This is a total bait and switch title. Did you think I was going to teach you how to be “effortlessly cool”? Hell no! I have no fucking clue how to be hip! Do cool people still say “hip”?
I wish I were the type of woman who woke up, tossed on a vintage Ramones t-shirt (I don’t think I’ve ever even heard a song by them, that’s how uncool I am), some ripped skinny jeans and…crap I don’t know what shoes would go with that outfit without looking like I tried too hard.
I want to be the woman who just looks cool and fashionable without even trying. When the outfit looks flawless, everything seems to come together.
How do you define those women who look fabulous no matter what they wear? It’s like their clothes are a tribute to their essence and their soul. A woman who looks spectacular in a business suit might look ridiculous in the same summer romper worn perfectly on another.
For me to look good, it takes effort. I can look fantastic in that business suit too, but it won’t feel comfortable on me; it’ll feel like a costume. When I wear my “standard uniform” of skinny jeans and a weird t-shirt (usually made myself because I’m a crafting nerd with a Cricut), I don’t look “effortlessly chic”. I look homeless.
So if wearing what is comfortable doesn’t inherently make a person stylish, but dressing up doesn’t make them fashionable either…what is the special sauce for those that make it look so easy and perfect?
High school is one place you never want to stand out. At least, that was the case in the 1990s. This was the era of In Living Color, when J Lo was an unknown backup dancer. Baggy oversized sweatshirts. Overalls. Air Jordans. One girl in my school followed the beat of her own drum.
I jumped to my yearbook to remember her name. I’m looking through mobs of grainy black and white pictures (my GOD kids today are lucky Photoshop exists), figuring I probably wouldn’t recognize her. Nope. BOOM. Her gorgeous smile and bouncy blond curls popped out of the page.
Her name was Sarah.
She wore hippie-style outfits. Lots of peace signs and cartoon-y flowers. Nothing like our faux hip hop clothes. In our final year of high school, she decided she wouldn’t shave her legs. Did I mention that we had a Best Legs Competition? (yeah, that’s a little inappropriate in hindsight)
Of course, Sarah won. She had legs for miles and could pull off crazy knee-high socks with bright patterns.
Anyone else straying from the teen norm and growing leg hair would be a high school pariah. Not Sarah. She didn’t give a shit. She wore shorts and skirts. It wasn’t attention-seeking; she simply didn’t care. The rest of us girls were awestruck.
Is that the definition of being “effortlessly chic”?
I would look like a clown in Sarah’s outfits. But on her, it was like she walked out of an Abercrombie for Hippies catalog. Is the key that it’s something that feels natural to who you are? Not “comfortable” like my lazy jeans and t-shirt look. But “natural”, like comfortable to the wearer but spiced up a bit.
That might be the secret.
Purging her closet to embrace minimalism, a friend of mine gave me a bag full of clothes. She works in the entertainment industry so I trust her taste in fashion better than I do my own.
While there were things I didn’t keep, I held onto a fitted orange corduroy blazer. It sounds hideous, right? I kept it for years when one day, while heading out the door wearing the usual jeans and t-shirt uniform, I grabbed it on a whim. Surprisingly, it fit me perfectly. This jacket fits as if tailored custom for me.
As I walked around work that day, I received dozens of compliments on the jacket. Even a few male employees risked HR suspension by saying, “Wow…that color on you…you look great!” and “You look really good today.”
Had I unknowingly mastered “effortlessly chic” without knowing it?
Perhaps I’ve cracked the code: The key to looking effortlessly chic isn’t wearing comfortable clothes. It isn’t wearing clothes that are too dressed up for your style. It’s the intersection of your go-to outfits with pieces outside of your typical comfort zone. Not so much that you feel self-conscious; just enough to feel like you mixed it up a little outside of your norm.
What that in mind, scroll up to the picture at the top. Unsplash Photo Woman may be used to leather and high boots, but maybe wearing animal print isn’t her jam — Boom.
Effortlessly chic. Nailed it.
About Jennifer M. Wilson
From Medium: My midlife crisis and adventures along the way. I write because in real life my humor is allegedly too sarcastic and inappropriate.
Last night, I attended a Shamanic Drumming circle. It had been a few months since I had joined circle. When my friend Catherine mentioned the upcoming session, I didn’t hesitate — something inside me recognized the need for the soul-cleansing and inner-healing these sacred drumming circles bring to my psyche.
It was the black dog.
I knew that spending two hours in a sacramental environment listening to our Shaman teachers speak of shedding, soul-growth and revitalization would provide the perfect outlet to get away from myself; away from thought, feelings and the depression shadowing me.
I have battled bouts of depression in the past as well as anxiety on occasion. As much as I have tried to deny how I’m feeling is as much as it produces feelings of failure — admitting to a decline in happiness seems to equate with being an epic screw-up.
