I opened the closet door this morning and the first thing I saw was a teal blouse I’ve worn for years. This sturdy staple has seen me through many a day when I was totally unprepared to get out the door for work and it was always wearable right out of the wash. Its color and style allows me to pair it with a wide selection of other clothing I own.
But when I touched it today, I noticed how worn it had become and how its rich color had faded. The styling seemed outdated. Why hadn’t I noticed this before now? Perhaps it was time to retire it. But what would take its place on my unprepared days? And, in a slightly sappy sense, the blouse had been a good and faithful servant for so long, and here I was about to discard it, as if it were the Velveteen Rabbit. I vacillated, thinking of where I’d worn it – to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center where I’d done the most meaningful work of my life – and how it framed my silver and turquoise jewelry purchased from a street vendor during a New Mexico trip.
I thought, too, about the field coat for which I’d longed so many years while living in a hot climate. Catalog spreads featured long haired, Wellington-booted women with silky-coated hunting dogs at their sides tramping through autumn fields; strong, independent, cosmopolitan yet country women wearing field coats. On eBay, I found a mulberry-colored field coat trimmed in brown corduroy and lined in plaid that I wore triumphantly after my winning bid. For about six months, that is, until I realized I wasn’t a long-haired, boot-wearing, country-dwelling catalog model with a purebred dog. I was a citified, job-hopping, purpose-seeking former dog owner, wearing a coat that didn’t fit me. I folded it into the Goodwill bag. Fortunately, I hadn’t spent much money on the coat. But I had paid a significant price learning the lesson that I could only be who and what I was, not what I saw someone else be in a magazine. As the years had passed, I had changed and grown, and outgrown the field coat before I even got it. But I couldn’t see that I had to let go of the person I was trying to create who could fit the image in that coat.
And now I’ve worn out as well as outgrown the teal blouse. I think I noticed before today that it was past its prime and didn’t want to admit it. But I don’t want another field coat lesson, either. Sometimes what worked yesterday, in both clothes and dreams, doesn’t meet today’s needs, and it’s time to accept the fact and move on. I’ll be sad to see my teal blouse go, but I know I’ll find another favorite.
I’m thinking it will be something in a bright, in-your-face color. Something that a free-thinking, survivor-sort of woman would wear.