Several years ago I decided to purge my closet of all the clothes that didn’t fit anymore. I had heard of a local program that helps welfare women dress for first-time job interviews – the kinds of jobs that might help them improve their financial situation. I had a bunch of clothes left over from a former life and a former body, including business suits and other suitable attire for job-interviewing. I packed them all up and took them downstairs and put them by the door to be taken away.
Every time I went out the door for months I’d walk past that box of clothes, and think, “I should take those with me and drop them off.” But I didn’t. Over and over I didn’t. So I started wondering why. I knew I’d never wear them again – at that point they were all 3 sizes too small, and the business that required me to wear them was long gone. That part of my life had ended three years prior, so why it was so hard to get rid of those clothes?
Because I had not fully accepted that that wasn’t still going to be my life. Some part of me was hanging on to the hope that it had all been a mistake; a bump in the road, and that I would have that life I loved so much again. It took a long time to come to terms with that loss.
This is not, of course, the rational part of me. It’s a part of me that says “no.” No to loss, no to powerlessness, no to reality. This is not the best part of me, but is a part nonetheless. That part of me occasionally still doesn’t understand why trying as hard as you can makes no difference. That part of me thinks life should be fair. That part of me really believes all that stuff about working hard and succeeding.
I’ve finally accepted that the reality is that you can do all that you can, have faith, work hard, believe completely that everything will work out, and still fail. I know that life is not fair. I know that life is about struggle and loss and finding joy and strength in spite of it. But there’s still a little bit of me – that part that couldn’t get rid of those clothes – that doesn’t want life to be like that.
I want life to be fair.
When I tell people about my past, I say that I lost my business. Like I don’t know where it is right now, but I’m sure it will turn up. It also implies that I really didn’t have anything to do with that loss; I was just working along and it wandered off, or maybe, was abducted by a group of marauding business stealers.
I have trouble saying that the business failed. Businesses don’t fail, people do. And so if I’m going to use that word, I have to admit that I failed, and I was no more ready to do that than I was to give up the clothes, the files, and the business cards for a long, long time. It’s still hard.
The weight of that loss – of my belief in myself, in possibility, and in the universe’s willingness to support me – was more than I could bear. So I stuck it in the closet for years. What do you do when everything you believed about yourself, other people, the world, and God all turned out to be false? How do you go on after you’ve discovered that truth about yourself, other people, and life – that you can rely on nothing, ever?
Life just is what it is – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s difficult, but no matter what you do, how you live, how hard you try, there is no guarantee. Without diluting that knowledge with drugs or alcohol, or the distractions of the world, how do we go on?
We just do. We have to. You come to rely on yourself, be true to yourself, and you just keep going. Every now and again you drag the past out of the closet and decide whether you can finally let it go, or whether you want to hang on to some things a little longer – just in case.
In between you hope. Just hope; that the world might accidentally sometimes work out like you want it to, or that you’ll become the person you need to be to keep going without stumbling when it doesn’t.
Or maybe you just hope that the sun is shining tomorrow.
Maybe that’s enough.