The Clothes We Wear

On Anxiety, Getting Dressed, and Other People

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I’ve been looking for a kimono just like this for months. Patience…

Hello wonderful souls!

I hope wherever you are it’s warm. I’m curled up in bed writing this, though that’s not quite right, actually I’m laying on my back, head propped up on pillows, dog by my side, writing, making, and listening. I love the silence that comes with being home alone, with the permission to be in bed at 12:42, and the music the snow makes as it hits my window, the wind hollowing aggressively out on the street, and my fingers, my fingers hitting the keys making the loudest sound of all.

I’ve been thinking about anxiety, what it costs us, what it costs me when I do decide to show-up in the world, when I decide to get dressed, when I decide not to. Oh, and other people. I feel like my advice for showing up is as simple and as hard as, show up anyway.

It’s so hard though. Usually, and I’ve found this to be true both in sobriety and getting dressed, other people are the hardest obstacle for me. I find myself completely overcome by what they are doing and saying, wearing and not. It becomes too much and thus, I find myself retreating inwards. I know, if I were to take out all the other women for a second, that I am enough, but when I add everyone back in, I am overcome with so much ANXIETY. It’s an all-cap, ever-present, overwhelming sense of doom. Take, walking into the cafeteria in 8th grade and multiply it by 1,000. It’s hard and vulnerable and makes me think I need and want more. My anxiety multiples and manifests itself, so I always feel like I’m just catching up and that no matter what I am always falling short somehow, that someone else is doing something better.

A lot has been written on “tribes” or finding your people. What happens when you feel like your people don’t exist? What happens if you’re struggling still,(still, says the world you think), + your people seem nonexistent? There is so much joy in this world and yet. There is suffering too. And because the world is too much to analyze all at once, I look at my own suffering and I think, how can I change this? What can I do with this loneliness, this hole which others seem to fill with ease?

There is a question on my vision board for 2019 which reads: is there another way of looking at it? Is there?

I am a loner on a cold, snowy day in Boston. My books, my carefully curated wardrobe, and the warm bundle of joy that is my dog, these are my people. My people don’t talk, but they comfort, they test me, and they teach me. My sobriety, perhaps the biggest “person” of all. I frequently test it and it comes right back to me to say, “stay.” Or, I feel like we’re missing out together. Or, your way is the right way for you.

My anxiety is not my people. My anxiety rears its head and then other people become the problem. Anxiety teaches me to leave myself and look for approval where I will never get it or enough of it to satisfy me: other people. Strangers on the internet. Friends I kind of know. That person. Her. Over there. My anxiety keeps me from doing things I want to do like be in the present moment, not obsess, let go of the burden of “what ifs?” My anxiety is not a tribe I want to be a part of. And yet…

When it comes to getting dressed, my anxiety tells me that other people are doing it better. Skinnier. Happier. More worthy. Other people are not the problem though, I am. Well, the me that is funneled through my anxiety and shot out the other side. The me that fears so much of the world. That can never get over the self-doubt that goes alongside attending a big event with other people you sort of kind of know and leaving…5 hours later because, because that’s for them. Or quitting things I really love at first because…because I fear I don’t belong or I feel like I don’t belong, but don’t know how to tell the truth of that and be heard.

When I was a teenager, too thin, willing to do whatever it took for me to come out the other side of my adolescence somewhat in tact, my mother told me I was disgusting. It’s one of those things you hear, repeatedly, like the sound was turned up and the record is stuck whenever I happen to see my reflection in a poorly lit dressing room or through the eyes of someone of disappointed and/or made angry. I am disgusting. She though that and they, these other people, must think that too.

I don’t think enough has been said in general about getting dressed and being sober. Being sober is such a complicated, unique, beautiful process for so many people as is, getting dressed. What I wear, what I choose to wear, will never feel exactly like it does to me to anyone else.

I bought a pink kimono yesterday. The tag indicates vintage in its discolored, whimsical writing. I spotted it when my friend and I first walked into Goodwill. And yet. I walked right past it. It was not for me. Until, I tried it on because why not and who reflected back at me was a woman who knew what people thought of her, or other people, and showed-up anyway, refusing to stand anywhere but her own spotlight.

My time to shine, she whispered, underneath the dim lights of a Goodwill overwhelmed with other people’s pasts.

Stay bold,

Haley

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