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Coming Out of My Own Closet

IMG_1310Two hours down and I have only gotten through half the stuff in my closet. At the urging and with the help of my youngest daughter who conveyed handfuls of items to try on, each piece of clothing received a yea, a nay or a “second chance.” The pile of “no’s” grew precipitously, demanding a second bin even larger than the first to contain all the send-offs.

Lo and behold, there’s a reason I frequent elastic waist bands and loose-fitting sportswear; most of what I own no longer fits or has become yesterday’s style or color. “Shoulder pads, really Mom? They’re so retro. I can probably sell them on my clothing website.” The message is clear: I shouldn’t have all this stuff. Why am I keeping it?

The easy answer is, I’m too lazy to go through it. The more honest answer is, I don’t want to try it on to see that it no longer fits. Gone are the days that I can hang onto jeans hoping I might shimmy in if I just lose that last 10 pounds. Today, as buttons don’t button and zippers don’t zip, I fight the urge to hate myself for the shape I’m in. Heavier, rounder and softer.

While some people fear that others will find what they’ve been hiding in their closet, I fear what I have been hiding there from myself. Now, here it is, in living color, undeniable and staring back at me from the mirror. The body you used to have is gone. Now you’re stuck with this one. With me.

It’s amazing what a closet shows you about yourself. Can I handle the truth? I am not who I used to be, no matter how tightly I hold onto the used-to-be me. The grip I have on the last vestiges of myself is slipping.

I can’t run full steam ahead with all my ideas like I used to. limited energy. limited time. limited passion. limited resources. What will I give my future? What’s worth giving it to?

Allow me this moment of lament for those youthful days when growing out of something meant growing up. Jeans were too short because I had grown taller, not wider. Shirts were too tight because I had grown bustier, not thicker. Toes poking out my sneakers meant a longer instep, not flattening arches. The only things that lasted more than a season were my favorite t-shirts and sweatshirts which, when they lay in frayed tatters, my mother insisted it was time they go.

Can I see today’s growing out of not as growing up but as growing into?

Can I grow into an older self, more secure in my skin and more comfortable with my size? Can I embrace the truth which no one will tell me unless I tell myself that I am not my weight or the number on my label? This physical change is, if not inevitable, at least for me is real and not avoidable. Here I am in the body I have, for which I am grateful and to which I am dedicated in my care taking. Can I accept the newly old me?

“I’m trying not to hate myself,” I hear myself say out loud to my daughter who should never hear me say this.

clothes in mirror“It’s okay, Mom. We’ll go shopping,” she says smiling and without a trace of the indictment, derision or self-flagellation I feel certain I deserve. All of these years I have toiled to maintain a fit physique – I’m in the fitness business after all – so as not to be accused of not working hard enough to be thin. Now, I need to make peace with healthy and as high performance as possible, given the raw material I have to work with.

Apparently, what I’m growing into is someone who’s not afraid of what lurks in my closet. It’s not hiding now; it’s in plain sight. I guess this is just my version of coming out. What I see in the mirror is just fine. Mine to take care of. Mine to use. Mine to share.

Everyone has a closet.


Who’s Stealing Your Good Day?

“We must be prepared to have certain things done to us.”

Well, you don’t have to tell me that twice. Have you seen the way people drive around here? Cutting you off, swerving in and out of your lane, passing you on the right… And don’t get me started on the pushing and shoving at the mall. Christmas is coming, you know?

checkout selfOh, but the worst is that person who comes after you in the self check-out line and sends his purchases along the conveyor belt before you have packed your things up. And his stuff starts bump, bumping into your stuff. And you look up at said person, incredulous that he doesn’t notice what he’s doing, and he’s happily scanning away.

‘Put your bananas on the belt’…and so he does. Really? Can anyone be more annoying? But, it’s to be expected, right?

And for just such an occasion, Peter advises, “Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but, on the contrary, bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain (inherit) a blessing.” (I Peter 3:9)

Be prepared … so that what I do next does not disqualify me from the family inheritance. It’s not that I don’t have a right to be annoyed by self-checker, or drive-and-texter, or Humbug-hurrier, it’s that Love must look different from the rest of the world. On all these occasions.

Honestly, most Christians I know are generous. They volunteer their time, donate their money, serve the needy, feed the poor and hungry. Some even travel to far away places where poverty is great and resources are few to build churches and schools. These people are amazing.

But, I also know people who would not call themselves Christians but are exceedingly generous just the same. They donate their money. They volunteer time and resources. They give to the less fortunate and they may even travel long distances to do it. I am amazed by these people, perhaps even more amazed than I am by the Christians, because Christians have marching orders; these folks are just doing what’s right.

