I look at my untied tennis shoe, the string dangling and flopping with every step I take. It is then that I will I wonder (too late because I am already en route) if I chose the right pair of jeans, the ones without the oil stain on my left thigh. I don't even see animal hair anymore because it is there and it will always be there until the pets die and I leave my home and get rid of my car.
How have I failed my ilk? is what I often ask myself in the presence of a smartly dressed woman.
I certainly believe in setting a tone, creating a message of who you are and to some degree, how you want others to see you. I have a communication studies degree and used it for a while. I coached speech and am well-schooled on the art of appearance. I have roles that require me to be "on" for the general public so I get that clothes do matter. Primarily, though, I am a writer and a mother so my clothes and their messages feel like tiny smoke signals that no one can read. Or wants to.
I did a silly thing . I was in a writing workshop and our instructor offered to sign any of her books that we'd brought with us. I had devoured three of her titles so I stood in line to meet her. She was polished. She had that "effortlessly beautiful look" conveyed with casually elegant clothes (in my world, matching is enough to convey elegance) and flowing blond hair. When it was my turn, I walked up to her and I blurted out, "I love you!"
Go ahead and cringe. I do each time I think about it.
And here is the kicker. It gets worse. I get worse. I took her hand! I wanted to hold it because that hand had written words that touched me.
Miraculously, this serene creature did not pull back. She did not call me a weirdo.
Her eyes softened and she stayed there with me and then she said, "It's ok. I know."
What did she know? That my socks didn't match? That I felt like taking leave of my skin? That I cling to her words and so many other writer's words who seem to be speaking only to me? That I am her personal reader nodding my head along as sentence after sentence has me shouting, "Yes! Yes! Me too!" That I have found my religion and she is one of many who has saved me?
I held my tongue because it was time to step off the freak train.
But she continued to hold my hand. Hers was cool and solid as we sat there in silence until someone called the next reader over.
I had been saved.
I was in a bank a few weeks ago. Bank employees make me uncomfortable because I am most often in fleece while the tellers look smart in their carefully pressed outfits. Many of these women wear wear make-up with a capital M. I wear concealer and maybe powder if I remember that I want my concealer to conceal for more than an hour. "Fancy" for me means tinted lip gloss if it can be found. Most often what is floating around in my purse is Chapstick with a missing lid and lint stuck to the top.
On that day, I was meeting with a loan officer. She had on what could only be described as a power suit and Make-up. She launched into her speech about interest rates and pros and cons of this or that and then she stopped.
"I'll tell you something. You can be prepared. You can do everything and more to dot your i's and cross your t's. You can have a contingency plan for your contingency plan and life will still blindside you, you know?"
I nodded and waited.
She went on to describe a terrible event in her life relating to the loss of a home. I listened. She teared up a bit and then she said, "These charts and graphs? This is just information. I believe you can do what you want with some careful planning. But, you know, there is risk in anything."
Yes, I know is what I was thinking, but I stayed silent.
Her shoulder pads seemed to soften as did her posture. I looked closer at her eye make-up. The lines were not drawn to perfect points. It looked as if her hand may have wobbled a bit.
I offered her a smile. She accepted it with her own.
"I know,' the author said.
I do too. No matter what I wear, how I look, what role I play, I am just doing the best I can.
I long to lean in, to look closer at my own wobbly lines, and the courage to ask myself, "What am I revealing? and more importantly, what am I leaving out?"
I long for the quiet space and a gentle hand to hold inside of it as I wait for the answers to come.