Today, my desire is to write about someone that I am beginning to know very well: Sweater Girl.
Who is she?
She would happen to be me last Friday night.
I was invited to an old friend’s fortieth birthday party dinner, celebrating with women who I had not seen in years. I must admit, I created nervousness and apprehension before the evening and distracted myself by shopping for an outfit. I purchased a multicolored and tie-dye, long sleeve shirt. It could also be worn as a dress, and I wore it with grey knee-high tights and tall brown boots. To complete the look, I added my sleeveless, chunky, soft gold sweater that resembles my couch blanket. And, that is exactly how I love to feel when I go out-warm and comfortable. I looked in the mirror and felt one hundred percent. And, THAT was the last time I decided to feel that way.
With a secret smirk on my face, I walked downstairs in my hippie-esque outfit, anticipating the “WOW, you look pretty!” compliment from my hubby, Kirk. (Just another reminder to stay present and let go of expectations.) For I knew it would be refreshing for Kirk to see me in any clothes besides my gym apparel that I wear during the day or my mismatched PJ’s I snuggle into at night.
I entered the kitchen, smiled, and announced to my hubby and son that it was time for me to leave. They both looked up from their Lego mission, and Kirk’s face spoke a million words.
“What?” I said. “Don’t you like my outfit?” Uncomfortable silence. “Hello, tell me the truth.” I continued with that oh-so-familiar subtle irritation in my voice.
“Uh, uh, well…it is kind of funky.” He replied.
“I like funky.” I replied.
He continued with words that NO woman (I know) wants to hear…
“Well Kathleen, it’s not…HOT and SEXY.”
Ouch! (We are sometimes a little too honest in our relationship; my own critiques of his clothing were coming back to bite me in the you know where.)
I chose to immediately buy into his assessment and became defensive. This is when I don’t meet my own models because I could choose to be enough, know who I am, and not be influenced by his opinion (and it is…HIS). One might say that it’s a good old test to the self esteem.
I sarcastically replied with my face distorted, “What? You think I ‘should’ wear some titty top to The Cliffs?” (Not that I am against slightly revealing tops.) This is when our son could have easily said, “Mom, what’s a titty top?“ Thankfully, he seemed uninterested in our uncomfortable conversation and continued building his Lego car. At least, that was the story I told myself.
“Well Kirk, I feel great. I love my outfit, and I really don’t care!”
The question begs, Did I?
I drove off to The Cliffs Hotel and Restaurant in Shell Beach feeling ninety-nine percent. My mentor reminds me…
“What ever percentage you are judging yourself is the percentage you will create suffering.”
“So Kathleen, a little poison is ok to drink. Remember…NO EXCEPTIONS.”
I have liked to put a halo around my one percent suffering. I often think that this small percentage is excellent-especially since a few years ago I was thirty-fifty percent suffering. I now know that pain is an inevitable part of life, and suffering is a choice. The up and the downside is I have lowered my tolerance for suffering that even one percent is too much.
It was a gorgeous sunny day on the Central Coast Of California, and I was getting warmer with each step I took into the bar-lounge overlooking the Pacific. I was everywhere but present when I saw my old cronies. the Universe has such an uncanny sense of humor because the first friend I saw was beautified in hot-pink-tapered-animal print jeans, a stylish top, and high heels to complete the “hot and sexy” look Kirk had earlier mentioned. Immediately, I took a deep breath and observed my lesson.
Am I enough despite what I am wearing? Am I addicted to the image I portray? Addicted to the good opinion of others? Or, am I using clothing as a distraction from feeling the pain of friendships going in different directions? Fearing that they won’t like the new me.
Yes, to it all.
My now eighty-five percent of serenity began spiraling down to eighty percent. I had some distractions, so that steered me away from the dungeonous pit for a while. Until, the birthday girl arrived dressed in a gold shimmery tube top, jeans, and high, HOT, and SEXY heels! I am burning up by the minute, and my knitted drape is not feeling, “oh-so-lovely,” anymore. I chose to really breathe in and feel what was going on, being aware of MY insecurities. This time, I did NOT push them down to the abyss of my cellular human skin bag by masking them with cocktails, inevitably awaiting for a probable volcanic eruption in minutes (or years) to follow. A glass of Chardonnay was definitely enticing especially since the other six girls were enjoying theirs, but I was now leveling at seventy-five percent. Another Sweater Girl entered the bar and joined us. My mind raced, Whew, at least I am not the only one here, covering all the goods. And let’s face it-misery likes company.
