Finding Myself Again

Are you depressed? One of my favorite customers, who has also become a dear friend, asked me the other day. She had read a blog I had recently posted and holding a PHD in nursing, she thought detected some depression underneath my words.

No, that wasn’t it. I knew I wasn’t depressed, I was going to the gym regularly, taking showers, cooking up a storm (and eating up a storm). Even though I felt a bit blah, I knew I wasn’t dealing with depression. What was it though?

I had been sitting on my partner’s couch for most of the month of November, staring off into space, barely sleeping at my own house, looking forward to our 6:00pm cocktail ritual a little too eagerly. I was gaining weight around my midsection watching my body morph into a body I was starting not to recognize and I was craving carbohydrates and sugar like a pregnant woman. Thankfully, not pregnant, the only pregnancy was the pregnant bloat around my midsection and my overthinking brain.

What was this feeling?

After almost three solid weeks of this mental flatness, I decided to venture out. I had gone out to dinner and spotted some adorable little shops on one of the quaint side streets in Newport, RI and had made a note to self to visit them for the holidays. That day was the day. Come on Alayne, I said to self, get your bloated ass up and out.

So off I went on a lovely walk around a place I grew up in, to visit the shops that had taken the place of shops I hadn’t been to in over twenty plus years.
My senses began to come back to life. I hadn’t known how dormant they had become until they reminded me of their presence.  I paid attention to the smells in the stores, the greetings from salespeople, and the sounds (or lack of sounds) of holiday music. I felt alert and began noticing what made me want to buy, what made me want to leave with barely a glance.

Did people greet me or were they on their phones? Did they talk too much or barely a look up? Everything became visible and I could feel myself wake up. Twenty shops or more later, I had spent less than $75 in six hours and not because I didn’t try. 

What makes me want to purchase something?

What makes me want to walk into a dressing room and take the time to take off my layers to try on clothes. More importantly, what doesn’t? The average consumer may not notice these things, but as a business owner who thrives on customer service, I do and for the most part I was underwhelmed. And I learned so much.

I came back that night excited to share my day with my tired partner who doesn’t have the same zest for business that I do. I really needed someone to talk to who shared my enthusiasm for what I learned. I held on to the intricacies of the day to speak with my business owner friend in Chicago who I was planning to visit the following weekend. 

I was on the hunt for a new outfit to wear to her holiday event she was planning at her own store. I woke up the following day with the plan to continue my walk around Newport.

Looking for one dress

I made my way to Bellevue Avenue, a high end shopping street with many beautiful non-box stores looking for an outfit. After going into a few lovely shops, trying on some clothes that weren’t quite right, I headed to a store called CK Bradley.  I had found a dress on their website to see if they had it in stock so I could try it on.

I walked in to their beautiful and polished store and immediately noticed that it had just the right holiday sounds at just the right volume. The smell was perfect too. They sold some candles, but the scent didn’t take over my sense of smell. The saleswoman greeted me with kind eyes and helpful energy and I knew I would be spending some money.

One dress was my plan and they had it in stock. I tried it on and fell in love, not only with the dress, but the high heels I put on to give me some height. I felt a shift right away.  When was the last time I dressed up with deliberate intention?

Playing dress up.

I heard myself ask, What else do you have? The saleswoman, named Leah who was about my age, although she had the enviable long legs I hope to have in my next life if there is one, was grounded in reality. She knew what to bring to the dressing room. She brought me full outfits to try on, not just pieces of clothing, but clothes that worked together for multiple outfits. And I kept trying them on with those sparkly heels left on the outside of the dressing room for women who inevitably walked in with sneakers like I had.

Those shoes helped elevate my legs in the pants, the dresses, the tunics, the jackets. Leah basically changed my life in less than two hours. I was on a time limit and asked her if she would be there the following day, Sunday. I purchased what I tried on, asked her to hold some other clothes I didn’t have the time for and promised I would return the next day.

I woke up the following day, went to the gym, quickly showered and headed back where I spent 4 hours playing dress up with one of the best saleswomen I have found. 

I didn’t realize how lost I had become in my elastic waist stretch pants, and athleisure. I didn’t realize how blah my clothes and my shoes and my no makeup look had made me feel.

Why was she the best? Because she wasn’t trying to sell me anything. She was helping me find myself again.

woman standing with a smile and glasses in jeans and a blouse with a sweater

This is one of my favorite easy and comfortable outfits I bought. Striped cotton shirt, slimming black sweater and the most amazing navy slip on pants.

Here is the interesting part of this experience. My plan had been to buy one dress. Instead, I bought 90% of what she recommended, about eight outfits. She was kind (and smart) enough to set up outfits for me so I could take pictures of everything. Leah even told me what shoes to find that would be comfortable and stylish (because as much as I loved the glittery pointed toe stilettos, there wasn’t a chance in hell that these bunion burdened feet would stand a chance for more than five minutes).

In a split second I had reinvented myself. My son was about to turn 26, had recently introduced me to his new girlfriend. One of my lovely employees was headed out to maternity leave the first week of December to begin that exciting new phase of her life. I would be working full time again.

Change was everywhere. I decided right there in that dressing room I would re-enter my business with a major attitude adjustment. New clothes, dress up like I mean it, do my hair, get out of my Athleta wardrobe, and actually put on makeup for a change. I also created a brand new service called THE GROWNUP MAKEUP LESSON that you can schedule here.

4 photos of same woman, 2 with makeup on and 2 without makeup showing before and after

I headed out to Chicago the following weekend to put all of my new clothes to good use. I had an AWAY piece of luggage now filled with a bounty of beautiful clothes to play dress up. I took off in flight to be with my friend for her party and made an appointment at her salon to get my hair blown out. And I dressed up. I decided to walk around her town and be a consumer of the many shops that lined the streets of Libertyville, Illinois.

I realized I hadn’t been depressed; I had been uninspired and now I was inspired.

I had forgotten myself as a woman. This was the beginning of my new adventure of a POST COVID, STILL STANDING, NEW AND IMPROVED ALAYNE. I don’t think I had given myself the grace to grieve the last three years. I had been so busy reinventing, reconfiguring, reorganizing, that I never grieved what I lost. Like any business owner who is still standing after 2020, the covid business experience forced me into a tailspin to save the business I had built with my two hands.

With the constant state of go go go, this past November was the month it all hit me. The couch literally held my heart on its cushions and allowed me to grieve. The couch does serve its purpose sometimes, but at some point you have to get up and take a step forward. Change is around us all the time. My business is where I want it. I have the employees I want, the building and home I want. The partner and the life I want.

What I have realized in this wild ride this past two months and last three years is that my creativity is my superpower.

If I feel down or blah, it is likely because my creative juices need a jolt. Not from eating, or drinking, those are bandaids of avoidance. The juiciness is in the creating. The inspiration trips are to see what is out there so I can inspire what is in here.
Creative power is my magic potion for the zestiness I need to live a life of joy and service. Without it, I am on the couch in my jammies and this serves no one, especially me.

Whenever you start doubting yourself, whenever you feel afraid, just remember. Courage is the root of change and change is what we're chemically designed to do.”
- Elizabeth Zott (Bonnie Garmus, Lessons in Chemistry)


1 comment

Hi Alayne, it’s Rosanna. I work at Allure with Shelly and met you briefly. I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to you. But you looked absolutely fabulous and I loved this reading. You said so many relatable words, and I’m so happy you have stepped out of a brief funk, and Into the beautiful woman you are meant to be!

Rosanna Ruffolo December 18, 2023

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