A Shape That Isn't For You
In late November I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the people I’d gone through like clothing that hadn’t fit right, and the ones that used to fit perfectly, but then wore out because I loved them too hard, too much. I thought about words that were spoken in between “I’ll always be here” and some form of “goodbye”.
There’s that part toward the end where they list all of your flaws and insecurities. I began to repeat these lists over and over in my head, and it hurt because it was true. Too sensitive, too emotional, too attached - the list went on and on.
I made an appointment with a new therapist named Carolyn in December. Her office was in a historic skyscraper downtown, with my second favorite coffee shop in the lobby. I arrived to the appointment early enough to explore winding staircases in silent hallways.
Carolyn patiently listened while I told her as much of my life story as I could in an hour. I told her about how I exhaust people because I feel too much.
“And, yeah,” I finally finished, taking a deep breath. I waited for her to tell me that something about me was off. I anticipated some sort of diagnosis, a new label to slap on myself that would explain away these issues and illuminate a path to fixing them.
Instead, she surprised me.
“Bethany, it sounds like these people just didn’t fit you. I think you need to find different people who will. And not everyone is going to fit you. Not everyone needs to fit you. But that doesn’t mean you have to change yourself to fit into a shape that isn’t for you.”
There was no new label, no diagnosis. I was just trying to squeeze into things that didn’t fit.
In the months that followed, I began to approach relationships the way that I approach my closet: fewer, better quality. Less trendy, pretty things and more reliable basics. The things you need. The things that last. That slouchy sweater I’ve had for four years that has stood the test of time, washing machines, and that one week while I was depressed that I wore it every single day. The little black dress. The pair of jeans that get better and better when they’re washed and worn in.
It’s April now, and I’m moving soon. I’ve been whittling down my belongings one at a time, a tedious process. Today I pulled out every item of clothing I own and reevaluated.
Does this really fit me – right now?
Is this going to last?
Is it comfortable?
Do I love this?
Or do I wear this to follow a trend, to fit in, to impress someone, to do what everyone else does?
It has become important to me to ask these questions in my friendships, too.
It’s not that my life doesn’t have room for more people. Unlike my closet, I do believe that there’s always room for more people, in some capacity. But when it comes to my people – the few that are walking through life with me every day – I have become less concerned with what they look like, how they dress, how they curate their Instagram feed, how talented or impressive everyone else perceives them to be. And as a result, I’ve become less concerned with how many friends I have and how many friends I don’t.
Now I pack up a pile of clothing that is no longer for me and send it off to donate, because someone else might love it. They might fit perfectly. And I’m going to stick to my four-year-old sweater, and maybe even let myself go shopping to find a few new tee shirts to replace the old. And I think it’s the same with those relationships that didn’t work out.
I met my new best friend the same week that my old closest friendships fell apart back in November. Since then, there have been road trips and taco nights and small groups and keeping each other company while we’re sick. Taylor lent me a book called If You Feel Too Much. She and I have this in common, and I never feel like it's a problem.
Yesterday she cooked dinner and we drank wine and talked about everything and nothing, stupid boys and personal problems that somehow aren't too personal. She wore her favorite pair of overalls and a big, comfy sweatshirt. I thought, “that’s how this all feels to me.” Our friendship, my other relationships, and my life right now:
I can't wait to tell Carolyn at therapy tomorrow evening. I think I'll wear my favorite sweater.
PS: I've been trying to work on a blog post about how I choose my seasonal capsule wardrobe, Project 333, and minimalism in general - but the Spring transition has made it tricky. If not Spring, fingers crossed I'll have one for Summer!