A year without new Clothes

I have always been the sort of person that appreciates aesthetics which I think are an outward expression of a person’s creativity.

I wrote here about how I decided to buy no clothes for myself for a year.  Confronted by our consumer culture and my own guilty part in it, as well as trying to raise my daughter and sons with the values I deeply believe in, I was surprise by how much I wanted to do this and was also scared that I was too weak to carry out this commitment.  A part of me also wondered how I might change if I weren’t so conscious of myself and weren’t “consuming” all the time.   In just a few months I am aware of how much we HAVE.

God has worked on my relationship to money for years, especially when I quit working (for money) nine years ago.

My relationship with money is somewhat dysfunctional. Being a missionary kid, I grew up with hand-me-downs (from my sister, who got them from the missionary barrel.  Yes, there is such a thing.  A place where missionaries go to get clothing others have discarded.  Like the Goodwill, but free.)  So as a teen I became laser sharp in my awareness of the latest styles which I would never have.  It was an unhealthy habit but I spent lots of internal energy on my lack. Although my parents were good and generous people, and we never really lacked anything important, I thought we did.  I always had what I needed, but not what I wanted.

So as an adult God has been pruning away at my fixation on external.  The thing in me when I am down on campus that notices subtle changes in college style trends.   Or what’s happening in magazines.  Or what the old money people wear and have.  I see these things and I want their life.  I pay attention.  And I really loath it, but it’s been a long road of coming to believe that it really matters not a whit in who I am.  Not really.  A Land Rover versus a Honda.  A Coach bag vs. TJMaxx.  Cashmere vs. a blend.  Anthropolie vs.IKEA.  My mind is always running on these lines and I know it is superficial and ugly.  I am loved without all that, … aren’t I

But the missionary kid in hand-me-downs just isn’t quite sure she believes.

My thoughts are very often superficial.  I’ve had the moments in the last two months of freaking out as I really, really want something and then I breathe and step back and realize there is very little that I actually need.  As I walk away from a pair of boots, I realize that what I have is enough.  And I am so blessed and it is sufficient.   And besides in my current life of slogging after children, and trooping around town to carry out various tasks, my feet simply need comfort and warmth, not style!

After the first few days of living with this pledge it was a matter of changing my mindset of always being on the prowl for the “find” — the deal I can’t live without —  and I found I actually began to have much more time, energy and confidence for new ideas and what I might do with my time and resources.  I had a lot of ideas.  And a flurry of writing.  And my mind and heart were full of potential.

I have much more empathy.  I spent a recent snow day worrying over and over again about the school kids who I know eat breakfast and lunch at school — would they be hungry today?  Would their parent/s have to miss work or would those kids spend the day unsupervised, while I and my children enjoyed snow angels, hot chocolate and baking cookies.

Our abundance overwhelms me and I hope I am more present  in our bounty.

So although I am still aware of what others are wearing, conscious of magazines and television’s pressures, this adventure of living without new clothes is helping me learn a little better who I am.  I have more time to BE.  And to hangout and do things with my kids, and that can’t be purchased!

It really is priceless.

I’m 42 Today and Considering My Life

At 42, I am ...

Originally uploaded by M e l o d y

I am 42 today and considering my life.   I was born in the highlands of Papua New Guinea on this day in 1966. I am the 2nd daughter of missionary parents. I spent the first eight years of my life there in PNG. It was a wonderful beginning. The middle was kind of rough, but it is improving every day!  Perhaps it is kind of silly to ask “Who am I?” at my age, but today this is what I did.

