There’s something sexy as hell about an anchorite. A gorgeousness in a bodhisattva. An allure to an Hasidic Judaism. Swirling exciting about a Sufi.
When you think about austerity, you probably think about someone else telling you what do to. You think about shoulding all over yourself. Be more sexy, your marriage needs it! Are you eating clean? Are you giving your child every opportunity possible? Is your work/home life balance full of awesome? How clean is your house? Did you remember to bring brownies to that thing on Saturday? Home made from scratch of course. Are you exercising? Are you making enough money? Are you meditating? You should. You should, should, should —
My sisters, my brothers, my Charmers. Stop. Just. Stop.
Doing what society dictates that you should be doing with yourself isn’t a spiritual austerity, just like being poor due to a life circumstance isn’t a spiritual austerity. I know what it’s like to be left flat financially. I think it’s safe to say that every Witch and Occultist does at some point. When my ex-husband walked out on me and drained our joint account, leaving me no money for a winter coat after I donated my old one pre-divorce, that was not an austerity. I did not chose it. It was not glamorous. It was not an Eat, Pray, Love experience for me. I couldn’t eat anything but sun dried tomato triscuits and bleu cheese for a month. I was taking two Xanaxes just to get through the day. My world had twisted itself into an unrecognizable shape and I was just trying not to drown. Mostly, I slept a lot and zombied my way through work. Would that have been a good time to take on austerities? Some people would say yes, everything was a disaster anyway, why not light that pyre up and see what happened?
The reality was that I was too broken to take on any kind of austerity during that time. I needed to heal. I needed to feel my feet on solid ground again.
You don’t have to be financially rich to take on austerities, but you do have to be able to feel the ground under your feet before you do. Why? It’s not a good idea to collapse your ant farm tunnels when you only have five ants left desperately trying to fix caved-in tunnels and the rest of the colony is dead. It’s not a good survival strategy. If your inner ant farm is reasonably functional, then you can take on austerity. That means having stable relationships (romantic and otherwise), reasonably healed childhood trauma, reasonably functional mental health, a reasonably steady income, a roof over your head and food in your fridge.
Austerity is a fucking terrifying concept because there’s no half way with it. You’re juice fasting that day or you’re eating regular- people food. You’re working fourteen hour days until you see results or you’re working a cozy eight hours. You have clean hair or you don’t. You just said 10,000 mantras or you watched a Real Housewife marathon.
It would be really nice if glamour didn’t take austerity but it does. When I was on a cruise with my family, my mom and I went to a “pamper party” at the spa. Mom and I figured, maybe there’s like a hand massage there or something? It was one of the most real experiences I’ve ever experienced. We’re sitting on the floor, precariously balanced on a yoga mat together, wedged in with fifty other bored and/or desperate women. This twentysomething chick with blond updo hair, dove’s blood red lipstick, black widow length eyelashes, stiletto heels (on a boat that was rocking so much we kept almost tumbling over), white lab coat and an accent fresh out of a Skins episode was literally screaming at us about how shit we are at being pretty. “DO YOU THINK VICTORIA BECKHAM LOOKS THE WAY SHE DOES BY NOT USING TONER ON HER SKIN AND NOT MOISTURIZING TWICE A DAY? NO LADIES, SHE DOES NOT!” Obvi, she was preying on our insecurities to sell product. Obvi, she was using society’s standard of beauty to make us pay attention. I totally knew all this as I have a college degree in Women’s Studies. Did that stop me from buying a ton of facial products when I got home? No! Did it make me be less half assed since in my face care? Yes! Do Jow and I hiss at each other about WWVB do? Regularly!
If you want to be skinny, it requires work. If you want to look put together, it requires work. If you want to have hair that looks nice and a nice looking face, it requires work. If you want people to think you’re interesting, charming and well read, it requires work. If you want to be known for something such as being a badass networking guru or putting the ho in hostess, it requires work.
Glamour = Work
Change = Work
Magic = Work
That is the reality of that situation. Yes, now I have a lovely career where I get to be the Joan Holloway of the office. Yes, I’ve lost a bunch of weight. Yes, I’ve been published by numerous publishers (in paper even!). Yes, my craft business is in a really good place now and I do really well at 90% of my shows. Yes, my wardrobe is good. Yes, my marriage is rocking. I own a lovely little rabbit burrow. My finances are reasonably unfucked.
But lest you all start to montage my journey here, need I remind you that I spent the last four years covered in tiny people’s vomit, crying during the day, having panic attacks that left me in the fetal position, working fourteen hour days as a glorified pack mule and rarely having clean hair? Feeling like a half eaten chicken? Is that ringing any bells? Because let me tell you, it’s all there. For every publication, I’ve had six rejections. For every awesome show I’m rocking out now, I came home crying feeling like a failure because no one wanted to know me let alone buy anything from me. So many sleepless nights trying to figure out how the bills would get paid with both of us freelancing. To get this awesome marriage, I had to go through a super brutal divorce.
There have been so many times where all I felt like was a colossal failure at everything. As a writer. As a crafter. As a wife. As an adult. I would cry, so much. Which is why you need people who believe in you. Your mom, your mate, your bestie, whoever. No matter how crazy the process looks, you need them to believe that this is going to turn into something. Becoming a beautiful butterfly? Yeah, you basically throw your body into a blender, hang out in roadkill-form in a chrysalis and then pop! Beautiful butterfly.
But you had to be road kill first. Sorry.
Austerity work burns off all of the bullshit that doesn’t matter. You work enough fourteen hour days where ten of those hours are making sure that tiny people don’t die on your watch, go home, bust out a dozen candles, write something and go to bed. There comes a point where it gets all Lana del Rey/Courtney Love in your head (Nothing scares me anymore/ kiss me hard before you go/ summertime sadness/ I just wanted you to know, baby you’re the best) (Go on take everything/ take everything/ I dare you to/ Go on take everything/ take everything/ I want you to).
When you get to that point where you feel like you’re in a staring contest with the universe and become completely convinced that you won’t blink first, shit just got very real. Because nothing can stop you. Sure, you may not have it go the way you want, but that willingness to burn the whole place down to the ground and then rebuild it from scratch shows a certain amount of seriousness in your goals. Because once you get settled on the idea that no set back will stop you and you will counter every disappointment and failure with a new move, eventually it’s going to stick. Not the way you envisioned of course. But it will stick.
Being willing to sacrifice a social life, take hard knocks, work as hard as you can (really as hard as you can, not what you claim is as hard as you can) and Wanting That Thing with an obsessive desire that can’t be derailed tends to produce results.
When you chose to forgo normal First World pleasures (Facebook, television, sleeping in, Candy Crush — whatever), other people tend to notice. They tend to get very judgey but when they see you start to stick the landing, something else happens – envy, admiration, attraction. . .glamour. You’ve chosen to step outside the box. You’ve chosen to set yourself apart. What’s more glamorous than telling the world to go fuck itself and devoting yourself to finding what makes you happy?
History/Mythos is full of people who have obtained glamour through austerity: Mary Magelene, Jesus Christ, Parvati, Rosa Parks, Gandhi, the Bronte sisters, Emily Dickinson, Julian of Norwich, Buriana, Princess of Ireland, Inana, Shiva, the Buddha– the list goes on and on.
Don’t you see glamour in them, shining through? Austerity is one more way to tap into your inner fire and everything that makes you glamorous, inside and out.