wonderful book called "Thank and Grow Rich" by Pam Grout. She is actually the one who recommends this strange exercise in her book. I read it and chuckled, because 90% of her suggestions sound absolutely bonkers until you sincerely try them in  your life, and then you humbly say "Oh, I'll be quiet now and let the magic work."  And, the reason she suggests this is because she is trying to get you to be grateful for things that other, mediocre, miserable people totally miss because they are so focused on what they are not grateful for. I think this exercise  is meant to BLAST your brain into gratitude mode.

Oh, yes. The first time I affirmed this. 

So, I was way out in my favorite place in this whole universe, the Oregon Coast. It's super easy to affirm that "It's the best thing that's ever happened to me." when I'm out in those misty, gray, rocky shores nestled next to forests and mountains. *sigh* This would have been two years ago, and I had just barely taken all of my inventory way out to the other end of the country and set it up at the Ohio Renaissance Festival. We had finished our first weekend, and I was so pleased and excited about my crew of girls out there working and representing my company. Life was good. 

Then, my booth manager called. It's funny, because we rehearsed this beforehand. I told her that if she had bad news for me, she  just needed to start off the call with, "Michelle....you are very beautiful." and then launch into the details of what had gone wrong. So, here we were. I was very beautiful.....BUT, 80 mph winds and torrential rains had ripped my tent down and the center pole was sticking out through a huge hole in the roof and one of the wall poles was bent into a U-shape and most of the corsets were on the ground and sopping wet. Holy night. 

And guys, I just need to let you know that this isn't some little EZ UP tent. I KNOW that festivals eat those for breakfast. This was a $4000 brand new tent that is the kind you see outside of car dealerships. It's meant to be a temporary, commercial grade structure for outdoor weather. And Ohio STILL ate it for breakfast!  Anyhow, right there, in that red hot moment, I still said to myself- "This is the best thing that's ever happened to me." I didn't feel it. I was actually really pissed off that the very notion.  BUT, it made my brain get to work. When you say something jarring like that, your brain automatically starts to ask "Why would this possibly be the best thing that's ever happened to me??" .


I calmed down really quickly. I thought, "Well, this is rehearsal for any calamity.  This is training for me to communicate better with my Ohio crew. This is good that it happened so early in the show, so that we can figure out a more secure option for the next 7 weekends. This is a WONDERFUL opportunity for me to just sit and be powerless in a situation and let other people step in and help me....which I hate....and it's good for me. And....now that I think about it, the corsets will dry, I am supported and loved, and there is no reason for me to NOT expect that this will all go wonderfully."

Literally, the next second, I got another call. We had EASILY found another company to come and set up a tent. They said that they would give it to us for $800 rental for the whole next 8 weeks (that is so cheap, I'm still blown away!! Holy heck. The last tent rental I did in another city was $2000 for one weekend. yeah.) They would be there to set it up that day, AND all of the wet corsets had been hung up in the branches of the tree next to us, so we had this amazingly colorful corset tree that my girls sent me a picture of!  It was all smoothed over and I went back to relaxing. 

That is the sheer, raw power of mindset.  That is the power of "This is the best thing that's ever happened to me."  I lovingly suggest that you try to use this the next time you are in the worst day of your life...or something's gone terribly wrong. Or....better yet, just breathe into it and, use it when you are having a wonderful, clear, happy day. Either way, the power of gratitude is unmatched in this universe, I'm convinced. And I'm grateful for that. It's the best thing that's ever happened to me. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Dis-Heart-ening

I have been digging around in my brain endeavoring to figure out why I still dislike Valentine's Day  after all these years, even though I'm happily married to a wonderful man. I'm guessing the origins lay dormant in my  high school years, where many other wretched programs in my brain have their roots.

For this one in particular, I'm thinking that it's Robert's fault. Yup. Robert. He was a couple years older than me, and exactly my type of guy. A loner. An outcast. Angular face with a light sprinkling of freckles to match his fiery red, spiky hair.  Let's see.......Writes dark, tortured soul poetry in his beat up notebooks. Check. Strange sense of fashion that included making necklaces out of electrical spare parts. Double-check. Safety pins holding together all of the purposeful rips in his jeans. Man. This guy didn't even have to TRY with me.

