The truth about lemonade and fitted jeans.


With permission, I have posted parts of this email from a reader.

This email, I believe, is the real gold of this post. And this girl is one hell of a writer.

Hey,

That 25 things list that went viral? I just read it. Again. I’m pretty sure it’s the first post I read by you, and I’m not even sure how I stumbled upon it. But I did. And I did again, today. At the end you say to come find you, if I need a listener. So here I’ve come.

The thing is, I hate the way victim looks on me. That ratty, stained, torn sweatshirt, it washes me out. And these days, I find myself pulling it on, morning after morning. It’s ugly. But it’s comfortable, and I don’t quite know how to shake the habit of grabbing it off the heaping pile of dirty laundry and slipping in one arm after the other.

My life doesn’t suck. Really, my life doesn’t suck. But I zip up that nasty, dull, grey hoodie each morning like it does. I hate the unflattering cut of that sweatshirt, how it hides and distorts what’s underneath, but I choose to put it on, to let it tell the world what I think I’m worth. Day. After. Day. I know the things. I know. The having to choose. To finally part ways with the dang thing and throw it out because it doesn’t tell the world who I really am. Doesn’t tell me who I am. Sells me short. This I know. So, Hannah, so, listening ear, how do I find the want-to? How do I shirk the sweatshirt for good?

I.want.to.take.the.sweatshirt.off. I do. I just need the courage. I need to want it bad enough. Want it bad enough to stop doing the things that scream, “This is all I’m worth,” the things that make that tattered, sorry excuse of a garment hiss, “See? This is who you are. This is all you’ll ever be. You’ll never change, you’ll never change. You haven’t got it in you. You’ll always come back to this. This is home.” I need that courage.

I don’t expect you to tell me how to find the courage. I know it’s choice. I know I need to open my eyes to the beauty all around that makes the choice worth it. I know I need to unclench the fists and the teeth and open this soul to all that heals, even hurt.

I just needed to get it out, Hannah. So, if you get to read this and you have a sec, say a prayer? Shoot me an, “I’m in your corner”?  That’s all. I want this, I do. It’s just hard to go it alone and sometimes it helps to have someone remind you that you can do it. That it’s worth it.

Thanks, Hannah.

T

Hannah_Brencher073
Dearest T,

I want to tell you a secret. And it’s a secret I never told anyone up until yesterday over rib eye tacos and chopped plantains at a restaurant where the food arrives to the table in adorable, little bowls. I guess I don’t know what makes a secret no longer a secret. I want to say the limit is 5 people or something. So it looks like this won’t be a secret anymore after tonight.

I used to hate pants. I used to hate wearing pants for the past three years. No one really knows that. I had a few pairs of them. I’d wear them occasionally but I always opted for dresses and skirts and tights. If I did wear a pair of pants, they were always looser. Sort of baggy. It’s strange to admit that here, that I hated the tightness of jeans. I hated feeling a waistband against my skin. I hated sitting down in a chair and being able to sense that I might have love handles. It was the leftover side effects of a body disorder. Every waistband was a reminder to me that I needed to be shrinking, not growing.

It wasn’t until a month ago that I walked into the GAP on Lexington Avenue and saw a pair of bright-blue jeans that I loved. Even just on the hanger, we were having a love affair. I took them with me into the fitting room. I geared up for the equivalent of the Hunger Games in my mind– a competition between all the districts of small voices in my head that told me how small I should be. How very little space I should try to take up.

I put the pants on. Slowly. Hesitantly. And I stared at myself in the mirror for what felt like a long time. And I didn’t forge a peace pact with my body or anything but I realized I was okay with it. I was okay with it.

I walked out of the GAP that day with two pairs of jeans and a body. Yes, it turns out that I have a body. And I have curves. And I have a shape. And I have all these things I never really took the time to see before. I’d been too busy hiding from it.

And surprisingly, there’s nothing destructive about my body. And nothing crumbles when I zipper jeans and feel the waistband against my skin. And if I just decide for myself that I’ve had enough of that, I can put it behind me. I actually have the power to put it behind me. And it’s enough for me to know, or at least predict, that when I am 76, I will have wished I loved my body a little more and went for the fitted pants. That’s enough for me to put them on.

T, I don’t want to be the person who lugs regrets like carry-on luggage into older age. I don’t want to have to say, looking back, that I was very fluent with breaking my own heart when it came to self-worth.