— Melody


  • I am a step-mother and a mother, hopelessly lost some days because I wasn’t parented that well. I have no Compass.
  • I soak up ideas and solutions from others, mostly my friends, my sisters, because I am afraid I will “mess up” my children. (Yes, the way I was messed up.)
  • I am fearful and insecure; in my core believing that I am a screw-up, a loser, a horrible friend, and an even worse mother. The voices in my head say I am the worst in-law, daughter, sister or friend anyone could want (except I don’t nag or bother, rather the other end of the spectrum. I simply act like others aren’t there.)
  • I am an alcoholic and a child of an alcoholic and this affects every single thought and decision that I make.
  • I am a writer, a thinker, a philosopher.
  • I make things like photographs, and gardens, and poems, and that makes me happy.  I love to share these things with others.
  • I am spiritual, preferring old thoughts and music to anything contemporary or new.  I am not religious, or even very faithful. But I do believe in Jesus. And I try very hard! Perhaps that is my problem …. I try. I don’t understand Grace, not really.  So on those days when my unbelief overwhelms, I entertain thoughts that can be desperate and decidedly unfaithful.
  • I do not let go …. I want and I need to be in control at all times, about everything, in every way. When I am not, I feel I have failed.  Losing control personally, emotionally, mentally is one of my worst crimes.  Don’t get me wrong, I know I am not all bad.
  • I am thoughtful. I am usually open and honest with others, when asked.
  • I take risks and try new things.
  • I love competition! Sports (watching), playing certain games, setting personal goals. But I’m afraid I get too into it, and at times it’s not so pretty.
  • A long time ago, when I worked full-time, I was a visionary, a pioneer, a competent person, a leader. I was loyal and capable. I accomplished a lot.  Surely, I am still those things.
  • I embrace and actually love cultures other than my own, soaking up the ideas, art, food, and music through books, travel and most of all friendship with those who are unlike me.
  • I usually help others as I see their needs.
  • I cook well, even better than well. I am a great cook.  My family & friends are well fed.
  • I organize & prioritize my children’s lives well, putting their needs first,  advocating and challenging others about my children’s needs.
  • I encourage others.  (At least when I am not selfishly thinking about myself.)
  • I want some day to know myself well enough that I can speak out, act, embrace, find and give all that live has to offer!  I want some day to be able to laugh, and cry, and feel the spectrum of emotions found on that damn feeling wheel!

What might you not know about me?

I’m addicted to coffee. Seriously it’s a physical and psychological thing and if I don’t have it, I might just come unhinged.  Of course being an alcoholic, I don’t drink.  But I do smoke and I know it’s a slow form of suicide. I don’t do it lightly (almost every cigarette comes with lucid acknowledgment of the consequence.) but I definitely cannot quit at this time.  I love to exercise and eat well, but I don’t (usually.)  I play music every day; all kinds and it is life-giving.  I am diagnosed with major depressive disorder, which means in layman’s terms:  I have a propensity for melancholia and if I don’t manage it, it will come back. At its worst this type of depression is like drowning in your worst nightmare, a stinking, dark hellish place to reside. Where truth becomes lies, and lies truth. You are incapable of doing, feeling, thinking, reading, sometimes even breathing.  Thankfully I’ve been depression-free for almost two years.  [I may regret saying this, but you have an open invitation to ask me if I am exercising & eating,because these are the first disciplines to go. Also, if you haven’t seen me in a while, it can be a bad sign because I begin to isolate.]

Depression, alcoholism, insecurity, damage, they are not my complete story, my story is just starting.

I believe God brought into my life the perfect person for me; he loves me by asking hard questions, telling me the truth about myself which usually means “good stuff” but sometimes even hard truths. He encourages my passions and interests, supports them as well, which is no small thing in this financial climate.  He is a warrior on my behalf and I love him more than I have shown him or will ever be capable of showing.

People have described me as aloof and private, which I am but mostly because I am shy and those demons of insecurity are playing out in my head more often than I would like to admit.

I am creative, intuitive, capable, kind, thoughtful, deep, at times extremely selfish & critical of others, but mostly about my ideas and my time.

My critical spirit, my insecurities, can and do hurt those I love and it is one of my deepest regrets; an Achilles heal.

I am passionate and always reading & thinking about things that are important to me, but I often fail at finishing and carrying them out. Books lay around unread, photographs unprinted, my book of poetry sits unfinished, and commitments become a burden, as I selfishly move on to something new.

I need community, long for it, work to develop it, but most times I fall short through my own weaknesses and broken heart.  You can be confident that I want to know you, be in your life, especially if I have told you, but my stupid S**T keeps me entangled at times.

All in all, I would say I am a good person.

As I learn what it means to be a child of an alcoholic I can acknowledge that I am still growing up, even at 42; still learning and discovering who I am and how I want to live.  I am slowing waking up – from a life-draining, sad, lonely, scared and cold childhood.  All in all, I am blessed beyond belief – with great love, friendship, abundance, talents and so much more.  I acknowledge that, even while I ache with the painful knowledge that I cannot fully embrace my life – yet – due to all of the above.  The most important thing people may not know about me is that HOPE is the central thing of importance in my life.  If I have even a tiny inkling of hope – a belief, a dream or something to hope for, I can put all of this aside. (Okay, not totally of course.)

Although this list isn’t complete, (how could a perfectionist “complete” a list) it is all true, as I know myself, today on my forty-second birthday, 2008.  Thanks for being a friend, getting involved in my messy life. Keep hanging in there, because I believe it’s on an upward curve and I am hopeful about the future.  It is simply a record of my thoughts, and perhaps will give you a glimpse at the ME I let very few in to see. You do not, should not, feel an obligation to reply.

September 24, 2008

Melody Hanson