Who is the woman in black? Is she you? Is she me? Is she a woman with stunning beauty, wearing a little black dress? Is she a woman hiding her body, hoping to distract you with a slimming dark color? Is she a woman in mourning, grieving a loss so deep? Or is she a woman who has held tightly to hope only to realize death is mocking her, waiting for her to name what is true.
For years, a black dress has hung in my closet that I have yet to wear out of the house. I purchased this simple dress knowing that the fit wasn’t quite right. At the time, I loved it so much that I told myself that when I was just the right weight, it would lay perfectly across my belly and there would be no need for body sculpting support.
Over the years I have tried it on numerous times, and each time, I pull it back over my head and redress the hanger, disappointed in the fit of the dress. For some reason, I return the dress to the closet where it hangs until another occasion begs me to try it on again.
While organizing my closet recently, I pulled the dress out again and tried it on one more time. This time I stood in front of the mirror for a while, surveying myself in the dress as I slowly turned around. Typically, my eyes dart to the parts of my body that I am most likely to criticize, but not this time. Instead, my eyes were drawn to my hands as I noticed sleeves that extended half an inch past my fingers. Turning to view the back, I studied the cut-out that revealed my upper back, and I decided that this dress no longer appealed to me. Truth be told, it simply didn’t fit, both in size and style.
This time, instead of returning the dress to the closet, I folded it and placed it in a box for donations. As I walked it out to my car, I thought about the black dress and became curious about myself.
Why did I buy something that didn’t fit in the first place? Did I let someone else convince me that this was the dress for me?
Why did I hold onto it for so long when I never liked how it fit?
How often do I hold onto something that no longer fits me?
Why do I have such a hard time letting go of something that isn’t really me?
Suddenly, my heart wasn’t questioning the black dress anymore.
If my questions weren’t about the dress but something much deeper than the dress, would I allow myself to be curious about what my heart was really asking? What area of my life requires attention that these questions turned a spotlight on? What if I allowed the questions to sit, without altering them, as I applied them to my relationships?
I held onto the box containing the dress for a week before eventually dropping it off at a nearby donation store. Each time I opened my trunk, I thought about the dress and the questions it provoked. And I noticed that even though I didn’t want to keep that dress hanging in my closet anymore, it was hard to let it go.
Yes, I wonder…did I make the right decision? Will I regret my choice? What am I looking for now? The questions might linger for a while, but I know that it’s okay. There is both loss and freedom in letting go of something that is no longer for you.
Bethany Cabell, a lover of simplicity, is often inspired to write by the relationships she holds as a wife, mom, and a physical therapist. Bethany, her husband and their boys returned to life in Texas after wandering off to the Midwest for a season. What she once pictured her life to look like has forever been changed by her two sons. Navigating this messy and beautiful path of parenting two children each with their own unique challenges, she finds grace and beauty in the gift of each moment.
Bethany, I was just on retreat and your question, “Did I let someone else convince me that this was the dress for me?” was an awareness I had–how I let people convince me of something that I really don’t want (mine was over yarn I bought to knit a blanket for a niece). I realized God is inviting me to honor my own needs and wants, to believe in myself and value myself.
The second reminder of my retreat was that at one of the services, we were invited to live our questions rather than hurrying to find answers.
Thank you for sharing.
P.S. I, too had a black dress that I would bring out for every black-dress occasion and then re-hang because I wasn’t right. I finally got rid of it a year or so ago, and I have no regrets.