 

When I read your email– the beauty of all your syllables– I thought about those pants.

I thought about one of my girlfriend’s demanding I walk around to her side of the table in the middle of a lunch date and do a spin, right after I bought them.

“You have a body,” she said. “I didn’t even see it before. I didn’t know you had a shape.”

She didn’t know it because I covered it up. And I chose oversized layers. And I spent a long time wearing things that didn’t really fit me or flatter me simply because I wanted to be smaller than what I really was.

And I wonder if it might be the same for you and that word of yours– victim. I wonder what it would be like if you just decided today that you were done with that word. Done with that name. If it was being discontinued. Retired. Thrown away. I wonder if maybe all of us are a single internal shopping trip away from picking out better names to go by from the inventory of ourselves.

I wonder if you sat down for five minutes and you envisioned someone giving you the permission to cut that word out of every single dictionary and burn all the little shreds of paper that read the word “victim” on them, what that might feel like. I wonder if you would realize you’re okay without the word. You’re not destructive. You’re not a wrecking ball. You’re not someone who needs the word “victim” to keep her muzzled, and safe, and tame. You’re okay. You might even be better than okay.

I wonder if you will find that you have a contagious laugh. That you like mornings instead of nights. That you like your coffee black when you have the courage to try sipping it without spoonfuls of sugar mixed in. I wonder if you will see a lot more of this lifetime– all the curves of it– when you stop using a word that so quickly dismembers you and belittles you and tries to make you smaller than you really are. When you stop using the word “victim” as a comfort zone and you just learn the truth about comfort zones: comfort zones are a myth. They’re like reindeer with red lightbulbs attached to their noises to the people who live braves lives.

I wonder if you’ll wake up wide-eyed tomorrow and see the truth: we’re all looking for names and hurdles and things to be chains that keep us from fully living. We’re drawn to poems and stories where the limitations are lifted. And yet, some of us never move. We blast songs about learning to let it go. And yet, some of us will never stop holding onto the chains. It’s like we’re all just a single step away from realizing that the chains might be real but they’re paper. We could break them. We could really break them if we wanted to.

 

You’re ready.

It’s like you’re ready but you have just one more step in front of you. That’s all I really hear in your letter, T. I hear the voice that is sitting in between every line, saying, “I’m not this small. I’m just afraid of bigness. I am afraid that small is comfortable and small is safe and small is where I belong.”

Darling, small isn’t real. If your mind is already tumbling wildly over bigness than thinking you’ll be just fine playing a small life is a heartbreaking myth, as well. You’re denying yourself of the goodness you want. You’re mixing lemonade, pouring the sugar in, adding the ice and then saying to that heart of yours, “No, no, watch it from the counter but don’t you sip. That lemonade is for other people. Not you. Not you.”

T, you made the lemonade. You made it. And you have one more step. So say it with me, “And now, I’ll take a sip.”

 

I have a digital assistant.

Her name is Bethany. She is a bit of a powerhouse and I love her more fiercely than I get to tell her sometimes. She’s sort of like glue to the parts of me that don’t know how to keep an inbox organized. She wrote this article recently. And she wrote this one line. If I believed in face tattoos, this would probably be the line I choose to get needled across my nose and freckled cheeks:

“–what I’ve learned is that removing a label doesn’t change you—it frees you.”

That’s what will happen when you dismember that word “victim.” When you throw it away. You’ll be the same, sweet person. You’ll have the same heart. You’ll just be free. Imagine that. You’ll be free.

Don’t be afraid of being free. Don’t be afraid of the slow, long sips of sweet elixirs this life is going to give you on the day you choose big over small. Don’t be afraid of the fitted pants.

It starts by putting on the pants, one leg at a time. It starts with one slow slip.

tying you closer than most,

hb.

 

As always with these sort of things, post a note in the comments below for T. She’ll be reading.

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30 thoughts on “The truth about lemonade and fitted jeans.

