Finding my style statement

I recently checked out Carrie McCarthy and Danielle LaPorte’s book, Style Statement, after a long period of curiosity. I first read about McCarthy and LaPorte in an article in Domino magazine, which explained their Style Statement service: they ask you questions, and then return to you a two-word statement that’s meant to sum you up. The service costs several hundred dollars, but the Domino writer said her statement felt so inspiring and so true that it brought her to tears. The Style Statement book is a gorgeous, weighty 256-page workbook that renders the same service for $24.99 (or, in my case, for free — thank you library!). Read on for: (1) some of the book’s questions, and my answers, and (2) my style statement. On Monday I’ll share one area of my life in which my style statement has already made a difference!

First: Selected questions and answers

Lisa doing tree pose under a tree

Tree pose, 2008

What are you most grateful for?
Sunlight, fresh air, our views of the city and the bay, loving hugs, warmth and comfort, freedom, space, a body to stretch, books to read.

What do you like to be noticed for?
Distinction, originality, discernment.

How do you deal with being rushed?
I feel groundless, pushed, and unsettled — even if the pressure is kind of exhilarating.

What kind of shoes are you drawn to?
Colorful, intriguing shape. A single unexpected ornamental detail. Unfussy but exquisite. Original and unique.

How do you feel in a bookstore?
Happy, pleased by the never-ending variety and novelty and knowledge, stimulated but peaceful, comfortable, like I have lots of time.

What would you like to revolutionize?
Conversation, what it’s like to meet new people, sharing art, caring for each other, teaching and learning and schools.

I feel most at home: in our home, especially in my happy chair or in my office — also on our deck when the weather is right. I’ve also felt this way in the car or in hotel rooms with Erik, especially when the room feels unique and intimately connected to the outside surroundings.

How do you feel when you’re there [at home]?

Safe, independent, comfortable, calm, like I’m in charge of and in harmony with my life and my time, timeless/eternal/infinite, generous, contemplative.

My dream home has: an outdoor area with plants scattered around and ample shade and sun and seating, an art and writing studio with a full wall of doors and/or windows I can climb through to get outside, a big bathtub next to a window, alcoves for candles, built-in bookshelves, window seats, spacious kitchen counters, lots of plants, lots of colored textiles and beautiful ephemeral objects (fruit, nuts, flowers), big clear surfaces, lots of textural interest but nothing that feels unwelcoming to touch.

A completely luxurious, outrageous thing that I’d like to own is: a beautiful sofa.
Because: I want to literally be all over and into what I love and find beautiful and comforting.

Some things in my living space that I want to toss but haven’t or can’t: most things! Actually, not really — I just wish all my things were stored in a way that was beautiful and displayed them properly.

Seablue chalcedony cocktail ring

Seablue chalcedony cocktail ring,

If I could only wear one outfit for the rest of my life, it would be: a beautiful, comfortable, distinctive, colorful, body-conscious dress. Drapey outerwear with interesting details. Very low-heeled shoes in an outrageous color with exquisite ornamentation — that I can actually walk in. Perfect undergarments, no shapewear needed. Slightly dangly and beautiful gold and precious stone earrings with an interesting shape. A cocktail ring that is striking but not too blingy.

I am most attracted to these scents and fragrances: rose and rose geranium, ginger, lemon verbena and lemongrass, lavender, almond, carnation, satsuma and tangerine, peach, pear, grapefruit and yuzu, strawberry, vanilla in moderation, lime in moderation, blackcurrant in moderation, green tea, coffee… !

I feel out of touch with my sense of: sensuality. Everyday elegance at home.

You’d never catch me wearing: sweatpants, corduroy pants, tube tops, smocked sundresses, miniskirts, skinny jeans, anything ripped (frayed edges don’t count), one-shoulder dresses, bomber or biker jackets.

