I feel like a cliché today.
After last night’s rehearsal, I slept in as late as I could — 7:30 a.m. I got up and had a cup of Yorkshire tea and dressed in top and chinos from Coldwater Creek, a handknit sweater made from a silk-wool blend I bought on vacation in Colorado, and my Tieks. I went to the Farmers Market with my husband to buy flowers for church, vegetables, and some plants.
Next I went to Whole Foods for eggs, fruit, and pastry. I got home and decanted my groceries into my labeled collection of matching fridge storage containers.
Phone conversations with my kids, community chorale rehearsal with friends, and an evening knitting. That’s the plan, and I’m dressed for it. My husband is gardening. He should be in chino shorts and a polo shirt, I guess, but he is actually wearing jeans and a hoodie. He doesn’t know the costuming conventions for this play.
I read an essay not long ago by a young woman who got a week of high-end products. She was given a Quip toothbrush (yep, that’s my brand) and a bunch of other stuff too high-end or to youthful for me to know about. It didn’t turn out well for her.
But she didn’t do it right. Quip users are not the same group of people who indulge in binge drinking and unsafe sex. You can’t use high-end goods and still act like a low-end person and think that’ll make a difference.
In Atomic Habits, the author says that our habits provide evidence that we are the kind of person who — makes her bed or walks for 30 minutes every day or whatever it might be. The evidence mounts up in our brains, and we believe it. Soon enough, we actually are that kind of person, the kind of person we decided we wanted to be.
I’m the kind of person who shops at the Farmers Market, wears clothes from Coldwater Creek and drinks imported tea. The kind of person who vacations in Colorado and buys special knitting yarn there, which I knit up into sweaters that coordinate with my cool shoes.
“The products, despite being worth thousands of dollars, have not managed to neutralize my bodily functions or my laziness about cleaning or the lingering guilt of ghosting,” the essayist complains. I’m lazy about cleaning, too, and my antique china hasn’t solved that problem.
But I’m not using my possessions to solve problems. I like my antique china and my OXO canisters. They seem like the right goods to go with my actual life. I may seem like a bit of a cliché today, but it’s an authentic and accurate cliche.
The essayist drinks like a fish, makes bad food choices, and deceives herself. “The woman in the Everlane trench coat did not black out this weekend,” she says about her reflection. Her problem with the cool products she’s using is cognitive dissonance. Her self doesn’t match the image she’s Instagramming. She hasn’t changed her habits, even though she increasingly sees that her life doesn’t match the life she aspires to.
I’m happy with my life. I’m happy with my possessions, too, even when I recognize that I’m a bit of a cliche. I have spent many years striving for normalcy, and I think perhaps I have grown into it. I know that owning Tieks isn’t going to make me better at housekeeping and that shopping at Whole Foods won’t erase my debts or give me better teeth (Quips might help). But I am taking action toward improvement in those areas. I’m not using Instagram as a reverse picture of Dorian Grey, creating a sham image of myself on social media that highlights aspirations that are not backed up by action.
Of course, I’m also not a kid. I don’t mean to compare myself with the essayist, although I hope she quits drinking and keeps up her new dental hygiene plan. Quips isn’t that costly a product.
Me, I’m going to get to work on my housekeeping as soon as I’m through with the spring performances.