Last Friday, I embarked on Operation Reorganization 2.0 and man, did I get a lot done. After several straight years of being pregnant (and feeling awful), nursing babies (and feeling awful) or having the world’s neediest toddler perpetually clinging to my legs and screeching (which I never did get used to) (but I love you more than life, baby!), we are finally to a place where I can get some projects done while my husband entertains the boys. And after several years of neglect, there is a lot to get done.
I used to think things like: “What if something (some vague, spy movie-ish thing) happens, and all the computers in the world go on the fritz, and I have to prove Dan and I have been married for all this time?” So I kept everything. When some friends helped us with Operation Reorganization 1.0, a few months ago, I got rid of stacks of utility bills and phone statements and other papers from the 1990’s.
This time around I was tackling clothing, and I was ruthless. I emptied a large dresser full of our “sports clothes” (including season after season of my husband’s softball gear), and “yard clothes” – stained and holey t-shirts in various sizes, droopy shorts, and those cotton sweatpants with elastic at the ankles that no one should wear outside the confines of their own property (and I know several people who would end that last statement before the prepositional phrase.)
My husband has a nostalgic attachment to things he’s worn, or even things he’s never worn if they remind him of a certain point in his life. So I made stacks on the floor, then called him in, bracing for protests and negotiations. “You can keep two pairs of shorts from that pile,” I said, pointing, “and two shirts from that pile.” And so on.
Right away, he pointed to a 15-year-old cotton t-shirt bearing the logo of a Danish freight forwarder and said, “But I don’t think they’re in business anymore! That’s a collector’s item!” Still, I managed to talk him out of a bunch of old softball jerseys, some paint-stained shorts, and swim trunks whose drawstrings no longer draw.
After adding some of my own things, I stuffed two big garbage bags full of clothes, and put them in the trunk of the car.
I didn’t mention that there were still some old, outdated items in our closet I couldn’t bring myself to discard.
Ah, but they’re so pretty and expensive, my suits! Pants and skirts and jackets, in every color of a (fairly conservative) rainbow, every length and kind. Things I bought in my twenties, things I wore to meetings, or to church when we lived in the Deep South.
Everything a businesswoman might need. Everything in a size six.
I have a four year old and a two year old – do I need to say that I no longer wear a size six? Even if I lose every ounce of the baby weight (which is frankly not high on my to-do list, these days), I will probably never wear a size six again. I’m very tall and, well, things have shifted.
Furthermore, people have stopped sending me plane tickets and requesting my presence at business meetings. And here in the West, people wear jeans and flip-flops to church. For the last five years, I have had absolutely no use for dress-up clothes. I sometimes spend entire days in pajama bottoms and t-shirts.
And I wouldn’t trade it for the world; while being home with my boys is the exact opposite of a luxury (and please, please don’t ever refer to it as a luxury, or there’ll just be all kinds of ugly), it is the greatest privilege of my life. My heart would crack right in two if I couldn’t be with my babies.
But I still haven’t been able to get rid of those freaking suits. They’re taking up valuable real estate in my tiny closet, collecting fine layers of dust along the shoulders.
I cannot seem to quite let go of that other person, the one with the vibrant career and the healthy paycheck and the flat abs and the thin arms. I am like the middle-aged spinster left at the altar decades ago, perpetually stroking her yellowed wedding dress and sighing, “Oh, you should have seen me.”
Maybe I need an intervention.
Or maybe I just need to talk myself through all of this.
I mean, it’s understandable. I was a certain person for over thirty-five years, and now I am another. That other person, the former me, was doing well. Her workdays were certainly shorter, and easier, and far more lucrative. She had time on her hands. She got to dress up, and on good days, people sometimes said she was pretty.
But I just remembered something. About seven years ago, a family member asked me if we were ever going to have kids. This was right around the time when I was having a bunch of miscarriages. And I said, “I don’t know. I’m fine either way” (and I really was; I loved my job, and I was never one of those girls who was just dying to have a baby), but after a pause I said, “But when I look ten years down the road, and I think about my life then being exactly the same as it is now, it makes me want to scream.”
I hadn’t realized that truth until the words left my mouth. I could not even have said why it was the truth – but it was.
The thing about life is, you move. On and on and on. You want to. You have to.
Here’s where I am, now: this new version of me is experiencing the bond between a mother and a child, for the first time. It is wonderful and shattering, and holy and visceral, and it takes more than everything I’ve got, and somehow it is all working out, even as it blows me to pieces (but in a good way.)
And I have begun to write. Here at the mid-point of my journey, I have stumbled upon the second half of my reading passion, and it’s like finding the last little piece of the puzzle, like finally hearing the tumbler click inside the lock. It makes me feel like I can fly.
So I’m just about ready to deal with all those suits. I’ll pile them into bags, and as I set them loose I’ll feel my fingertips slip from a gate; I’ll hear it bang shut on that particular path. A path that was true, and fine, but which no longer bears my name.
My new path is unfolding as we speak, and the thought of it ten years from now, or thirty years from now, does not make me want to scream; it makes me want to dance. There are so many adventures still to come, so many miles to go, and I have two small princes to care for, whose dragons I can still slay, for now. And after that – who knows?
I’d better pack light.