cleaning the closet

i attempted to clean out my closet last night.

i'm a big fan of cleaning. or sorting and moving around and making piles--this to goodwill, this for a friend, this for no one else to ever have to see. ever.

i have a wonderful closet. filled with delicious and vibrant pieces. but much like my mind i utilize such a small portion of it. so i approached it last night determined to be ruthless in my weeding process. doesn't look good? get rid of it. doesn't have good memories? toss.

this is a luxury. i know that. i am tremendously spoiled in many, many ways. and the extravagance of looking at my closet through this lens is not lost on me.

given my history (that wily, little eating disorder that ate up six years of my life) i have a tenuous relationship with clothing. a friend came over recently to help me sort through and put all the pieces together in new and inventive ways (she has enviable fashion sense and sees things in ways i simply don't) and as we were pulling piece after piece there came a discovery.

why does so much of this stuff still have the original tags on it? kim asked. i have a beautiful lace skirt that i got end of my junior year of high school. still has its tags. that's like nine years. it's in perfect condition and not out of style and i have every intention of wearing it. and i can now (meaning, it fits) and that's a huge triumph for me. but seriously, nine years? oh hell.

and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

for so long i bought clothes thinking, well, five pounds from now it'll look great. (more often the thought was, ten or fifteen--i was optimistic and deeply, deeply unwell).

and so there i was last night, trying on nearly every item of clothing i own, attempting to look objectively--does this look good, is it wearing around the edges? no, look again. does it actually look good or is it just that it looks better than it did before? i did make a pile of clothes to move on from. luckily, shockingly, it was not terribly large. i have some beautiful pieces with real staying power. and i resolved to wear more of them. to let my staple, go-to loves stay on the hanger more often than usual. to remove all those tags and wear the clothes that for years i thought, i'll be more courageous when i'm comfortable in my own skin.  there's more courage now, sure, but it has little do with looking (or thinking i look) better and much to do with appreciating where i am and who i am and that my personal brand of beauty has very little to do with the size of my hips. don't get me wrong--it has some to do with the size of my hips--but these hips i got here now, i didn't get 'em from dieting. i didn't get 'em from counting calories or cutting carbs or spending hours upon hours on the stair master. i got 'em from years (yes, years!) of eating well and healthfully day in and day out. i got 'em from going to the gym and going to physique because i know that my body needs to be challenged, because i wanted to build bone density and improve heart health. i got 'em and they're mine and they're not perfect and yes, okay, sometimes i wish they were slimmer, but in the end, they're pretty damn good.

and tomorrow these hips of mine might look just a bit different. and it'll probably have nothing to do with anything i've eaten and everything to do with the fact that our bodies change. we age, we mature, we prepare to bear children. life.

the thing that really struck me last night--me laying on top of all those beautiful clothes, on top of my bed, halfway through the process--was that: some of the items, while the initial memory they conjured was anything but good, i found myself unwilling and unable to let go.

because the memory was not just not good. it was also sweet and redemptive and important. some of the worst--the absolute worst moments and phases of my life--were filled with some of the greatest love. i look back on those times and remember that the love of my family was electric--tangible.

i have a dress that at this point is just a little too big. it was like ten bucks from H&M but it's worn really well. now i pull it out when i'm feeling not-my-best. so i should just toss it, no? well,  i tried it on last night, knowing full well i got it when i was sad and ashamed of my rounded stomach, but standing there, studying myself in it , i knew i couldn't yet let it go. because that's the dress i was wearing when a man i once loved pushed the navy fabric this way and that to get to all the best parts of me. revealing the beauty of my body in a way that mirrors have never been able.

this is all to say: it's not so easy. there is no black and white to the story. just  a lot of gray. i can feel that this chapter of my life is really closing. the time is upon me. and i've so long waited and wished and hoped for this, but there is still the loss of it.