The thing is, I know better. I know how to identify the triggers. I have studied philosophical teachings offered by the great ancient masters of Buddhism; Stoicism; Shamanism and the like. I have spent years learning, practicing and seeing the results produced by raising my awareness through meditation and deliberate pondering, as well as the benefits achieved by controlling my thoughts.
Yet, I am still not immune to depression. Have I failed in my quest for inner-peace and happiness? Did I do something wrong?
Honestly, it is my belief that not many of us manage to avoid experiencing some form of mental dysfunction during our lifetimes — no matter how aware we become or how informed we are. Especially in this day and age.
There is so much going on all the time. Lifestyle has become a fast blur. People have become disconnected; replaceable. We treat one another as if exchangeable goods, never really seeing or acknowledging the precious soul behind the flesh. Never really holding one another.
Internet-based relationships for business and social purposes means we are able to engage with others without actually becoming invested in their authenticity. It means we can pretend that the person on the other side of the screen isn’t real. Feelings become invalidated; people become a dime-a-dozen and avoiding the hook is as easy as deactivating your account or hitting the “block” icon.
Only the joke is on us.
We are losing sight of the importance of connection. Our sense of self becomes tainted by behaving like strangers, ditching good manners, ghosting and treating others less than they deserve.
Where is the organic connection? Where is the love?
Writers are among the most prone to depression, but I wasn’t always a writer and I’m not sure that I was always prone to depression. I’ve always had a solid grasp on my feelings for the most part.
The writing life does something to you. It changes you. We delve into the deepest parts of ourselves, get vulnerable and share our inner-most layers with the world. Writing becomes a channel of self-discovery; a passage of growth and exploration. Sometimes, we soar. Other times, we bleed.
Creating stories has the ability to make you fly.
It is when I am working on my fiction that I’m at my happiest. Yet, there are so many elements about the writing business that can leave us feeling utterly deflated.
Kay Redfield Jamison, who is a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore and author of Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament has reported that writers experience depression more often than non-writers.
It is thought this is due to several reasons.
For one, some writers desire to be familiar with misery, suffering and pain to guide the writing process and give their work authenticity. They may have not experienced the deep sense of trials and tribulations as their characters, so they seek to gain insight by manifesting similar emotions.
Extended hours of isolation, lack of exercise and natural light is another factor to influence depression in writers.
There is also the emotional roller coaster associated with rejection, which is an element familiar to just about every writer — Rejection in the form of editor’s, publishers, agents, readers and peers.
Clinical psychiatrist Alan Manevitz says: “A large part of a writer’s success depends on how other people think of him or approve.”
How many times have you emailed another writer who is further along the path than yourself only to be ignored?
And all you said was thank you.
How often has one of your peers deliberately inserted a subliminal swipe at your work or future project ideas? How many times have you read some trivial heated debate among writers on social media, or heard authors in a position of influence publicly slam the works of others?
I am not sure how success has assimilated a superior attitude.
I don’t understand why some people behave in ways that breed contempt.
I cannot fathom why we feel the need to judge, ridicule or perceive a sense threat toward one another when we’re all in it together — there are readers aplenty. There are words abundance. Limitation is an illusion.
So is separateness.
They say that depression lies in the past; anxiety waits in the future. But I think those blue feelings can strike for other reasons as well. Sometimes, even the thickest skin becomes porous enough for negativity to seep through. Sometimes, people and situations hurt like hell.
If only members of the writing community could see past their own egos long enough to get real, we might be able to hold and support each other long enough to feel the authenticity on the other side of the screen — to acknowledge that the person beyond the screen is a real human with real feelings.
Last night, my Shaman teacher concluded the circle by suggesting we all hug each other. My first reaction was to baulk at the idea. I’m not a hugger of strangers, even when bonding over a sacred alter and making medicine together.
Yet, as the other circle members approached me with their arms wide open and I stepped into their embrace, I realized how symbolic the gesture was and found myself in a state of appreciation — acts of kindness and affection go a long way to healing the invisible threads connecting us.
We may not be able to physically embrace all of the time, but our energy is as tangible as anything in the physical world. Perhaps if writers practiced hugging one another on the energetic level instead of looking for ways to get outraged or feel threatened, our community will become less hostile and more loving; more supportive.
Even if it stretches our comfort zone. Especially if it stretches our comfort zone.
Through this post, I am sharing my story in the hopes of
educating others. Not only in recognizing abuse, but to also shed light on the help
and resources available for victims of abuse.
My name is Kai. I am a 41-year-old mother of three beautiful sons. All of my life I have fallen victim to one form of abuse or another. Until quite literally, it took my world falling apart and finding myself and my three boys homeless for almost a year to actually recognize what was happening to me.
Even before I was born, I was at a massive
My father was a paedophile who before my birth had already
interfered with my elder half siblings.
