It might sound like a silly thing to most people but last month, in preparation for a trip to Los Angeles to be with a friend who is having serious health challenges, I carefully considered all parts of the trip, from what I’d travel in to what I’d wear while I was there and even the shade of lipstick that would be appropriate. Part of it is habit. I carefully plan the travel wardrobes for many of my clients.
I considered the heat wave that was predicted. I considered that we’d not be going out much at all unless it was a medical reason. I wanted to be comfortable and as we were going to be together the whole time, I wanted her to be comfortable around me. So whatever I was wearing, I wanted it to be pleasant to look at.
When I’m working with my clients on their trip wardrobes I consider most of these same things, like
*What will the weather be like?
*What activities will you be involved in?
*What is the message you want to be conveying to others?
*What qualities do you want to be bringing out about yourself?
*How do you want to feel?
The choice of clothes, and how they’re arranged on the body, can be matched to the answers to those questions. One can be comfortable in terms of the weather and comfortable in terms of matching what they are there to do on that trip.
I can hear you asking the question, So a trip to visit a friend would need that much thought?
Maybe not. Good friends accept us as we are, right? But this was a little different. On a Monday, my friend wrote me an email and said, “It is on my bucket list to have a personal visit with you. Can you come on Friday?”
Yes, I could come on Friday. I got the airline ticket, arranged for airport transportation to and from my home in Sonoma, and got a car rental. I started planning the outfits I’d be wearing in four days.
I had to get out some summer clothes that I hadn’t had reason to wear yet in Sonoma. And I got it in my head that I needed to buy a different lipstick color. It’s probably happened to you too where you’re faced with things you have no control over and suddenly, something you do have control over seems so pressing…no matter how silly.
I knew I didn’t have control over my friend’s health situation, but I could change my lipstick color from Vengeful Red to something quieter, more soothing perhaps. Louise would be looking at me all weekend and I wanted to be comforting to her. Was there anything soothing about Vengeful Red? I thought I could do better.
So I stopped at Macy’s and a woman named Cat helped me find a more subtle shade even though she objected every step of the way. She much preferred my current shade of lipstick. “But you don’t understand,” I tried to explain without losing control. “I’m visiting a friend who is quite ill. Wouldn’t something in a rose tone be calmer?”
Against her better judgment, she sold me Rebellious Rose. “I really think your red shade is best,” were her parting words.
I thought I knew best. Besides, Louise is a color expert! She would know that rose is softer and calmer than red!
For some reason, when it came to Friday, I stayed with the Vengeful Red. I wore it to the airport, flew south to Los Angeles, got into my rental car and drove the forty minutes or so to my friend’s house. I freshened up my lipstick when I parked the car. For the three days we spent together, I never once reached for Rebellious Rose. Don’t ask me why, I just didn’t.
Our Saturday adventure was to the hospital to pick up some medical supplies. I got to see where she spends a lot of time these days. And then we had a treat and stopped on the way home at a Peet’s Coffee and Tea. Other times when I’ve been down to stay with her, I walk to Peet’s and do my morning writing there. She knows how much I like it. We enjoyed our iced drinks and she complimented me on my well-planned wardrobe, managing for the heat wave that was scheduled to leave the day after I left. A man about our age was playing his guitar in the coffee shop. It was beautiful. His last tune before we headed home for much-needed naps was John Lennon’s “Imagine.” I tipped him as we stepped out onto the blazing sidewalk and headed toward my car. His music had been so very kind. It made our big outing even more special.
When we said goodbye from her driveway that Sunday she summed it up pretty well when she said, “This is like a sad moment!” Indeed it was like that. We chuckled for a moment and then touched each other’s faces with our palms. And then she said, “I’ve loved looking at your lipstick all weekend.” And these two fashion consultant friends laughed again because of course, we’d notice things like that. I hadn’t told her how much I agonized over that shade and why. Only I got the extra kick over how funny that was.
I got into the car and backed out of her driveway, drove a block, pulled over and for several minutes before getting on the freeway and heading for the airport, I stopped being brave.
I relived every moment of our weekend while on the plane ride home. It tickled me to no end her comment about my lipstick. I was never so happy to have been so wrong about something.
She has been in and out of the emergency room several times in this last month. She’s had two more procedures. And last week, the doctor said the words that confirmed what she’s known all along: “What you need is another surgery. But the risks are so high. You could die.”
We had a lengthy chat about that over the phone. More meetings are scheduled with her team of experts to try to come up with solutions everyone can live with.
Frankly, I hope that doctor is as wrong about his assessment as I was about the lipstick. He thinks it could be fatal, but he doesn’t know Louise.