Nearly there now!

OK, I haven’t been brave enough to post this series of pink reflections online until today. (If you want to start from the beginning of Lent, it starts here.) I think part of that is I wanted to make sure that I experienced this, and didn’t get too influenced by comments that others may make. I think I also wasn’t entirely sure that I would make it this far… and perhaps didn’t want to record any possible ‘failure’ in the seemingly simple task of giving up pink for Lent.

It’s nearly Maundy Thursday now, and I’ve nearly made it.

I have to say I’m glad that I’m now worshipping in a church tradition that has an Easter vigil on Saturday evening, so technically Easter will start on Saturday evening for me, and I can put back on some pink.

When I booked my appointment with the hairdressers for Ash Wednesday, to get rid of the pink, I also booked an appointment with them for Holy Saturday, to put the pink back in. But now I need to have a think, and work out if I need to put back on my pink hair. I’m still undecided. I don’t feel that I ‘need’ it in quite the same way that I did. However, I do rather like it – which is why I’ve had it pink for some time. Hmmm, a couple more days to decide. Perhaps I need to go and have a chat with my hairdresser (the rather fabulously named ‘Hairway to Heaven’!) and work out what I’m going to do.

I’m looking forward to the Chrism Mass tomorrow at Winchester Cathedral. One of the highlights for me is seeing all the different liturgical colour vestments – for me, it is a very visual reminder of these colours, of encountering God through these wide range of colours, and remembering that God is there throughout all these different seasons of life, seasons of the year. I’m open to see what happens over the next few days – three more days in black for me, and to see what colours I’m open to as I approach Easter Day.

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Draining the colour

(Written 14th March)

OK, it’s now Passion Sunday, we’re entering the last two weeks of Lent. In our churches the crosses have been veiled in purple. I’m finally ready to try a day in black. Poncho is back in the cupboard, I’m not even wearing any blue. This feels very strange, and very uncomfortable (although strangely, 25 years ago, I would have been more than happy to wear all black.)

I’m surprised at how hard I’m still finding it to give up the pink – I thought I would have got used to it by now. I’m also surprised at how hard I’m finding it to actually get to the point of wearing just black. It feels very odd.

One of the things I have realised is that pink really is an expression of who I am at the moment. It does feel like it’s still a good colour, and it does feel congruent with who I am on the inside. Wearing pink I think does reflect something of who I am, of my optimism and cheerfulness. The combination of pink and my dog collar I think does speak something of my informality & approachability, which I think reflects my nature and my approach to being a priest.

However, I feel that I may have started to let go a little of my obsessiveness about pink, and hopefully may be a little more open to other colours – both me wearing them; but also to encountering aspects of God in other colours. Seeing the gorgeous nearly 3 year old Katie the other day, with her love of rainbows, helps me to remember more of the wonderful colours that there are all around us. I’m curious now to find out what happens to me come Easter… how much pink will I reclaim, and will I allow room for other colours? I’m not quite sure… part of me wants to just put back on all the pink that’s been lingering in my wardrobe…

A couple of weeks left to go now… I think I will spend a few more days in black, and see what happens.

Lent without pink continues here

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Losing the plot without pink

(Written 3rd March)

3 weeks into Lent, and I hadn’t realised quite how difficult I would find it to give up pink. On a practical side I have to do the washing a lot more frequently, as I don’t have very many non-pink (or purple or red clothes). However, it has gone far deeper than that. I suppose I should have expected it – my journey into pink was related to my image of God, and to my developing identity. Giving up pink is challenging my sense of identity – what does it mean to be Rachel without all these bright colours. I’ve been wearing my new poncho rather a lot, with it’s streak of pink… and some have been suggesting that I’m not fully giving up the pink…am I ready to let go of even this bit of colour?

I’m also finding it disorienting in my prayer life too – which perhaps is a good thing. Have I got fixated on seeing just some aspects of God’s character – the life, the love, the energy. Have I closed myself off to other aspects of who God is?

I’m finding it really hard to settle, perhaps I need to reconnect with the stillness of God. Out and about here, in the beautiful New Forest, I can’t help but notice all the fantastic green colours around me, the signs of spring budding all over the place. Perhaps it would be helpful for me to notice other colours around me… has the pink blinkered me to seeing other aspects of God and this amazing world that we are in?

Am I willing to let go of my images of who I am and who God is… am I able to just be, to stay in the present? Have I started using my old images of God as a short-hand, to try and short-cut spending time with God now, but instead just recalling past experiences of God? Am I willing to encounter myself now, to let myself grow and change, to respond to the situation that I am now, to grow into my calling as a priest, and as a person.

