fear

I tamed one tiger and found out something about shopping

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Five days after my last post, I can proudly say that I have tamed at least one of the many tigers that make me lean back every day. I no longer think that selling is akin to begging for money and my intellectual capacities (already beaten by age and child rearing) haven’t been diminished by spending 42 hours arranging scarves and bags and blouses and suggesting people a more flattering color for their complexion. Contrary to what I previously assumed, I actually had a lot of fun, met a whole bunch of new people and ended up refurbishing my own summer wardrobe. The Lawless guru might even be right.

Unexpectedly, I learnt something about shopping. I’ll call it Psychopathology of Shopping.

1) Thin women are the most difficult clients. They basically look good with anything and don’t feel the same compulsion to shop that pushes the average woman to walk miles to find the special item that will make her image in the mirror match the image in her dreams. I had thin ladies walking in, trying EVERYTHING twice, ask a thousand questions on colors, texture, composition…just to walk away empty handed 45 minutes later.

2) Single, pretty girls under 30 and in their late 30s are the best buyers, for different reasons. The armada of young, post-graduate, first-job-but-still-leaving-at-the-parents’ girls came in on the first night of the sale. They tended to go for the most beautiful pieces, without looking too much at the price tag (who cares, after all? They don’t have mortgages and pensions to pay yet and most of their first salaries will be devoted to shopping and vacationing), try it on without questions, quickly pay and go on partying with their friends, the new scarf already hanging from their smooth necks.

The older single ladies were the funniest: they would rush in just after work, re-apply make up in front of the mirror before going out for dinner and drinks, try on quickly a couple of things, talk excitedly about their upcoming holidays, negotiate the price, end up buying something that wasn’t necessarily what they initially wanted but that flattered them enough to promise a good summer AND matched their budget at the same time.

3) The fashion bug doesn’t go away with age. Women well into their 60s and 70s were the most curious buyers. They wanted to know everything about the story of the clothes, they had the time to talk and drink tea, and mostly looked really stylish. I felt enormously relieved: my personal nightmare of becoming a grey, old lady surrounded by animals in a camphor smelling house has no need to exist. I will probably keep on wearing bright colors and having coffee with my 70 years old girlfriends.

4) A shopaholic in recovery will tell you she will be back. She most likely won’t. She just controlled her impulse to take everything home, leaving you a third of her monthly salary. I had the greatest sympathy for this category, having used shopping as a chemical-free mood lifter for some years earlier on.

Lesson learned: doing something scary everyday is a very realistic medicine for the soul.

Taming the tiger, rule n.7: Do something scary everyday

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A couple of nights ago The Husband came home from London all excited about a conference he had attended. He handed me a leaflet illustrating the philosophy of the speaker: a motivational expert (when did we start having such job titles? Where was I while it happened?) going by the unforgettable name of Jim Lawless. I thought I was starting hallucinating and had to read it a few times before concluding that it is actually his name. He could have called himself Braveheart and it would have provoked the same effect. But I don’t even know if it’s a show name or his true one. And who am I to judge people’s names?

Mr. Lawless, who is of course British, has no fear. He tours the world giving motivational speeches to middle-aged, often disillusioned and bored corporate employees and showing them that anything is possible. He wrote a book called Taming Tigers to teach people how to manage that inner fear that “snarls at us when we think about making a change in our lives and stops us developing and achieving our potential”. He proves that with his own life: one day, he announced the world he would become a professional jockey in a year time. And he did it, despite being unfit, overweight and never having ridden a horse. He lost 20 kg and actually became a jockey. Bra-vo! Then he also broke the free-diving limit of 100 m, becoming the first Briton to do so. You see why I think that Braveheart would have been an even more suitable name.

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Listening half-hearted to this story I armed my cynical antennas and looked at The Husband with a raised eyebrow: “So, if I understand well, you were inspired by a crazy Englishman who runs around doing anything that can provide him the needed dose of adrenaline”.

“You should read the leaflet, it’s perfect for you! Look here, n. 7: it says DO SOMETHING SCARY EVERY DAY”

“Well, it’s not his. Eleanor Roosevelt said it almost a century before him. Do one thing everyday that scares you. Braveheart didn’t invent anything”.

Then I told myself that for once I could renounce being right for the sake of being happy, and looked at the leaflet. Act boldly, rewrite your rulebook, it’s all in the mind, never give up! I’ll take Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice, the others sound too manly to me.

What’s with fear these days? Sheryl Sandberg started at the end of last year urging women to be fearless, the Huffington Post published a series of articles on fear and photos of Facebook’s hq with posters saying “What would you do if you had no fear?” circulated on the social network earlier this year.

Have we become fearful? And when did it happen? Is it because beside the latest decade’s terrorism concerns we had the privilege to grow up in a West largely untouched by wars, famines and real-life worries? What scares you most? What would you do if you were fearless?

I’ll tell you what I’ll do this week to overcome my fears: host a sale. I do it for a friend and I hope at the end it will be fun but it’s a small thing that brings me out of my comfort zone. I can’t sell anything. Not even water to the thirstiest person on earth. But so far I like having my living room full of summer clothes, it’s messy and joyful. I bet the Lawless guy would be proud of me.

Xmas or the scariest time of the year

I didn’t mean to take such long pauses between posts but real life keeps unsettling all of my plans (but that is how it goes for everybody, isn’t it?) and Xmas time utterly complicates the task of compressing multiple lives into one. My past week dissolved itself between amazon orders, presents to family, friends and teachers, bills, dinners and other mundane occupations. It happens every year in December but I still wonder: why do people need to see each other all the time and drink and hug and wish and overeat and love this time of the year? Is it the relief of ending a year still alive and the unconscious fear of the new that pushes us together? The carols, decorations, trees and even the drinks are all very nice but they don’t justify the persistence, decade after decade, of this apparently incontrollable pulsion to human proximity.