Self-Fashioning: The Impression

I envision the feminine experience and its many, delightfully (and often humorously) nuanced facets as being comprised of layers. Feeling pretty or wanting to be wanted, for example, are surface impressions, I believe, of much deeper phenomena. Indeed, the more I consider the experience of my own femininity as just that–as a series of impressions, from the exuberantly, playfully erotic to the flippant, dizzying, and nonsensical–the more I begin to think that it is through the verbalizing (or other expression) of those impressions that we can gain the most insight into the depth and breadth of our nature. And while I do enjoy engaging in intensive bouts of introspection and occasional self-analysis, I am discovering that my relationship to my most feminine traits is, at its healthiest, most nurturing, accepting, and fruitful, and artistic one. Not born of analysis. To quote Anaïs Nin, “The art of woman must be born in…the mind.” Well, the art of this woman, at least. Since I am, of course, only speaking for myself.

I am writing to you tonight from 39,000 feet. It is 9:30 pm local time, and I am currently about 3,000 km, or 4.5 hours, from landing in Kilimanjaro. The next big adventure. I had every intention of writing a post this evening titled, “When You Need to Be Pampered…” Instead, however, I found myself considering the nature of feminine receptivity (the inner phenomenon I believe is linked to the desire for pampering, even self-pampering), when I was struck by a thought: Receptivity has depth. Pampering is a superficial expression. And the need to be pampered is the result of an impression, an otherwise nameless, multi-faceted experience that manifests itself in a need to be lavished upon, to revel in being the recipient of attention and care. Receptivity has dimensions. Like other, related, and distinctly feminine experiences, the experience of needing to be pampered is an impression. Much like an artistic impression. The challenge, perhaps, is in figuring out which underlying psychological phenomena these impressions point to. A fusion of the methods of art and science.

But, haven’t I said some of these things before? Yes, and no. What I’d like to do in this post is focus on utility. On the utility of the impression. On viewing it, interpreting it, and using it to understand and amplify our truest ourselves. Here are some thoughts:

Personify it.

It is in living deeply that we create the kinds of experiences that extend beyond the boundaries of our own lives. Superficial living, or a kind of peripheral going through the motions is not, in my mind, conducive to insight. If you want to experience depth of feeling–or to craft a more totalizing experience–around a particular sense or impression, you have to live it. Fully. Deeply. And with intention. You have to give it soul.

With regard to distinctly feminine impressions, like the desire to feel say, pretty, wanted, or pampered, I prefer to immerse myself in all-consuming rituals, when I can. Especially if the need is great enough. If I really need to feel pampered, I won’t just get my nails done. I’ll do a spa day instead. Or, I’ll get my hair and nails done. Shop. Cook a lavish meal. Take a bubble bath, have a glass of wine, and put on a face mask. Or any combination of the above.
Much as I described in my last post, these are sensual rituals of a very specific kind. They are, for me a me, a means of aestheticizing the feminine. Of living it. Feeling it. Expressing it. Making it alive.

When we immerse ourselves in activities that produce a certain feeling, we also sink deeper into that feeling. Instead of dismissing or avoiding it, we dignify it. We put ourselves in a position to gain insight from it. We start to understand why it matters.

Focus on the feeling.

I’ve observed that my approach to each post centering on a feminine impression begins the same way. With my consideration of the overarching feeling produced by a particular state or desire. A snapshot. What does it mean to me to feel pretty? It feels like a long, slow blink. That’s the impression. Coquettish and soft are the lingering feelings. Analysis will take me further. But, I always begin by revisiting the feeling. And attempting to verbalize it. If only through metaphor.

This practice, I believe (at least, I hope), may be useful for those who engage in similar introspective activities. Beginning with the impression allows me to approach complex emotional and sensual experiences very differently than if I had chosen, conversely, to construct a whole from its parts. Or, if I had used analytical methods alone. I also find this method far more intrinsically pleasing, more colorful, than its alternatives.

Treat yourself like a work of art.

I am an ardent believer that there are aspects of the human experience that will always resist scientific inquiry. It’s the poetic, or expressive, side of life. The unquantifiable. The parts of ourselves we can only access through impressions. Glimpses. Snapshots that signal the presence of depth. Of more. Within myself, I see those feminine impressions, in particular, as a gift. Not only because of how they feel, but, more importantly, because they give me valuable information about who I am.

It occurs to me that the process of treating myself as a work of art means more than just focusing on the impression, as one who views, say, a sculpture or a painting. It also means creating something new from that impression. The image, perhaps, that I’ve described previously.

But, also, through action. To live what wisdom, what insight, we gain from our impressions. To write the softness, the sultriness, the owning of desire (or whichever traits are important to you) into your daily actions–in speech, conduct, and mannerisms. To pay attention to which barriers (internal and external) prohibit us from acting. And then revising the plots of our stories as we overcome them.

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