I’m feeling exposed and uncomfortable… maybe this is what Lent is all about. 24 days to go until Easter… I’m not sure I’m ready for any more!$_12

(I may also have had another break of my ‘not spending any money to give up pink for Lent’. I’m really fed up of wearing my funeral shoes and I’ve splashed out on a new pair of black DMs from ebay… rather fabulous, black patent, heeled DMs…)

Lent without pink continues here

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Cold and no pink!

(Written 17th Feb)

OK, I’ve worked out one of my limitations with giving up pink… all of my warm clothes are pink and most of my shoes are pink. My coat is pink, my cardigan is pink, my ponchos are pink… and the weather has just got very cold again. I’ve been wearing my black funeral shoes for a week now, and I’m feeling down.IMG_0622

I’m away on half-term with family and friends, and I’ve decided to crochet myself a new poncho that isn’t pink… or at least that was the plan. (and OK, I may be about to spend some money on giving up pink… I know I said that I wouldn’t… but it’s either spend some money, or wear full on pink!)

I went to Otter Nurseries – as they seem to sell everything, and they did have a lot of different wools for sale. However, most of them were really drab colours, and something that I probably wouldn’t wear again after Lent. I opted for a beautiful variegated wool… although I should probably confess that once I started to crochet it, I realise there is some pink in it. I’ve decided that for me, it’s good enough, and still counts as giving up pink – the predominant colours are greeny blues, which is a big change for me. When I wear it, it is lovely, but I still don’t feel at all myself when I look in the mirror.

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I had underestimated how hard it would feel to give up pink. One week into Lent and I’m feeling really quite down. When I look in the mirror, I don’t really feel like myself; I feel drab wearing black and dark colours. I’ve stood at my wardrobe, almost stroking the pink clothes, which I’ve now washed and put away… I want to put them back on.

I’m reminded of something I wrote on here a few years ago:

“The face I want to present to the world is this pink, cheerful, capable, in control person: And to be honest…I don’t really want you to see past that…I don’t want you to see that there’s a real person back there…who’s not totally sure of herself, and hasn’t quite got it all together…If I do let you in a little…I’m still likely to try and hide behind loud / sparkly / bright things…you see I don’t really want to even admit my vulnerability to myself…I’ve become a bit of a slave to this perfectionist lark…but the cracks are there…”

I’m realising that it’s not just that I don’t want you to see beyond this pink, cheerful, capable person… it’s that I don’t want to see beyond this pink, cheerful, capable person. I don’t want to admit that vulnerability, I don’t want to let myself be out of control – and this giving up pink is making me feel very vulnerable. Still, 39 days to go… I’ve never looked forward to Easter quite as much as I have this year!

Lent without pink continues here

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Starting to go pink-free

(Written 10tIMG_6523h Feb)

It’s Ash Wednesday, and one of the first things I need to do is to remove as much of the pink as I can. So first stop for me is the hairdressers, to try and dye away my pink hair. When I get to the hairdressers I realise I’ve already overlooked one thing, as I’m wearing pink socks… it’s going to be quite a challenge to notice all the pink things, and to stop using them!

As the hairdresser finishes and I look in the mirror, it feels quite strange to be going brown again, already I’m starting to feel not quite like myself.

It may  help if I explain a little of my journey in to pink in the first place. I tend to think quite a lot in colour, and for a long time the colour that I associated with myself was blue. I painted my bedroom at home blue, my car was blue, my wedding dress was blue…. even my husband mostly lives in blue! In 2004, this started to change.

On Christmas Day 2003 I had a miscarriage, and my health also started to deteriorate, with bad asthma and significant fatigue (which was eventually diagnosed as underactive thyroid). I wasn’t very well, and I had to withdraw from a lot of the different things that I had been doing – I could no longer help on the summer camp that I had been involved with for years, I had to stop leading the youth groups that I was involved with, I had to reduce to part-time working hours. There were a lot of challenges to my identity.

I went on a reflective workshop lead by Rev’d Val Corcoran, and I started to play with colours and textures to represent my life journey. Towards the end of 2004 I started doing City & Guilds embroidery, and in our first term our focus was on colour, exploring all sorts of design work based on colour, and playing with colour in paints & threads. Colour was emerging as a significant thread throughout that year.

At work we were looking at questions around workplace dress & identity. I followed this up by booking an appointment with the fabulous Diana Blakeman at House of Colour, to work out styles of clothes and colours that suited me. I was somewhat surprised to find out that I was a Jewel Winter, and that bright pink was one of the colours that most suited me. I didn’t really want to hear that, and really wanted to just carry on with the black, navy & white that I mostly lived in. She challenged me to try wearing pink for a couple of weeks and to see what happened.100_1606

Soon after, in early 2005 I went on a silent retreat at a convent. I explored the image of God, firstly by playing about with paint to try and capture my own thoughts. The gold ball that I painted tried to capture my image of the holiness, the preciousness of God – but also something of the awe and perhaps remoteness, and also a bounded feel, for me this was something about rules and regulations, about laws and striving for perfection.