My mother had been abused as a child before she was handed
into an arranged marriage at such an early age, that she didn’t even know what
it meant to be a wife, a mother or a woman.
She had endured nine years of severe abuse from her much older Italian husband until she eventually escaped that situation only to fall into the clutches of my father who destroyed her world on a whole new level. As you can imagine, her harsh experiences had a significant impact on her, spilling over into forming her own psyche – making her very controlling and overbearing, and setting the bar for what my sisters and I were to deem as “Normal” in a relationship setting.
My saving grace was that I got to live with my grandparents for the first four years of my life, due to my mother having a break down. My grandparents were loving, stable, and kind, and they adored me – which became a memory that I clung to and gave me hope for the oncoming days of my life. There was a time when I had known love without control or abuse. Not only did I know that that kind of love existed, but at one stage in my life it was given freely and without condition.
Within this post, it is my intention to not only demonstrate
the signs that you should be looking for when dealing with a narcissist and abuser,
but to also bring light on the fact that abuse is not only limited to partners.
It can be delivered at the hands of parents and siblings, co-workers, bosses or
friends, and sometimes, sadly even children.
You can break the cycle.
It is important to recognize that a lifetime of being subjugated to abuse, does not mean you have to continue to live that way – yes, abusers have a way a sniffing out the vulnerable. And that is all it is – vulnerability due to subjugation. There is nothing wrong with you.
There is nothing about you which makes you deserving of this treatment.
It is NOT your Fault!
It is a matter of readjusting your thinking patterns to view yourself and your circumstances in a new light – retraining your mind to not only recognize the early signs of abuse, but also, to act early on.
Self-empowerment and education are key to rejecting an abusive life and not tolerating this kind of treatment from anyone, or in any form.
Let me just clarify that not all abusers demonstrate abusive
behavior from a point of hatred or even wanting to hurt others. They
tend to do so as a result of their experiences and conditions – learning these
toxic practices through the trauma they have endured throughout their own
It is not uncommon for an abuser to use these trigger points to manipulate situations and the people around them. It is a tool to get what they want. The fact is, most of us have been through hard times during our lives and learn to work through our pain without transferring those demons onto others.
I find that there is such a selfishness around holding onto
hurt and using that pain as an excuse to justify our behavior. Yet, those that
abuse others will often use their past as a tool that conveniently blinds them
to the truth of their actions. Many times, they do not actually recognize what
they are doing, and they will deftly alter the reality of a situation to
support their delusions. This is when the familiar phrases of an abuser will occur:
“I’ve done nothing wrong”, which
generally follows with an accusation, “you caused it”, “it’s all your fault”
or my personal favorite, “you made me do it”.
My mother was the first to use this kind of manipulation on me
and it wasn’t until the “big breakdown” of 2011 that I even began to recognize
this. She would manipulate myself and my siblings by claiming that she would not
be a part of our lives if we didn’t bend to her will. Which was shortly
followed with her expressing her regret of having ever having children at all. She
had negated us with her words with constant reminders of her disappointment in
us, and she blamed us for everything. To her, we were at the core of her every
problem; her every hardship; her every pain endured throughout her lifetime.
Can you guess how hearing those words from a mother impacts a
Guilty. Responsible. Worthlessness.
To the point that we felt so utterly responsible for the “horrible” state of her life that we would do anything she asked to keep her happy – and all at the expense of our own happiness. Including leaving relationships and the people in our lives that we loved to appease her, or ditching important obligations and plans to cater to her needs and wants.
Years later, homeless and living with a friend in Katoomba, I
received counselling. These sessions were like a pinnacle of light for me,
shining clarity over the cycle of abuse and helping me to understand toxic
I learned about how people like this have the ability to make
you feel responsible for their survival. When in reality, they are extremely
resourceful and will manipulate others into doing their bidding – until you discover
the power of the word “NO”.
I was 32 years old before I used this for the
My mother had turned myself and my three children out on the street when we had needed her the most – I had managed to escape an abusive relationship and we had nowhere to go. We’d been staying with a girlfriend temporarily, but had eventually overstayed our welcome – three young boys with a depressed mother doesn’t make for great house-guests. My mother was our last and only option, yet she turned us away to live on the street.
Her refusal to help me and my children cut to the
bone; her words were like ice in my ears and a chisel through my heart.
What was I going to do? I was depressed and penniless with three
boys and a car packed full of the only possessions we had left in this world.
How could I subject my boys to a life in a refuge after all we had just been through? After all I had done to get us out of an unhealthy environment at my mothers’ behest, I now had to shame myself further by asking for the help of strangers. I mean, who would want to help me if my own family wouldn’t?
It was failure that encompassed every part of my being – how
much more of a failure could I be as a woman and a mother to further subject my
children to these situations?
So, I hopped in my car and looked for some place suitable to park and sleep for the night. I drove through my childhood town with the underlying urge to get as far away from where my ex-partner was as possible, finding myself in the parking lot of my high school.
