Annapurna Woman Emily O'Keeffe
How do you start your day?
I always wake up at least an hour before my children and come downstairs to snuggle with our dog. Next comes the ritual of a cup of black coffee and with mug in hand I enjoy the quiet, dark house - it is exquisite. This is my much needed moment to be awake and quiet. No music, no talking, no asking or answering questions. Then I hand sew a shirt collar. Since beginning my clothing company this past year, I now take a bit of this precious morning time to complete the detailing around the collar of a shirt. It is a ritual that centers me to the day ahead in a calm and focused way.
What do you do when you are overwhelmed or stressed?
For years when I have felt overwhelmed or stressed, I simply went faster…the more I had on my plate the quicker I would move. There was a period, when I broke a wine glass every week in the kitchen. Did I slow down? Nope. After repeatedly cleaning up the mess, I went to IKEA and bought cheap stemware. The universe was certainly trying to teach me something, but I was not able to learn. Then a couple of years ago, in the same week that my husband quit his job, we sold our house, and were preparing to travel around the world with our kids, I found out that I had breast cancer. That certainly slowed me down pretty fast. After the mastectomy, while I was recovering, I attempted to go about business as usual, but ended up exhausted and depleted, and came very close to a complete breakdown. This felt like the lowest moment of my life. I had always held tightly to the notion that movement in any direction- even if it is the wrong direction- is better than being stagnant. And then I was brought to this sudden halt. It required me to change my approach and although it was a painful lesson, I am much better for it. Now when I am overwhelmed or stressed, I first recognize how I am feeling. I know that the feeling will pass. And I take myself on a long hike with my dog. I don’t try to ‘do’ anything when I feel this way, I just try to ‘be’.
What gives you the feeling of true bliss within?
This is a very good question and I am having a hard time pinpointing my answer! Bliss is a word that has such a wonderful quality of being both happy and energizing. Let me just say that one of the ways I feel this most acutely is when I encounter the true creative spirit in other people. When I am shown a window into another’s creative process – what moves them and inspires them. This energy radiates outwards and everyone around can feel it. It is about true creative connectivity – bliss!
What are you currently reading?
The Wander Society, by Keri Smith. This book was just given to me by a friend that I often refer to as my muse. She inspires me and encourages me to live my own life. It is a quick read that I keep returning to for wisdom. Here is an excerpt: “In joining the Wander Society, you are embarking on a hero’s quest. The quest is not so much about where you wander, but rather your readiness to create your own path, to let go of what society has told you you’re supposed to be.”
What are you listening to right now?
The soft rain falling on the deck outside my studio. It is truly magic to my ears. As a California native, I grew up through several droughts including this current one and I have always cherished the rain soaked earth and the excuse to spend a minute inside. And then on the flip side, I am listening to the musical Popeye! My children were given a record player for Christmas and also the old records from my childhood. They have taken to the Popeye musical…”I yam what I yam what I yam what I yam”. Popeye’s declaration of self. I wonder what he is trying to tell me?
What does nourishment look like to you?
I stopped by a friend’s house to say a quick hello yesterday. I had not had lunch. She had warm broth on the stove and offered me a bowl. We had 30 minutes to be present and connect with each other while drinking soup. I was filled to the brim when I left with love and warmth! True nourishment.
How do you make space for play?
I seek out fun and am always happy to try new things! We have recently moved to Los Angeles and live close to the beach. After school, I pick up the kids and we head out with our boogie boards. At first they were the only ones with the boogie boards and then I realized that I was missing out. Easily fixed! We are all out in the waves now.
What are some favorite mantras you cling to?
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I have always wanted to live a life of great adventure—of change and expansion. I once heard that many people have about nine different “careers” over a lifetime and this is something that gave me courage to start a new pursuit. I spoke with my eighty-four year old father about this recently and we counted up his professions- sure enough he is on number nine… an artist, at last! I am working on number four with my women’s apparel company, Aplombis. It took me a long time to give myself the permission to pursue this new passion and now I feel so excited to be learning and discovering a whole new world.
Please share some words of wisdom you've learned as a direct result of soulful and embodied living.
I have learned that the universe only hands you difficulties in order to teach and expand your soul. I have begun to understand how hard times are actually a blessing as they give me a chance to grow. When these challenging times are re-framed as a chance to expand your soul, then I no longer feel that the hardships are too much - but rather they are an opportunity to transform! Experience has taught me to trust in the unknown journey of life and where it may lead.
Emily Pringle O’Keeffe was born and raised in Northern California, but has lived and worked in many cities including, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and London. It was while in graduate school at the Architectural Association in London that her life took one of its first major detours. Up until this point, she was always on a well defined path, one upon which she knew exactly where she was going. Since the age of sixteen, she wanted to be an architect. She pursed this dream with complete conviction until she met an irresistible Irishman in line at a bad Indian take-out and within two years was no longer working as an architect but was now a wife and mother. They moved from London to San Francisco where they raised their two children for ten years, until last year when they suddenly moved to Los Angeles.
This marked another dramatic shift in direction, as they found themselves in a new city where they happened to know no-one! Although not easy, this new city and routine allowed for space to start to pursuing Emily's passion for designing and making women’s clothing.
She began to realize that even though life is demanding, if we wear something that helps us project our inner confidence the world responds to this confidence. After many failed attempts, the design for her first shirt was realized, like many things in life, by accident. She made the shirt for herself in many fabrics and styles- but always with a large distinct collar. Something about the shirt made people notice and it felt so genuine to receive those compliments, knowing that the image people responded to reflected her true self. She is awed by the power that clothing has over how we see ourselves and how the world sees us, for good and for bad. She wear this shirt with aplomb and it has brought about a positive change in how she presents herself to the world. This is the feeling and energy that she wants to share with other women, so that they can go out into the world in pursuit of all of their amazing dreams and passions.