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  • Lee-Anne Carter

Tenacity. An old-fashioned word necessary for a modern mindset.

Tenacity. Strange word really. A bit old-fashioned but, something that I have found that in lockdown I have an absolute abundance of. I have my father to thank for that.

We have been in lockdown for nearly 80 days and counting – at the end of it, it will have been close to three months in strict isolation. Face masks from the beginning, only allowed outside with a registered and signed piece of paper from the local authorities, and only trips to the supermarket and pharmacy. That is about the sum of it. So of course, a lot of patience, perseverance and ingenuity has been needed to counteract the foreboding feeling of being locked up for a crime you didn’t commit.

It has been during this time that I have found my tenacity, and rekindled my love affair with creativity on all different levels. I have written posts about “productivity porn” and not making people think they need to measure up, and I certainly do not intend to do this in this piece, but I am proud of my achievements in this time - achievements that of course are specific to my set of circumstances, and achievements that could only be made because of my circumstances, but achievements none the less. I must note from the outset that my circumstances were more fortunate than most, although not without their trials and tribulations.

But that is not what this post is about, it is not intended to be a comparison of any sort, or used to highlight the difficulties I endured or overcame at this time, because I am more than aware they pale into insignificance compared to what other people have had to deal with, just as they are more extenuating than some other more fortunate households.

We are all dealt the hand we are dealt. Irreversible fact! And that is the real purpose of this post. For me to recognize what I dealt with, my personal circumstance and how I found my clarity, tenacity and creativity in a time of duress.

During the almost three months (still ongoing) in lockdown, I have slowly embarked on projects that appealed to me, that were feasible, were able to be achieved (I didn’t need to muck around my mindset any more than necessary), and gave me a sense of fulfillment. Some of them like #wardrobeslam on Instagram, are going on way too long. But this is where I discovered my tenacity.

It was a game I started at the very beginning of isolation. In the first week, I set myself a challenge: to recreate catwalk looks from my wardrobe. It wasn’t for the followers, trust me, at this stage almost 80 days in I still only have about 20 followers, but it was a way to put my money where my mouth is. I am a big fan of sustainability initiatives, applauding them at every turn, but I am also incredibly guilty of over-consumption. I have worked in fashion my entire life, as a Stylist, Creative director, Forecaster and Consultant for luxury fashion houses, and along the way I have coveted - and consumed - fashion in all its guises. It may not be fast fashion per se, I like to invest in well-made pieces that have a longer lifeline, however I was guilty in my younger years of slavishly following, or more accurately trying to set trends.

I will never forget walking across a street in Potts Point, Sydney one scorching summer day to go out to lunch with my girlfriend - she was in the cab waiting, and we were going on to some swanky Sydney hot spot basically to be seen and drink champagne (hardly any food was ever consumed in these outings) - in a multi-layered, black tulle mid-calf skirt, teamed with a white Bonds singlet, oversized sunnies, and towering terracotta suede strappy heels. As I crossed the road, my friend and the taxi driver leaned out the windows and started humming the theme song to Sex and the City (yes, I was probably a bit try-hard, I worked in magazines at the time - but what can I say, I just love fashion). So, this isolation game was a sort of penance for my bad habits. It started off innocently enough - I had to copy the catwalk as closely as I could in an effort to prove to myself that I really did not need to buy anymore. And prove it I did! The packing up after each #wardrobeslam session was horrendous, such was the amount. When isolation was extended after six weeks to another three weeks, I changed the rules so I could just style my own outfits, mainly in a bid to curb the packing up.

But then - goddamn it! - they extended the lockdown yet again. For another month basically. And, as I said my tenacious nature came to the fore - I had to finish what I started. This was also an illuminating lesson for me, and one I intend to let every future employer or interviewer know - if I get any interviews that is. My strength, you ask? Oh, well let me just assure you - I always, always finish what I start - even if it gets long and burdensome, and the passion gets knocked around a bit - you can depend on me. I. WILL. FINISH.

This innocent little isolation game turned into an absolutely astounding lesson in many ways. What I learnt: I do not need to buy another item of clothing – ever (I am not saying I won’t, I am just saying I don’t need to). I rediscovered my creativity for fashion, and love of styling (even though the outfits were kept purposely simple), and I discovered a valuable strength: I am tenacious.

