Letting Go

My oldest and dearest friend, my first sister-in-law who chose me over her wandering-eyed brother, just staged an intervention—about my CLOTHES. She ambushed me as we were peacefully sitting around a campfire at the cottage with our daughters. I think I even teed it up for her by recounting a confession I made the week before that the dress I was wearing had also been worn at the after party for my first wedding—in 1977. The dress is still in perfect shape. Even the elastic top has not worn out after all these years, despite the fact that it now must support a bit more weight than back in the day. But she is not a fan of my bra-less summer style and told my daughter on the sly that it was unflattering. She may be right, but comfort trumps style every time in my book and especially in the summer at my own house. Still, I did admit that my dapper new boyfriend (yes, I am fully aware of how ridiculous that word is when used by a 61-year-old woman, but my daughter says my joking substitution of Boy Toy is even more offensive) wanted to take me to Nordstrom and “dress” me. My friend said, “ME TOO!!”

There was a time when I cared about clothes. I was making good money, was married to someone making good money and had a job heading a loan division that existed solely to make loans to people so rich they had absolutely no need to borrow money. I needed to look like I belonged in the same room with them, so I shopped at Nordstrom and Saks and sometimes the old Hudson’s and chose a few high quality pieces that I mixed into my low quality wardrobe and it all worked. It was fun. I hadn’t had babies yet and was a perfect size 6, sometimes even a 4. But I still never got rid of anything that fit and hadn’t worn out. All the lovely suits with football player shoulder pads have long gone to Goodwill, but all the comfy casual stuff is still in the closet. I did have a bit of a fright when I took an ancient sundress to France once and saw myself in lots of pictures looking faded and droopy-boobed. I will concede that a few items should no longer go out in public, but I still love wearing them at home with my nearest and dearest. But now even they are turning on me.

This raises the deeper issue of letting go in general.  When I picked up the same friend at the airport I wanted to carry her daughter’s suitcase. It seemed the polite hostess thing to do and I was raised to be polite at all costs. But this 14-year-old must’ve been raised to think old people were feeble and can’t carry suitcases. Or she is just as stubborn as I am because she would not let go. I said, “I’ve got this, honey.” I said, “Really, I want to carry this.” I said, “Let go.” To which she replied, “YOU let go.” At this point my friendly tone changed and I said, “Seriously, LET GO” and she finally did. But the realization that winning the point, having my will prevail was so important that I would have a wrestling match with a houseguest over a SUITCASE was an AHA moment. Jesus. Is it THAT important for me to win in every single encounter? Apparently, appallingly, so.

Maybe it stems from feeling so many things are not in my control. I could not save Tom’s life, could not even extend it, despite trying to find him the best medical care. I could not ultimately give my kids an in-tact family, despite trying for 16 years to make it work. I cannot keep summer from ending and my child’s joy-filled, carefree days with it. With so many big things out of my control it makes me want to be in charge of all the minutiae that will bend to my will. But that is stupid and stressful and often flat out harmful to other people and my relationships with them.

John and I were at a wedding and I lost my tiny purse. He said he would go check at the front desk to see if anyone had found it. I said I would go and check myself. He said he would go. I said it was my purse and I was perfectly capable of checking on it myself. He said he realized that was true but that I could let him do this one small thing for me. I said I was used to taking care of myself. He, in full therapist mode by now, said, “Yes, but do you want to continue to be what you have always been.” I then repeated this at full volume for the entire table in an outraged voice—joking, but not, and then went to check on the purse. I have no idea what this was really about except my ridiculous need to be in charge of absolutely everything and my fear of ever letting go in even the tiniest thing.

Alyssa told me tearfully that it would mean so much to her if I expressed belief in her, if I really thought she was going to be successful in school and in life despite being completely different from me. She did a little mocking imitation of me crossing things off my To-Do list with manic glee and rushing off to the next task. She asked me to remember that she had a good year last year and almost always gets things done although not in the manner and time frame I would wish. She basically said, “Please let go of my school life and leave it to me.” She is 16. It is a reasonable, probably long overdue, request. She needs to know she is a capable, self-contained unit before leaving for college in two short years. I need to know that too and express that knowing to her.

I do not, in fact, want to be what I have always been. It is time to change. It will not be easy. There may be blood. And possibly tears. No matter. I believe I finally left my horrible marriage because I realized my life expectancy could be as high as 97 (since that’s when my mom died) and I could not fathom staying that unhappy for another 40 years. I now think being this controlling for another 35 years will either kill me or leave me all by myself with me being the only person who can stand me and that might even be a stretch.

I hate change. I especially hate making changes. Painful. Tiring. NECESSARY. I’ll try. But the tube tops are staying at least until next summer. That’s the best I can do.

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