So, here I am…at the bar’s high booth, struggling for conversation, feeling hippie dump, and drinking water with NO chip or salsa in sight. Ice had never been more pleasurable. I have never thought of myself as a drinker, and I was given an ‘opportunity’to see how just one drink (or even a chip) could help take the edge off. I continued to battle back and forth. One side saying, Have a drink! Lighten up. You could have more fun! The other side rebutting, Naaah, you could live with twenty-five percent misery. After all…it is only twenty-five percent. It is so funny how our ego works, And sometimes not so amusing when my body turned up its temperature as we reached our second destination-Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant in Pismo Beach.
It’s Friday night and packed. My friends entered the bar area for a cocktail, and I followed. There is a thirty-minute wait to eat dinner. “Water please,” is all I could squeak out of my bone dry mouth, sweating and swearing to myself that Kirk was right! One could “think” that my lesson was to NOT wear a sweater on Friday night with girls, ever again. I wish it were that easy. My mentor calls this type of thinking-problem solving 101. It may help patch the challenge temporarily, and my “not enough” trigger will still dwell and feed until I am willing to give birth. The sweater was a mere distraction, and my suffering was far deeper than what I was wearing. Looking for the quick fix is only a temporary bandaid for the wounds of our childhood. Unlike the worldly type of “thinking,” these kind of gashes do not heal with time. The only way to let go of our hurtful triggers of past pain is to go through it-not resist it. I used to be a professional at bandaid placement. If I did not change my “not enough” story, my traumas would eventually deepen. And I would need to receive a cast, really soon. And then, an amputation if I did not dig myself out of the black hole I had buried myself in for years.
“Steel has to be melted down to be made strongest. Respect the tempering process.”
I had suffered enough and am now choosing to change my life. It has not always been an easy road, returning to my heart. Not many believe in it, understand it, or are interested in this journey. It takes discipline to reclaim my divinity and create the inner peace I desire. I created some decent conversation and even some laughs that night, but the poison of self-rejection, and “feeling” unpopular for my new lifestyle was still there. It was my choice to NOT let go of their good or bad opinion. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Why not just choose to love myself, fully? Right? And, get out of their good opinion, as well as my mind’s relentless ways? Well, this was my intention. Remember though, we can have good intentions all day long, and we know what the road to hell is paved with. The next day, I reflected on the evening and experienced gratitude. Grateful that I chose to not sedate it. I did not judge myself for “feeling” the way I did (feelings change). I unconditionally wrapped my arms around my body and gave myself a big hug while blessing my heart. I reminded myself that “feelings” change, “knowings” we can stand on, and the way out of our suffering is the way through.
I needed to “feel” the pain, unconditionally, the Friday night that I chose to wear my oversized sweater. The pain of needing approval for the person I was becoming (wearing a pull over or not). We all desire validation, but we suffer when we are addicted to it (Tweet-worthy!) …even if it is only one percent. Our minds will create trouble where there is none. When we choose to live in our hearts. we will change our life experience. I have resisted these types of changes, creating so much unnecessary suffering. I wasn’t trusting in the power of the heart. I was also placing a restrictive box around the situation and the people. I “thought” that they were either with me, or against me. This is simply not true. When we relax into the “what is,” friends will come and go like the waves in the ocean. Sometimes returning. Sometimes not. It is all a part of the dance. The secret to happiness is to not be separate from them despite how they feel about you. No detachment-just love.
As doors are opening into a new life of bursting possibility, I am honoring every person in my life and will not shut the old door. There is always room “to love and be loved,” I am so grateful to conclude this blog by saying that I am a happy…Sweater Girl.
Sweater Girls and Sweater Boys unite; let’s choose to experience freedom!’’
With all my heart,