Anyhow, I somehow managed to make it known that I wanted to be the subject of some of his anguished poetry, and we "dated"  (in high school, it meant that I wrote him notes, agonized over him, and wrote his last name after my first name over and over again in fine cursive.) for maybe about 6 weeks, until he broke up with me around Valentine's Day.

He broke up with me because of my religion. Nice to know that religious persecution is still alive and well, eh? 

Anyhooo, it's a funny thing. So, I have let this awkward, flailing, kid have all of this dominion over my life for years. Every time Valetine's Day would roll around, I would roll my eyes and plainly express my disdain as I reveled in my non-conformity.  "Oh, puh-lease. This day is ridiculous. Putting red and pink together. Stupid hearts. Stupid bears. Stupid love."

And here I am at adulthood, and I've realized a few disheartening (hah! get the pun?) facts.
-Every girl, and I do mean EVERY GIRL, has a huge list of dramatic tales about how guys have betrayed them, slashed their hearts, said the exact wrong things, and forced them to feel like crap about themselves!  We have gotten onto this subject at work, and all of the gals who work for me have seemingly never-ending tales of woe.  Essentially, we've all been hurt. Join the club.

-Similarly, every single person I know has some cement reason for being annoyed with Valentine's Day. This also, doesn't make me special when I get annoyed with it.

Honestly...friends......I am done with sounding like a victim. That is no longer a story that I want to tell about my life. Some equally insecure teenager may have "broken my heart", but I am the one who has chosen to bring that story up repeatedly for years and years and relive the heartache. Sadly, I've "broken" my own heart by playing that scenario over and over again WAY MORE than the one single time that some guy did the original heart-breaking.  (You can learn to do a really helpful dialogue about this! There is a worksheet, and you can learn about it by reading Byron Katie's "Loving What Is". I will never stop pushing this book, because it's one of the most profound things I have ever used in my life!)

There's also the problem with perspective. You see, there are two sides to every story about a relationship. There are two narratives running, and each person thinks their story is reality. Who the heck is right? haha, you obviously? That's what I thought.

I have a wonderful, blessed life, here in my current space. I am so grateful that I had all of the relationships that I had through my life. They all taught me and shaped me, and I am better for it.  I love that there is yet another commercialized, bastardized holiday that has its own decorations, traditions, and emotions. I love that they put red and pink together. Thank you, Valentine's Day.

Love,
Michelle

Thursday, January 25, 2018

You're listening to JLSY 96.9 FM

I am getting better and better all the time and celebrating seemingly small and insignificant milestones in my life. The milestone for today is that I was finally able to stop being JEALOUS of a woman and able to start celebrating her and being happy for her accomplishments. 


It's funny. It sounds so dorky to me. Woot. Whistles and Clapping. I am not jealous!  *kazoo trill* But seriously, friends, if you had heard the radio station that my brain has spent much of it's time on, you would be blown away by this information. I am sad to say that I've spent a very goodly chunk of my life thinking snippy, unkind little thoughts like, "Oh, yeah. It would be EASY for me to be positive and do awesome things if I LOOKED like that or if I had that MONEY that person does!  I DON'T have those things! It's much harder for me! It's a struggle for someone like me, who doesn't have that stuff just EASILY come to them!!!" 

And you know, if it wasn't necessarily that, I would just be stuck in a place of wanting what another person has, resenting myself for not being better, and then shaming myself for feeling bad. Nice. It's just a hecking downward spiral of hog swill. 

I was blessed to read a book a few years ago that said something that struck me to my core! It was a book on "Emotional Freedom Tapping for Weight Loss" by Jessica Ortner, and she walks you though more careful, loving, deliberate self-talk that you use while you are gently tapping on meridian points on your body. It's all about reaching your subconscious, and reprogramming some of the crap you've lodged in there. Anyway, there was a big section of the book where she explained that you can't get to the body you want if you see that body as a threat and a danger.  Wait, what?  