So what’s the difference, if good is getting done? Perhaps it is this very self checkout thing. Christ calls us to act differently from the world, especially when we are wronged. When we have something done to us, an injury or ailment befalls us, or we are the victim of unfairness or prejudice, we are prepared. We don’t return evil for evil.

But wait. No one in their right mind would just let that guy’s groceries barrel into hers without giving him a piece of her mind! I mean, he needs to know better so that he doesn’t do it to someone else. Or maybe I’ll teach him a lesson and put his granola bars into MY bag. Or casually smash the incoming eggs with my hefty orange juice. Ah, this could get ugly.

And that’s the thing. When we are unprepared, ugly wins. And I don’t mean his ugly: I mean my ugly. I can defeat that foe only when I recognize it before it’s unleashed and send it away. If I want to have a good day, I need to be prepared, for people and occasions like this.

Not just grin and bear it so it has a happy ending. Not just grit my teeth so I can “earn” that blessing I “deserve” because I showed amazing restraint. No, I can adopt a frame of mind that will address the problem calmly and satisfactorily, solely because I haven’t let ugly take it from me.

Hey – did you know that there is a plastic bar folded to the side of the conveyor belt that you can extend in order to separate your order from that guy’s behind you? Me neither, until, after grinning and gritting, I got so irritated I went to complain to the manager.

It’s not my job to teach that guy a lesson, but I don’t need to let him steal my good day today. Tomorrow, of course, is another day.

Go Ahead, Try it On

Call me odd, my family does regularly. Except we do it politely and call each other outliers.

When I pick up a book and start to read, I also pick up a pen – or maybe a highlighter. Even, and I know this is forbidden according to some, when I pick up my Bible. Because I know there is something I will want to respond to. or something to record. or at least something that deserves demarcating. Not, necessarily guaranteeing that I will return to these words or this place, though I might, but because I expect that while taking myself to these words, something will strike me. Something worth making tangible. I will want to respond.

This makes it conversation, even if I’m the only one there. My response adds value, if only to me.

Key in all this is expectation, I find I alert myself to this without really thinking about it. I don’t, after all, bring my highlighter to the comics (though I occasionally cut some out that deserve saving or sharing) or a junky novel (though I don’t read too many of these – don’t have the patience). From these I expect one-way entertainment, perhaps, but not conversation. Library books pose a particular challenge because one may not write in these. When they meet expectations I have tried sticky tabs that I later transcribe, but often in the aftermath I find the impact of the phrase or thought is diminished, the connection to what I was thinking having been broken.

Expectation is not always well-placed of course, but one should be ready. So, when does ready move? Okay – here comes the outlier moment: it’s when you decide you’re gonna try something on.

Yep. This occurred to me at the outlet mall the other day. Some stores I don’t even walk into. Some, I walk in and immediately walk out of. But some I take the plunge and “shop.” This means I actually walk among the racks and handle the clothing. I look with intention. But I’m not to expectation yet. I casually slide things along the racks, disdaining most items…until I reach one that suggests I try it on. I pull the hanger from the rack and sling the dress or blouse or skirt or shorts, whatever, over my arm. Now, at least for this one item, I will invest my time in disrobing, adorning, looking. I have committed to make a choice about this one.

The funny bit comes next. Now that I have committed to a trip to the dressing room (mind you, it’s not the same if the item can be tried on there on the floor – no commitment needed for this), it becomes easier, more likely, that I will sling more items over my arm in preparation for the dressing room. The key is that first item. It’s a tipping point of sorts.

Now, I may decide not to buy anything. Nothing may fit. I might be having a fat day or a stingy day or a generally disgruntled day. And this can happen with the pen or highlighter. I might not stumble on anything worth marking, but once I mark that first thing, it’s nearly ensured that won’t be the only thing. Much like when you find the PERFECT dress but you need just one size larger (or smaller) or worse, if it’s the perfect size and perfect fit but it has a snag in it or a defect in the fabric. Then, you’ll do most anything to locate that dress. Even if it must be shipped across the country. These days, probably landing at your doorstep – convenience has its upside.

It’s much easier when it’s words you find a perfect fit. You try them on.  When they fit, you respond – with your own words or your own thoughts. And then you wear them out of the store because hey, you look great in them. They become a part of your wardrobe. Perhaps even a favorite outfit.

I wonder how many writers I owe a word of thanks because I have adopted their language and ideas and these have become such a part of me I can’t really separate from them anymore. I’m so glad I was inclined to pull them off the rack and try them on. I wonder how I would be different if I hadn’t tarried over them long enough to try them on.

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