While in New York, I went to Saks to look for a pair of jeans and, well, to see Saks. Does a person really need a reason? I was having a great time gawking and gaping, and generally playing the part of country mouse goes to town, when my friend pointed to a red dress hanging on a rack.
"That would look great on you."
"Mmmm," I concurred wistfully. The sign on the wall said Ralph Lauren. I kept moving.
My friend wasn't content to leave it at that, though.
"Try it on."
"What for? It's going to be way out of my budget."
"Try it on."
I was convinced the Very Elegant sales clerk could see right through the cheap leather of my Forever 21 bag to the contents of my wallet, and would just cross her arms and shake her head when I asked for a dressing room, but she gestured forward and ushered me into a chamber nearly as spacious as my berth back at the Hudson.
As I slipped the dress off the hanger, I glanced at the tag. $1200. OMFG. Now I was not only hesitant to put it on, I was petrified. What if I snagged it with a fingernail? I called out to my friend to come and retrieve it before I sneezed on it or sweated in it or spontaneously combusted and left soot on it.
No answer. Okay, I thought. It's just pretend. Get into it.
I slipped out of my Levi's and into that dress and then I died.
I died right then and there on the dressing room floor, and I came back in the mirror as someone Fabulous. I hardly knew myself.
I stepped out of the room and called out to my friend, who turned around with a grin. I think we both uttered several expletives right in front of the Very Elegant sales clerk. We hugged. We cheered. It wasn't a dress; it was an Occasion.
Before I took it off, I snapped a picture to remember it by. After I changed back into my Levi's and t-shirt, my friend and I went for a drink overlooking Rockefeller Center. We were still giddy, like we'd both just come from a tent revival.
Of course, I left the dress in New York. Even if I had the money, how often would I wear a dress like that? Twice a year? It's impractical, it's impossible, it should be very cut and dry.
But I have to confess, I look at that picture nearly every day since I got back, look at it and sigh, like stealing glances at a snapshot of an illicit lover. My fling.
The question of whether or not a twelve hundred dollar dress is a good value if it makes you feel like a million bucks is a topic for another day, and in this case, a moot point.
But this isn't really about the dress. It's about that woman in the mirror. She's the one I'd like to bring home and keep.
"Who are you to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?" Marianne Williamson
asked beautifully and famously in her book, Return to Love
. Long before the trailer for Akelah and the Bee
got attached to every family dvd we ever brought home last year, long before it was quoted by and commonly misattributed to Nelson Mandela, I loved that rhetorical question and its inspired response: "Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God."
The idea that there is enough fabulousness to go all the way around is a principle I strive to live by. It wasn't always so. For most of my adult life, I lived in fear that the opposite was true: that someone else's claim on success, talent, good looks or wealth meant less of those things would be available to me. Perhaps more detrimentally, I acted as if I believed that laying claim to any of those things for myself would be stealing from someone who needed or deserved them more. It looks ridiculous spelled out, but that's how I lived, particularly where money and creativity were concerned.
Seeing the falsity of a belief is one thing, but learning to walk a new walk is quite another. The old tapes die hard.
Even as good and exciting things are happening all around, I find myself slipping back into scarcity mindset. I wake up at night worried that I can't deliver on commitments I've made. That I'm not really good enough. That my dearest relationships won't survive my saying yes to new opportunities. That the house budget will run out before the flooring is installed, that my husband's business will grind to a halt, that the sky will fall.
This fear is my default position, like slouching. It takes constant awareness and effort to pull my shoulders back, sit up, breathe, trust. To substitute every "what if?" with "why not?"
Recently, some wonderful things have been happening in my online community. Everywhere I turn, books
are coming out,
television appearances are being booked, speaking invitations offered. We've come a long way in a breathtakingly short time. Three years ago, when the New York Times first reported on "mommy-blogging
," it was with enough acid to cause the ink to drip. Fast forward to a few weeks back, when the Wall Street Journal ran its report on the same story
99.9% snide-free. It's a good time to be in new media.
Amid the chorus of atta-girls (and boys), there has been the odd hiss-boo, some muttered, some howled. My first response to the spoilers is to be judgemental. "Get a life," I think. "Batshit crazy," I decide.
But yesterday, my friend Belinda took her own feelings about the batshit crazies and channeled them into an absolutely gorgeous post to her daughter
, in which she wisely counsels her to rise above hating and "not-enough" thinking.
I so much embrace the values in Belinda's post, that it forced me to take a good look at how coldly and quickly I want to disassociate myself from the howlers in the gutter. Because it's one tiny step for health and wholeness to recognize that for what it issickness. It's a much bigger stretch to get beyond the reflexive aversion to ugliness and see that the person howling is in pain, and a mighty, muscle-tearing leap to come to a full stop and see myself in them.
We react most negatively to what we cannot allow in ourselves. For me, that's the victim card. Nothing will flip my switch like someone whining "poor me," whether it's in the key of self-rightousness or self-pity. But how many times have I been locked in the dungeon of my own thinking, howling and weeping while I held the keys? How many times have I blamed others for my own choices, because that was easier than taking responsibility and risking disappointment?
Sometimes, as Williamson pointed out, it's our own potential to shine that can't be admitted. And for as long as that's true, we can't really celebrate others, except to hoist them on a gallows or a pedestal and wait for them to tumble down.
"A high tide raises all boats together," my mom said to me over dinner in Chelsea last week.
If I parse that with my left brain, I know it's not exactly true. Some people miss the boat, some ships run aground. Some dreams sink straight to the bottom and never rise again.
But I have to live as if it is true, because I do know that my living small and scared serves nobody. It doesn't heal the suffering. It doesn't move anyone else ahead. It doesn't make me a hero or a saint.
Whether or not I ever get to wear another dress like that dress
on the outside, I want to wear it everyday of my life on the inside. To dare to be fabulous. And dare you to be fabulous with me.
Try it on.
This post is dedicated with much affection to my New York husband, Bill ;-)
Labels: lack and plenty, soul and spirit, streaking the quad
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