It had been a long, intensely emotional night, completely void of the respite of sleep. Big changes were happening that were out of my control, and the news had been difficult to hear. To slightly paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, a head-on collision smashed in my guts, man. I was caught in a cross fire that I didn’t understand.
Nevertheless, the morning’s responsibilities were not the sort that could take a backseat to physical or emotional exhaustion. Willing myself to function, I trudged to the closet and reached for a grey hoodie. Would I choose the one I bought in Chicago? Or perhaps the one with Nashville emblazoned across the front? I also had a choice of hoodies from Colorado, Indianapolis, Savannah, New Hampshire, Atlanta, Cinque Terre, and Berlin.
Back in my old life, I never wore sweatshirts. Not because there is anything wrong with them, they just didn’t suit me. As a stay-at-home mom, I preferred the more polished look of denim shorts and a t-shirt (that’s supposed to be a tiny bit funny).
But then life began changing in ways that were daunting and scary. Enter the phase of the grey hoodie. I bought the first one in the Denver airport, partly because I was cold, but mostly because I needed comforting. In the absence of human comfort, I swaddled myself in the giant grey hoodie, and huddled into my seat.
Over the next few months, which were the most difficult of my life, I not only wore out the Colorado sweatshirt, but I started collecting others. They became my uniform of sorts. A baggy, comfortable uniform that allowed me to remain non-descript when I wanted to hide from the world.
My kids and their friends began taking bets each morning on which city I would represent for the day. I can’t tell you how many times I would meet people and apologize for my appearance, “I’m sorry. I don’t normally dress like this.”
As I reached into the closet that morning, my hand stopped midair. After three years, I had to admit that I normally dressed like this. If I wanted to dress differently, I couldn’t wait until life magically stopped changing in ways that were painful. Nothing in life is permanent. Nothing. Not even life itself. It is only when we have come to expect or desire permanence that we feel pain.
But impermanence also enables us to recognize the beautiful things in life. If the sky was a constant array of pink, blue, and orange, we would never fully appreciate the sunset. It is only because we know it will disappear in a matter of moments that we take time to stop and behold the beauty each evening.
How fortunate I am to be a human being with a full range of emotions. How lovely it is to be able to see beauty in the fleeting moments of life, desire to hold onto them, and feel such exquisite pain when they disappear like glorious rays of sun setting over the horizon.
Hiding in a grey hoodie was not going to change my situation, nor was it going to make me feel good about myself. Then and there I decided I was done. I donned a nice blouse and then bundled up the sweatshirts. I had to get them out of my closet or it would be too easy to fall back into them.
Each day for the past month, I have dressed in clothing that allows me to feel good about my appearance. But more importantly, I faced the pain of my situation head-on and chose to live boldly rather than hide from the world. Healing has come more quickly than anticipated, and some credit goes to the epiphany of the grey hoodie. To slightly paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, I had a notion, a notion deep inside, “that it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.”
Syndicated columnist Ginger Claremohr is an author, motivational speaker, and mother of five. Follow her on Facebook, find her on the web: www.claremohr.com, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.