I then spent time looking at images of God drawn by different artists, from different traditions. I was particularly drawn to one icon, and in particular the red colour within it (Icons were not something I had particularly encountered prior to this – I’d grown up in a Baptist church, this was definitely new territory for me!) The blue and the gold I was familiar with, but the red really struck a dissonant chord with me.

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For the first time the humanity, the passion, the intensity, the feeling and excitement of Jesus the man struck a chord with me. Red was not a colour I had ever associated with God in any way. I spent some time with this image and exploring further scriptures to dwell on this colour aspect of God. The image I then painted was this:100_1608

This started to capture some of the movement, the energy, the dynamism, the desire of God. It was really challenging to put this on paper, as it was so different to the imagery I had let stay in my head for a long time. Part of me wanted to screw up this painting as soon as the paint started to touch the paper, it felt almost irreverent; opening me to a completely different perception of God. I spent some time sitting with this, letting the associated scriptures and imagery sink in.

I spent se100_1223veral days praying on this in retreat, of encountering these different aspects of God, and letting them seep into me. I created a simple card/ fabric butterfly, that felt like the new, fragile me, emerging from a chrysalis – the chrysalis of pain and poor health, but also the restrictions of trying to meet others expectations of me.

The encounter with this redness of God, the life-giving energy, was a realisation for me of the invitation to live the fullness of life, to allow myself to 100_1222get to know myself better, and to let different aspects of my personality & skills to flourish. And as colour has always been significant to me, this was the start of me really accepting the pink colour – the colour that had been identified when I had my colours done, started to feel like a God-given colour for me, and became almost a short-hand to myself, a reminder to be the person that I am, to allow myself to flourish and live, to love life and appreciate the goodness around me – and to encourage that flourishing in others.

Later that year, as part of my City & Guilds we had to create a wall hanging. I decided to use this colourful journey and to represent it in stitch & fabric. The spiral shell, still hanging in our living room, represents that journey, that transformation.

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Ten, eleven years on though, I wonder if I have almost stopped that transformation by capturing it in an image like that. I’m reminded of Wittgenstein’s words: “A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably.”

(I’m pretty sure Wittgenstein didn’t have in mind a pink spiral shell when he wrote these words.) However, I wondered if that is what had started to happen to me – had I become captive to this image of transformation, of pink. Was I inside it, or outside it? Was I stuck in a pink loop with no escape? In using pink as almost a short-hand to myself, had I tried to capture it… was I still experiencing God in this way? Was this colour still true to myself? Did it still represent who I am? Or am I restricting myself, stopping the continual change & transformation by hiding behind this colour?

I’m not really sure, and I think that is what I’m hoping  I may find out as I continue on this journey through Lent. I’m only one day in, and already I’m feeling very uncomfortable, and not at all sure that I’m going to make it to Easter… Easter is feeling a long way away!

Lent without pink continues here

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Why am I giving up Pink for Lent?

(Written 5th Feb)

Pink has been a hugely significant colour in my life for the past 12 years, and has become almost a trademark colour for me. I’ve heard myself referred to as ‘the pink vicar’, and it’s almost become my brand. Which is why I have decided to give it up for Lent.IMG_6481

My route into pink was a transformational journey – both inside and out; but does it still mean the same thing to me now as it did when I first encountered the colour for myself? I’m not sure. I’m wondering if pink has almost become a uniform that I put on, is it still the right colour for me? And have I almost hindered further work and development by such a strong attachment to the one colour?

A couple of years ago someone suggested giving up hair-dye & makeup for Lent, and at the time I said that I wasn’t sure if I could, as it would feel like giving up being me. It still does feel like I’m going to be giving up some of the security of feeling like me.

So this Lent, I’m putting this to the IMG_7480test. I’ve decided to give up pink – (but ideally without spending money). My aim is not to buy an entirely new wardrobe that is not pink, but to see what it’s like to live with as little of my usual pink as I can (without spending money). There will be some pink things that I continue to use – my inhaler, hearing aids, wallet and tablet (all pink) will still be regularly used during Lent! I’ve also decided not to just swap pink for purple or red, so I will be endeavouring to leave pink, purple & red out of my life for Lent.

 

At the moment I’m feeling quite anxious at the thought of it, which suggests to me that this is probably a good thing, and that it is likely to be challenging thing for me to give up. I’m really curious to see how this journey goes, and how I may be changed through these six weeks.

Lent without pink continues here

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