In March I shared my interview with Caryn, an elementary school teacher in Portland, OR, about the Whimsy & Tea towel she has been using in her kitchen. This month I have another interview.
I first met Deirdre Danahar in graduate school and we reconnected a few years ago. She is a coach and consultant who helps people with complex, busy lives master the art of doing their best work without the guilt, strain and emptiness of compromising for their careers. Deirdre lives in Jackson, MS.
Deirdre jumped into the conversation about how she uses her Whimsy & Tea napkin.
What attracted me to your work is I have always loved quality linens. When I saw your work, it reminded me of linens that I grew up with in my Lithuanian grandparents’ home. What always amazed me is their linens were decades old and still beautiful and they weren’t just saved for fancy occasions. They were used every day. It was a way of bringing something of high quality into everyday life and, for them, making life beautiful in some pretty darn difficult circumstances.
I like quality items. If you are going to buy something that you are going to use, why not buy something that’s the best quality you can afford? It will last you longer and over time you’ll get more use out of it. I remember my mother saying, It is better to buy something that’s a little more expensive if it’s better made because in the long run you’ll enjoy it more. It will last you longer.
When you are surrounded by beautiful things that you enjoy, you feel more positive, more interested in your environment and happier. Barbara Fredrickson is a psychologist known for her work on positive emotions. She’s found that they increase your flexibility and creativity, and can’t we all use more of that in the world? Having a beautiful napkin that you use everyday can make you feel a little bit happier before you head out to work. With this more positive attitude you can be more effective, creative and innovative at work.
How do you use your Whimsy & Tea napkin?
I use it every day with breakfast. I have my little morning ritual. I’m the first one up in the house, with the exception of the cat, and I have a civilized breakfast every morning. I’m not standing over the sink eating a pop tart. I have brewed my tea and use one of the mugs I really like. If it’s nice weather out and not crazy hot, I’ll go sit on my back porch. If it’s crappy weather, I sit at our dining table. If it’s really lousy weather, I will do something my mother taught us to do: have breakfast by candlelight.
I like the way the napkin feels on my legs, when it’s draped over them. It’s got this nice weight to it, so there’s this lovely transition between oh, I’d still rather be in bed, but I’m going into my day.
This breakfast ritual is part of taking the time to be intentional, to have some quiet time, to nurture myself literally with what I’m eating and also with how I’m starting my day. It can be the only time of my day that doesn’t feel coo-coo.
I don’t let anyone else use this napkin. It’s special. It’s mine. It just makes me smile to look at the darn thing.
What difference does using this napkin make to your breakfast, to your morning routine, to your day?
There are a couple of things.
It may be, depending on the day, the only beautiful thing I encounter in a day.
When I use it, I have the same kind of reaction as when I use other things I’ve bought for myself that are handcrafted: I’ve invested in something that’s representative of what’s important to me.
I want to ensure that handcrafted things are preserved. I want to help people understand that fast is not always best and that slow and specific can be better in the long run. When you are creating something by hand, it’s probably going to be slow and specific.
There are some days when I’m eating lunch in my home office and I’ll pull it out, especially if I’m having a kind of coo-coo day. To me there’s something about feeling that fabric – the texture, the strength of it and the supple nature of it – that is calming. It’s like how people would use a worry stone. You can rub it between your fingers.
Why do you think it so hard to buy yourself special things that you love?
I think you have to get past the point of feeling it’s an indulgence. And that maybe you haven’t earned it. We tend to be more willing to spend money on other people.
When I’ve made purchases where I wasn’t necessarily intending to go buy something for myself, it has been things where I look at it and I can say, I really adore this and you know what, I would do this for somebody else. Why would I not give the same kindness and generosity to myself?
My invitation to you: Do you have a daily ritual? I’d love to hear what it is and how it affects your day.