She says that when you were maybe a teenager, and you and the people around you would view the "skinny, pretty, popular" girls at bitches, you were sending a message to your body that being that way is dangerous because then people like...um......YOURSELF would think you were a bitch. Holy crap, that is some trippy stuff. She said that when she was working with a lot of her clients, they had breakthroughs when they got to this point. They realized that they  had quite literally been telling their bodies that  it was not safe to be thin. Because they, themselves had shunned and belittled that very image.   Or, perhaps that image and idea had caused them a tremendous amount of emotional pain. Your body is always trying to protect you and keep you safe, and if you've been sending messages for years like that, no WONDER it would be confused!


It works really well with other aspects too. Just yesterday, my nanny mentioned someone that was "filthy rich" and I said, "My dear, I love you, but you must never say that phrase around me again."  She was confused, and said, "What phrase?"  I said, "You can call it 'clean rich'. You can call it 'blessed'.  Do not call it filthy. I don't want my brain to think I would have to be filthy and bad if I were to become rich."  She totally got it and thanked me. Perception change!

And so, after actual months and months of PRACTICE in my brain, I don't feel this little stab of jealousy when I see this woman on social media. I have been practicing phrases like, "Wow! Good job! You are a freaking rock star!  I KNEW you could do it!!"  and I have been saying them silently to her through the ether. I have also stopped talking about or making fun of celebrities. When people around me do it, I just stay silent. I  inwardly say, "I don't know that person, but I hope they have success and love themselves."  It's funny, because this has all been the hardest part. It is FUNNY to talk about how short, crazy, and egotistical Tom Cruise is, right? But, I've stood my ground. In my mind, I just say things like, "I love Tom Cruise. I love how handsome he is. I love so many of the movies he has made. I hope is has even more money, more success, and more thick-soled shoes." 

And truly, friends, this is such a better station to have playing in my brain. It makes me feel light and free, smiling and excited. The other station, "JLSY 96.9 FM"  made me feel gross about myself, yucky about the human race, and hopeless. I hope that you can all change the channel to a more loving one for you! 
 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Open up the Scary Container



Recently, I have been reconnecting with some parts of me that I have been shoving away and hiding in a dark corner. I am bringing a sense of joy back into how I dress myself.
For the last 2 and a half years, I have just been in this weird space. I could see tons of beauty in others, but honestly couldn't find it in myself very much. I stopped wearing fun accessories. I stopped wearing fun shoes. I just sort of stopped. I had that damn track playing in my brain that every woman seems to have a copy of. You know. That one that says, "Yeah, I WOULD dress differently if I just looked how I wanted to! If my body was what I wanted!!"
It's easy to encourage others to do this. I see all shapes, sizes, colors, and varieties of women, and I just glory in them. I feel a PERSONAL victory when I see someone ELSE dress in this way that obviously makes them feel good and feel powerful. I get all giddy for them.
Heck, that is what my whole entire livelihood is about! I help put women into clothing that makes them feel like themselves again!
But, yeah....being totally honest here, I haven't done it at all for myself. I had just been so disappointed in my body during pregnancy, after pregnancy, and through the labor process. It didn't go how I wanted. My healing was arduous. I didn't get to breastfeed. It goes on and on. I had been carrying that disappointment around with me like a lead weight, and it affected my life in lots larger of ways than I thought.
Through the last year or so, I have just hated packing my costumes to go to shows! I used to completely have my stuff together! I would bust out these amazing costumes and just be a powerhouse of awesome. I loved how I looked and felt when I was at my booth at renaissance festivals.
And this last year has just felt like one solid slump. I didn't look like "me". My costumes didn't bring me the normal joy. I didn't even bother with making myself new pieces. I just took my disappointment and shoved it down away, and I had fun dressing everyone else except myself.
EEk! Look how young my kids were in this picture!!  Goodness!!


I am only just BARELY opening up that container. You know....it's like the one that you put leftovers in and pushed to the back of the fridge. It's that one that you forgot about. It's that one that has started to stink, and you found the source of the stench, and now you are afraid to open it..
Sometimes I just throw away the container...but I suspect that I need to clean this one out and dump the putrid rotting grossness into the trash. I want to fill this one with goodness again, but now I am in the process of cleaning it.
I am starting small. The other day, I bought myself some rainboots that are in the shape of cowgirl boots and they have a loud paisley print. I have been pulling out pictures like this one below, where I KNOW that I felt more like me, and I have been remembering what it felt like to....feel like me. ;)
It is different for everyone, but I think that "feeling like me" involves adventure, a certain reckless abandonment of tradition, and a lot of colors from the appliances of the 1970s. It involves texture and color. It has nature, exploding with flowers and vines and life!! It involved an embarassing amount of leopard print.
What would feeling like "You" LOOK like? What gives you life? What makes you excited? What makes you feel aligned and centered? I know you can find it. I know I can find it.
I am starting today. I am opening that container back up.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Delicate Tuba Player

I would just like to say a few things about goals and to-do lists here. 