Things I love: food, parties at our house or someone else’s, dancing, singing, music, yoga, walking around new towns, window shopping, thrift stores, vintage clothing, libraries and bookstores, museum gift shops. I love variety and novelty and collections — and the option to take these things home if I want to, or not.

Yoga studio

from Yoga Journal, September 2008

What I’d like more of in my life: more quiet space to breathe and just be, more physical space, more rest for my eyes, more outdoor time, more unstructured time where I feel free to do as I please (real weekends!), more beauty and order (and cleanliness) in my home.
If I had more of that I’d feel: calmer, more present, more actively happy and grateful.

If I could become a master or aficionado of anything, it would be: something embodied, like a dancer, or even a singer.
Because that area is so: intimately physical and immediate.

I find myself most consistently longing for: a fuller version of myself, though what I think that means changes with time.

If I was guaranteed success and financial security, I would: continue to do exactly what I’m doing, though I’d probably take more risks and run faster… and also let go more, and explore more boldly.

My idea of a nightmare job is: one in which I have little effect on the outcome and my individuality is irrelevant.
It would make me feel: useless, purposeless, and powerless.

My philosophy on friendship is: choose your friends carefully, and then give them your all.

The people who know me best are: my sisters, Erik, my best friend Jackie.
They would describe me as: loving, sensitive, creative, energetic, eccentric, and loyal. [Or would they? If any of you are reading this… I’d love to get your take!]

I am impressed by people who: can be themselves anywhere and with anyone.

I get really uptight or uncomfortable: when I’m in new situations or with new people, where I’m not sure what to do and feel like I can’t be myself.

When I am inspired my mind feels: infinite, engaged, and powerful.


Second: My style statement

After about 200 pages of questions and examples, Style Statement sets an eight-step series of exercises to guide readers toward their personal statements. Although the examples are drawn from a restricted list of words, we’re encouraged to come up with our own words if none of those speak to us. They didn’t, and I found myself frustrated with the available options. But after some experimentation, I came up with a pairing that felt like me:

spacious authenticity

The style statement is supposed to follow an 80/20 rule: the first word represents our essential foundation, or 80% of who we are. The second word is our “creative edge,” a 20% that sets us apart and gives us something to reach toward. The idea is that we feel out of whack when we’ve lost touch with our foundation; at the same time, too much of that foundation will make us rigid and dogmatic.

I don’t know if I’d really describe myself as 80% spacious and 20% authentic (what would that even mean?), but these words feel very right to me, like my essential self — as well as a potentially fuller self to aspire to. I do know that spaciousness is what’s missing from my life whenever I feel stressed or unhappy. Visually and in my body, I’m fascinated with space and light and air and expansiveness; as I’ve said before, my dreams are often characterized by a vastness of space. And I know that authenticity is something I struggle with, in the sense that I’m often afraid to be completely myself, hesitant to embrace my instincts when they go against what others have dictated, or just ignorant of my power to express myself when I think things are set in stone.

I also like these two words together: authentically spacious, spaciously authentic. As a sun-sensitive person without a whole lot of physical stamina, there are real restrictions on how much spacious I can handle. That’s why my ideal place isn’t necessarily the outdoors… but my ideal home has windows everywhere to bring the outside in. And I actually like small spaces, if they meet certain conditions; spacious doesn’t have to mean huge. I seek a spaciousness that is authentic to my desires. At the same time, I want to be as broadly authentic as possible, which means defining myself spaciously, not narrowly. To me, authenticity means not a rigid adherence to a very limited definition of self, but a sweeping embrace of all that is creative, exuberant, and dynamic about me. I don’t need to explain or know what myself is to be authentic to it — and as I have a good gut, a strong innate understanding of my personal integrity, authentic is usually easy for me to hear as long as I stop to listen.

I wouldn’t want to get so married to my style statement that it becomes my guiding force in everything, but I have to say, so far it has been both comforting and inspiring. On Monday I’ll share a little more about how it’s affected my life so far. But in the meantime, I’ll see you tomorrow on the Open Mic!