Unpacking the baggage I find...
the pink dotted-swiss dress of a little girl who didn't understand what divorce was. she cried at night for her daddy, missing him terribly, and slept with his picture under her pillow. she waited for him to come home. he never did.
a navy blue smock. she wore it to kindergarten. she thought she'd be all grown up, learning brand new things. but one day she found a boy's hands in her panties and she learned to feel scared and uncomfortable in her own body. it stayed with her because it was just the first...the first time feeling this kind of fear based paralysis, the kind that keeps you from yelling, "NO," or standing up for yourself.
an over sized purple shirt used to hide the weight she was ashamed of. she was eleven. she wanted to be thin and pretty like the other girls. she wasn't ready for the bras and the shaving and the periods and everything else that came with puberty. she wasn't ready to be developed before all her classmates. she wasn't ready for the boys' jokes and jeers, the snickering behind her back. she wanted to disappear into the folds of the purple shirt and pretend she didn't exist.
an old camp t-shirt. she was crazy about him. she followed him to youth camp hoping he'd notice her but he was too cool, too popular. her heart broke into chunky, jagged pieces when she realized he would never even talk to her. he was embarrassed by her attentions and even though everyone else told her that one day someone would be crazy about her, she began to doubt it.
a pair of worn wranglers. it was those terrible high school years. she just wanted to fit in. she quit eating to loss the weight that kept her from getting the boys' attention. she wanted to be pretty but instead became tired and sick and lethargic. she learned all her tricks from a made-for-tv-movie about karen carpenter. she knew what she was doing. she just didn't know how far she would go. she didn't realize her periods would stop, her hair would fall out, she would want nothing but sleep. she didn't realize it wouldn't keep her from hating her body.
a brightly colored floral dress worn one easter, the easter she hated herself so much she wanted to die. the easter she realized all the weight she had lost was back and she was drowning in shame, anger, and disappointment. she tried to purge the shame just like she purged the food but it was wrapped too tightly around her heart.
a blue sweater with a beautiful floral motive lining the neck. this was worn during the college years, those years she was relieved to finally be out of the high school scene. but she found she still couldn't find a place of belonging. she was still on the outside staring in. still wanting to be seen.
a gorgeous beaded ivory wedding gown. the marriage only lasted two years. he wanted out from the beginning. she thought she could make him stay. she couldn't. her dreams were shattered. she had to learn to live without him, knowing he was out there somewhere and didn't choose her. knowing he would haunt her dreams for years to come.
the capri denim overalls worn during the summer of 2000. she built up the courage to date again. she met someone at a 4th of july bar-b-que. before she knew it they were a couple. it moved too quickly. this wasn't what she wanted but she didn't know how to tell him no. she was more afraid of hurting his feelings than saving herself. she stayed in the relationship far too long. she didn't know how to get out. so she cheated on him. she knew she wouldn't go back if she betrayed his trust.
the size 4 jeans she wore the night he took her to dinner and the man at the next table told him he was lucky because he was with the most beautiful woman in the room. that weekend he was going to pick her up and they were going to have 3 full days together. he never showed up. he never called. she found out he decided to get back together with his ex. a few weeks later he left a rose on her porch for her birthday, apologizing for his disappearance. she wanted to hate him but couldn't bring herself to.
a black maternity dress that tied on the side, and all the shame that was tied up with being a single mother, all the judgment that came with choosing to bring a child into the world but choosing not to marry his father. having to explain it over and over again until she wanted to disappear, taking her baby somewhere safe and loving. night after night of feeling the heaviness. feeling completely alone and frighteningly overwhelmed. fighting so much within and around, trying to build blessings around herself and her son.
I'm unfolding each item. Holding each haunted piece closely. Smelling the years of mildew, and tears and musty perfume. The fabric holds these smells so well. One by one I take each item and hang it on the clothesline with wooden pins, the kind that would bite my fingers when I was a child. I'm tired of carrying it all. I pin each piece to the line and let the warm summer air blow away the voices, the echos still stitched into the seams, the voices that said, "You're not good enough. It's your fault. No one will ever love you. Nobody wants you. You're fat and ugly. You don't deserve good things. You don't deserve love. You must keep your head bowed and your eyes down. It's not safe. You're worthless. You're nothing. You can't, you can't, you can't. You're not enough." I'm pinning each piece to the line, letting the sun's love warm the dark, wounded places--the tattered sleeves, the worn out knees, the ripped pockets that had been stuffed with doubt and fear, letting the golden rays bleach each garment, leaving them fresh and white. I'm letting it all breathe. I'm letting it find light. I'm hanging them on the line in order that others may know they're not alone. I've been there too. The filled clothesline is a welcome mat for others to come and sit, holding each other's hand through the healing journey. I'm letting the wrinkles fall away. I won't keep it all in the dark where it can either decay, filling my life with the stench of death, or weigh me down until I forget how to move.
Each item has been stitched into my heart. I can't change that. Every memory will always cause me to feel a little pain. I can't undo that. But I can unpack the baggage. I can let it flutter in the breeze like a flag of surrender. I can listen to each item whipping in the wind and know I have a choice. I have some power in deciding how to wear (or not wear) my tattered, too tight, outdated shrouds of heaviness. I can sit in the grass and listen to the bird that's resting on the clothesline and know it's song is a promise: I am enough. I deserve love. I am loved. I am wanted. I deserve good things. I'm beautiful. I can be proud of my life and my choices. I can, I can, I can. I'm more than okay. I'm precious. I'm special. I'm safe. I'm valuable. I am whole and complete. I can choose to see each piece as my own colorful Buddhist prayer flags, my kite in the clouds of healing.