I've always avoided this type of thing. I would make a list of things I wanted to accomplish. I would get about 2 out of 37 of them checked off. I would feel like a failure. I would tell myself, "Michelle, you shouldn't even try to make lists. You are jinxing yourself and calling in the powers of the universe to thwart you every time you make a list of what you want to do!"  I actually felt like I was cursing myself more than helping myself. 

It was the same thing with goals. I would sit down and write these lofty things that I dreamed of coming true! I would imagine them, envision them, anticipate them, FEEL them being true, just like all the self-help books I had read. And.....wah, wah. The goals wouldn't even begin to come to fruition. More disappointment. More "accepting" of the "way the world works." 


And yet, I can't stop. None of us can ever stop. We actually cannot say "I'm good where I am" and remain, as much as we want to. Even if we perceive any changes in ourselves, the world changes around us, and then we have to adapt. We don't ever get to stay. 

It occurred to me that goals might be sort of like when I decided to play the tuba my senior year of high school. 

I think I've told this story before, but it bears repeating. So, I played bass clarinet in marching band all through high school, until my very last year, when I wanted a challenge! I decided that I would like to play a new instrument, and when I thought of what would be the most beneficial, I had this glorious revelation! If I played something HUGE  and cumbersome, like the tuba, I would look "dainty" and "slight"  next to it. I had always been concerned that my weight had kept boys from being attracted to me, especially compared  next to my beautiful half Native American friend who was about 4 inches taller and 50 pounds lighter. I was always just grasping frantically at what I could do to make myself stand out next to her, when I felt so chubby and average.

I love my younger self for hatching this plan. It's still funny to me that I honestly imagined that playing a tuba would make me sexy. I think that might be an oxymoron. ;) Yet, I remember being a teenager and laying there in bed at night before competitions, imagining myself proudly gliding around the football field in my formations, while scores of handsome, intelligent, witty, cultured, almost-men sat in the stands with their jaws slack and their attention riveted on how RADIANT that gorgeous tuba player was!!! Wow.....next to that huge spit-valve clogged tuba.....that girl just looks soo.....skinny!!  (and I think it goes without saying that my pubescent, Jane Austen fueled fantasies also featured these men in breeches and coat-tails, clapping their hands and exclaiming "Capital! Capital!" in roguish British accents!)

*sigh* Do you guys see why I build corsets for a living? 
Ah, here we are. Photographic evidence. See? I told you. 

Well, friends. I can't say my plan worked. I can't say my dreams came true. Who would have even thought that it would actually REPEL boys? Certainly not teenage me. 

And yet.....

I had more fun than I had ever had in my life. I was challenged every day. I had imagined SO hard that I was beautiful, delicate and fine in my tubarific trills that I almost started to feel that way. Despite the outward appearances, I still held fast. And you know, it's the feelings that matter anyhow. We don't do anything for the actual thing. We do it for the feelings that we imagine that thing will acquire for us. 

Imagining wonderful things for our lives almost gives us that feeling without us even having to do the work! That excitement, that thrill of the unknown and the hoped for.....that is sometimes more delicious that the end result itself. I know we have all wanted something fiercely until we actually had it, and then the magic was somehow lost.  Is the magic in the yearning

I now have this wonderful story to tell you from my life, and it's integral to who I am today. I still get out there and strut my stuff in a big, sometimes uncomfortably non-conformist way. I still probably imagine myself as more of a bad-A than I actually am.....and that's totally okay.  Those goals and checklists and tasks help us to keep aspiring, changing and dreaming. And I heard something that I loved the other day. There was a guy in a podcast, and he just said something like, "You've never failed if you're still in the game."  Oh....yeah.....I guess so. I didn't give up. I can't give up, because I am always changing and evolving. I'm still in the game. 