  1. T, right now in this moment you are brave. Brave enough to ask for help and for a prayer. Since this is the week before Easter I am going to take a HUGE liberty and give you a different picture. Picture a hill with 3 crosses on it and one has your name, right across the top. Where you are to be crucified for being fat. You are being held in prison for the weight that you have gained in your lifetime. There is One who is being tried for being truthful. The judge, out of fear for the crowd, says he will release 1 person. Will it be T or will it be Truth? “T” they say. Are you sure? “T” But Truth has done no wrong!
    “Release T” they shout! So the judge says he will release T. What do I do about Truth? “crucify Him” they yell! T is set free and Truth is crucified. Truth has carried away the weight of T on the cross, T is set FREE! Rejoice! That is the word for you NOW. Rejoice in the Truth that set you FREE! and go try on something pretty!!

  2. So un-alone, we are all pushing each other off the dentist chair to be punished with root canal. The fat is full to the edges of the emotions we don’t understand, usually friendly with a quirky disposition. I’m hoping you win, all of you! Make friends with your choices, say thank you to the ones that don’t serve and allow your vice like grip of the attachments to let go…

  3. My dear, Victim = powerLess and you are PowerFULL. Embrace who you are; all of it. Hugging you as I, too, step forward and Come Out: stepping out of darkness into light. Hugging you and telling you, as so many others are, “you are Not Alone. You no longer need that grey sweatshirt, may Pink and Lavender and Yellow find you.” xoxo Kristin

  4. you were courageous enough to state your truth. you are brave enough in your note to recognize your fear. you are ready. and, you are certainly not alone. you might cry, it might hurt, you might turn back a few times. all of that is ok. you are not your labels, you are not your fear, you are not your failures. you are real. that’s the truth. you can do this.

  5. Needed to read this tonight! Thank you both T & Hannah it really nice to know I’m not alone even when I feel so small and out of place.

  6. I read Hannah’s blog a regular basis. It’s like a little smile waiting for me in an otherwise often mundane email check. Thank you for writing to her T. For having that courage and strength to let your story be an inspiration for her writing today. So many things said here resonate with my life. Particularly the wanting to leave something behind and desiring something more yet being afraid of it all at the same time. Bethany and Hannah are both remarkably brilliant women and I can honestly say that quote is true. Removing labels does free you. That freedom can be scary if you’ve never known it before but it will always be possible if you’re willing to fight for it.
    God bless.

  7. T, beautiful soul. Please know that you are infinitely loved by a creator. The GOD of the universe! He knows you by a different name. Not victim, BUT beloved. HE created you to be free of chains, heart break and all the things in-between. He sees you as his lovely daughter who he died to know. If that isnt freeing im not really sure what is. I know religion isnt popular and can offend some but please know this and everything above is more than true.

  8. Words escape me, yet I feel inclined to reply to this post. Hannah is a perfect person to reach out to for that last push, but it cannot hurt to know you are not alone. Your words will likely inspire those that may be afraid to speak the way you did. So many relevant feelings that I can so easily associate with…surround yourself with love, starting from the inside. You are beautiful and you deserve to see that, to feel that and to take on your world, like Hannah said take that sip! Your bravery and strength will help you persevere as living in happiness becomes the new normal. Thank you again for sharing your words, feelings and I can only imagine the amazing things you are headed for!

  9. This was a blessing. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of the grey sweatshirt, but T did it beautifully. I’m so grateful she was brave enough to write that letter, not only for herself but for all of us. This was a reminder of how none of us are alone in the struggle for self worth. It’s a silly thing, believing we are less than we are, believing that we don’t deserve something better, believing that we can be defined by labels set by society, others, or even ourselves. Freeing yourself and resisting labels is not a war won in a single fight. It’s won by continuing to fight. It’s won by never letting yourself settle and never giving up. If I had to choose a label, I’d choose warrior.
    Thank you for another inspiring post Hannah. And thank you T.

  10. T,

    I’m not going to say much except that you are not alone, and it will be a long battle of letting go. But fight it all the way to the finish line, throw out the grey sweatshirt and move on. You are so worth it.

  11. The gray, stained sweatshirt doesn’t hold the power…you do, my dear. Your recognizing its faults say – you hold the power! Stripping away the sweatshirt, in its worn out, tired form says it’s lost it’s hold on you. Now, today, you claim what is new and fresh and bright: like taking your first real breath. A rebirth. Good luck in your new journey, you are not alone!