Security turned up and moved us along, but not before asking
if we were living in the car and if we needed help. Of course, my pride
wouldn’t allow me to admit to our perilous circumstances and I denied such a horrible
assumption before moving on. For three days we wandered – cold, hungry,
hopeless and not knowing where or how to ask for help.
I had hit my lowest point; I had become a single mother with no home and no relationship, and had spent the majority of my life having every small failure pointed out in grand fashion. I didn’t know there was any kindness in this world outside of that warm embrace and kind smile shown to a small child by her grandparents.
It was during this time that my mother called me – not to check to see if we were okay or to offer help, but to ask for me to research pay grades for my eldest sister. My loud and resounding “NO” resulted in my first ever panic attack, as well as the cold silence that followed from my mother lasting for a solid 18 months. You see, for the first time ever, I had dared not yield to her desires.
This “NO” felt as though it was the final blow to my already
crumbling existence. What would I do without her help? How would I survive
without my mother to tell me what to do next? And how on earth was I meant to
make these decisions on my own? Clearly, I wasn’t any good at it – just
looking at my current situation proved that point.
But there something else – that same singular “NO” started a
snow ball reaction, and all from that one profound moment when I had chosen to
put myself first instead of succumbing to my mother’s demands. Resisting her
wishes changed me and the course of my future.
Left with no one to tell me what to do meant I had to find
that inner-strength and make the hard decisions myself – for me and for my
children. I dug deep and found a resilience I had not known existed; I got the
help we needed in order to get us back on our feet and start again; I battled
suicidal urges; feelings of worthlessness and my value as a mother… a woman … a
It wasn’t easy. Each day I had to make the CHOICE to continue.
And each day, I rang the life-line helpline to talk to people who kept me from
slipping over the edge that loomed so dangerously close.
Those months were some of the scariest and challenging moments of my life, and it took every ounce of my inner-strength to get through – I found love, guidance and assurance in three very brave young men that stood by my side through the entire ordeal. They were my only reason for every step I took in the right direction, and they became my sole focus in striving to become a better person. My boys’ constant presence in my life drove me forward to eventually find a beacon of light at the end of the darkest of tunnels.
It was through the wonderful support of the refuge that we got
the help we so desperately needed:
given a roof over our heads.
provided us counselling.
educated me on the cycle of abuse.
to trust and believe in myself again.
surrounded by supporting love.
received financial help.
I cannot express gratitude enough for those days, for without
having been homeless I would have quite easily slipped back into God knows how
many more years of abuse. It took a lot of hard work and self-love to convince
myself that I was worthy of love; of happiness. But I got there in the end, and
so did my beautiful boys. And it was that one small word that had been the
catalyst in flipping my world upside-down until it was righted again.
Nowadays, there are no more “red flags” in my life – there are
only deal breakers, and with every beat of my heart I know without a doubt
worthy of being loved the way I love others.
worthy of happiness.
worthy of being treated with kindness.
worthy of acknowledgement.
worthy of respect.
worthy of honesty.
worthy of safety.
worthy of having a voice and expressing myself.
worthy of a drama-free life.
asking for help does not make me weak.
I have learnt that no one has the right to:
Make me question my sanity.
Put me down.
To project their behavior on me.
To be wary of those that feel the need to assure you they are good, genuine or kind.
To stand my ground against those who fabricate to win an argument.
That I will not be blamed for things that are not my fault.
That those who can’t take the time to listen, do not deserve to hear my voice.
That being mean “as a joke” is still being mean, despite the laughter.
That I will not tolerate threats or ultimatums.
That I will not be manipulated by using my friends, family, pets, lifestyle, or choices – I will not have someone triangulate a situation.
That I will not allow someone to put words in my mouth.
That if someone chooses to target my reputation as a means to control me that that is purely an opinion and those in my life that count should know better.
That no one has the right to break or damage my belongings.
All of the above are a form of ABUSE; above and beyond actual physical violence.
For the first time in my life, I am in a positive, loving and
supportive relationship with a woman whom I am head over heels in love with.
Who is deserving of my time, my love and every moment of my attention. Although
the road to get here was broken and a lot of time was spent on paving the way,
I realize that there are good people out there.
You are one of them.
I will continue to always show kindness and compassion to
others, but I am now selective of who is worthy of the love I have to give. I
hope my story has touched those who need it the most. Thank you for reading!
Helpful recourses in Australia:
1800 Respect Line 1800 737 732
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
About Kai Calvi…
Kai is a mother of three sons. Holds Diplomas of Business as well as Interior Design and Decorating. Runs her own small design business whilst managing a Dental Surgery in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. Kai is an advocate of Mental Health awareness, Domestic Violence and Women’s rights, as well as being actively involved in the LGBTQI community.