And I look very dainty doing it. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Air Mattresses

The first year I did the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival in Muskogee, OK was one of the most humbling learning experiences I have ever been blessed with. (Now, friends in Oklahoma, before you say "Michelle! You should do this show! We need you back! Keep in mind that I have submitted applications and been denied. Who knows why? Meh. I always feel a little icicle stab in my heart when people say "Oh my gosh, you HAVE to do this renaissance festival! You will sell out!" and I think, "Um...I've submitted applications to that show and been denied for 5 years in a row. Thanks for the painful reminder." Basically, with a lot of these festivals, the only way "in" if you are a costumer is if someone dies. I'm serious. Ah, but I digress...) 



That part of the Midwest is just as humid, full of blood-sucking bugs, and sweltering as where I grew up in Missouri. Now, I would like to say, I LOVE the Oklahoman People. They are as stubborn as they come, and I genuinely like the accent. It's a bit Texas, but with Midwestern thrown in. You definitely are always called "Ya'all", even if they're just talking to you, yourself. For instance, "So, Michelle, ya'all wanna go get some BBQ?" (speaking to just me). I also love that tornadoes will absolutely ravish them every year, and they almost just casually shrug their shoulders and brush it off. People, I have been in tornadoes! Big ones. Anyone who can happily survive those is stalwart and worthy of your praise.

But, back to the festival.

I decided to save money by camping onsite with the other vendors. I super respect people who can do this year after year. I am apparently a total pampered wimp when it comes to camping. Or maybe it was the air mattresses that didn't seem to think it pertinent to be filled with air. All I know is that we crammed 8 people into what was probably a 6 person tent, and the air mattresses perniciously glued their sappy vinyl to our moist, simmering skin and clung to us during the heat-filled night while they silently got lower and lower to the ground, leaving us on a bed of rocks and twigs in the morning. My younger sister always managed to get rolled over into a crack between the two offending mattresses, and I would wake up in the night to her desperate sniffling and quiet sobbing, as she marinaded in her own misery.

We would get done with a long hot day of working the festival, and return back to camp exhausted. However, instead of some sweet respite, my sister-in-law Jill and I had to take care of the little toddlers we had at the time, as well as endeavoring to persevere through early stages of pregnancy. That year, we were scheduled to have more babies, with due dates one month apart.  We alternately took turns throwing up behind the booth in the mornings, and at night, we would high-five each other as we walked past in the dark, boggy woods, making our way to go and urinate on what was probably a patch of poison ivy. Elegance at its finest.

One of the reasons that I know that this job is the right one for me is because I still ENJOYED myself, even while I was miserable. It's sort of like those early stages of a relationship. You are agonizing over ever glance, every text (or phone call, from my day), every touch. It's painful, and somehow delicious. You want more. I think that perhaps, you are feeling desirable and special, and that feeling is a drug. You are finally seeing yourself through another pair of eyes....and those eyes see you for how special you are.


When you attempt to do something difficult, but you also find a small level of success, you start to see yourself with those eyes again. You say, "Wow, that version of me is awesome."  However, just like relationships, you can get complacent. Your vision gets obscured by what people call "reality" and you lose that love and fire. There's no longer this symbiotic relationship where you both feed excitement and desire into each other while also soaking in the passion from the other person. Instead, there can be the disappointments, the setbacks, the shortcomings. The touch that gave you a wild, scattering of nerves now gets batted away.

I have to keep my love for my JOB alive just like the love in my relationship with my husband. I choose to wake up every morning and feel excited about both of them. I got to sleep at night just awash in sweet gratitude for my good fortune. Now, it IS totally easy to slip back into the other realm of existence where I am frustrated, defensive and looking for flaws. The thing is, I started this whole entire business based on bold choices. Bold choices to jump headlong into doing large festivals. The boldness of selling my pieces for what they are worth. The boldness of making costumes for a whole entire living.  It I started out with boldness, and found the joy in the journey along the way, then it makes sense to continue on, fearless, and loving every moment.

As always, thank you deeply for your support. I want you all to know that I choose that same passion and fire for you. I wouldn't sleep on dying air mattresses in the woods for just anyone. Ya'all are special to me. ;)