Oh, I did also discover that food and clothing sizes don’t match, and if I am to be more sustainable and recycle, reuse my wardrobe I have to curb the wine, cheese and biscuits. Just saying.

But that was just the start. I was now up for projects large and small to give me a sense of accomplishment, I guess it was my way to internalize that I was utilizing the time I had been given, a subconscious nod to the sentiment, I will not let this situation beat me. I was also concerned that too much time on my hands - in the middle of nowhere - would overtly play with my mind. So, I embarked on all manner of accessible and feasible projects. Even when I received truly distressing news (which I did more than once), or became anxious, depressed or frustrated at the situation, I pledged to myself to take it one day at a time and finish what I had started. My mantra was: You only have today, you don’t know what tomorrow will bring - more than ever before that is a truism - so deal with the here and now, make this day count, and get through this. Mindfulness at its best.

And, in case you are interested here are some of the initiatives that I gave myself:

My in-laws had an empty apartment across from us that they use for summer holidays (yes, it sounds luxurious, but trust me, it is far from it). It sits empty for most of the year, and basically had become a dumping ground for all extra bits and pieces of furniture, and odds and ends. Believe me, these people are collectors of - EVERYTHING - and there is no rhyme nor reason, let alone colour scheme to what they do. My challenge was, to go back to my interior styling days of old, and create a lovely space for them, using only what was in their house. I reconfigured the entire space, changing around the furniture, storing some things, bringing out other pieces, hanging and grouping paintings, pairing different linens… the list goes on, and in the end such a wonderful atmosphere was created that my husband and I now go every afternoon to sit on the pale blue daybeds under the wide open windows to relax.

I made a shell and crystal mobile (DIY at its best), I painted an ugly orange-hued wood cupboard in a soft pale grey, re-dressing it to become a French-style armoire, I hung tassels on door keys to make them a feature. I painted yellowing door frames - which surprisingly made the apartment so much cleaner and brighter - who knew such a little thing made such a huge difference. I painted two sets of kitchen cupboards, and I white-washed bed frames in my husband’s surf/yoga boutique stay to give the rooms a softer, fresher feel. I started this blog. I have been working with a web designer to recreate my husband’s home page for Surf and Soul Morocco (in case anyone is interested, still under construction though). I downloaded Canva (so far, I have only had the tiniest play on it but it has me hooked!) I worked remotely through video calls with my sister who is doing up a huge old house in the Austrian Alps to rent out, (again, utilising only what is there), and have been consulting on the interior style and design for her - from colour schemes to bathroom refurbishments, furniture groupings and wall decorating.

I have kept and worked on my own company, procuring a few new contracts, and I have applied for a variety of roles, and some new business - which in itself has kept me very busy with my CV and cover letters. One good thing about this, as exhausting and at times soul destroying a procedure as it is, it has given me great insight into just how strong my skill base is, and what I am worth. Which is a lot more than I previously thought.

I rediscovered the joy of writing - for recreation, for peace, for contemplation, and even posterity - so much so, I have started writing a book. OK, I should rephrase that - I have started writing, if anyone publishes it so it becomes an actual book, that remains to be seen.

But mainly what I discovered is… that we should not need an extreme circumstance to make us rediscover ourselves. What we are all too guilty of in this “always on” era, is that we have forgotten to take time for our self, we have disconnected not only with each other, but with who we want to be, what we want to achieve for our own sense of accomplishment. We flick through social media and get anxious about not measuring up to someone else’s (more often than not, altered) reality, instead of simply doing our own thing, something for ourselves, something that makes us happy. The greatest measure of our own internal success is that there is no measure, or to put it another way, as Theodore Roosevelt so succinctly stated - Comparison is the thief of joy.

During this whole time, the initiatives I created for myself were not up for comparison. They were my initiatives, for myself, to stop me going insane and to give me a feeling of achievement. It was as simple as that. And they brought me a sense of happiness and fulfillment that I have not encountered in a very long time.

And, as if that was not enough, they have also given me an incredible business idea.

One that I now have to get started on.

Perhaps the one thing I should have done was an actual online business course.


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