  12. T, I had a big sweatshirt once. It was how I hid from all the nasty words and pointing fingers. But then one summer, away from the classrooms, the lockers, and that awful gym class, I took a step. Looking back it was a bunch of little steps. I took so many steps that summer, all anyone could say that fall was ‘where’d this girl come from?’ That first one was rough, like my first flip off the high dive. It made me anxious and scared to start down at the shimmering water. After that first step, I was flying and it was exhilarating! I couldn’t wait to do it again. And just like that I’d moved on. You can do it, have the faith in yourself that we already have in you, take the step.

  13. T, you’re not alone. I almost felt like I was reading something I wrote…out situations are that similar. I’ve been struggling to stop being lazy, to focus more, work more efficiently. I’ve been playing victim–not taking advantage of all the opportunities that this wonderful life has given me. So, you’re not alone. Soon, we’ll get a grip on both of our struggles. We just have to keep going.

  14. T,

    Thank you for being honest. Thank you for voicing things that so many women think and feel. Your words make me look at my life and question what I’m not throwing away.

    You go girl! 😀

  15. Greetings T,
    I found myself at this post by a very unique set of steps and I have some ideas if you are interested.

    I actually own an ill-fitting grey sweatshirt. I have had it for about 6 years and in that span my life and body have changed drastically. In the times when I felt low or weak, I would wear it thinking it was armor, protecting me somehow. Actually, it was like superman wearing a sweater of Kryptonite.

    The thing is, even after I realized it, giving it up seemed like getting rid of a part of myself. Like maybe if this thing leaves my life, I might forget everything that being in that place taught me. Having it gone completely is a big step and it does not to(and probably wont) happen over night. It is more of a process and a developing of our will-power, which often gets fatigued in our million-choice lives.

    Start small and build from there. Decide for yourself, “The next 48 hours will be free from any self-defeating thoughts.”. And when you catch yourself thinking them, realize that you have actually succeeded. You became aware as it happened and now have a choice of where you want to go from here. The story we think about ourselves is a habit that we have built. It will take time and focus to shape the new beliefs that foster our growth.

    And one pleasant day, in a glimpse, you will realize how far you have come.
    You will remember that old sweater you used to wear all the time. Maybe find it in the back of the closet, sew some patches on it and make it your comfy sweater, that is what happened to mine.

    Remember that no matter what happens, You Are Worthy and the Universe(which is more vast than your mind can conceive) Loves You!

    -Be Well-

  16. I believe in the good things coming
    Out of darkness lights are pumping
    Into white light all things running
    Who have I been, who am I becoming?
    Deep breaths for a young man learning

  17. Hello Beautiful Girl,
    I can call you this because no matter the number on the tags on your clothes, or the intricacies of your features or what you’re passionate about or what makes you light up….I know the beauty that your maker is capable of creating. I also know that every man and woman on this planet faces a common enemy. One that stops at NOTHING to keep us in a place where we cannot see the beauty of the creator or the beauty we were created with. Stand. Stand and thrust your flag into the ground today. Stake your claim, and declare VICTORY and FREEDOM from all the lies you’ve been believing in.
    I pray you will seem truth! Truth about who you really, really are. And that you will have a sweet day of celebration as you toss that sweatshirt and all the insecurities with it straight into the trash and out of your life.
    Don’t stop fighting. This is a hard battle, but one so worth it. (Because it can be won. It has been won. The victory is yours for the claiming).

  18. Both this post and reply spoke to my truth as I too put on the victim sweatshirt every day. I think at some point it’s about accepting where you are and finding that place worth living and loving as if it matters. Because it does. You know this, I know this. Let’s take off those sweatshirts. Every day.

  19. Dearest T,

    Like you, I think we all know what we should be doing but it’s hard for our emotions and hearts to catch up to logic. It’s hard to make the first step. You’re already so strong to see and admit that you’re putting this sweater on.

    So when it’s hard to love yourself or do things that honor your worth, think of giving your love and courage to others. When we give ourselves permission to be beautiful, to cry, to be treated with respect, to shine and try, we unknowingly and silently give other people permission. To have joy and freedom, and to love themselves. Think of how children play and speak so honestly and how happy they make us. Think of the most inspiring people that you know: Know that when you take the hard steps to change, you will inspire healing in yourself and others. And this love will only grow bigger and easier to give and receive.

    You’re so right that you do have a choice. Every minute and every day. We’re not guaranteed the future, only this one moment right now. Every moment can be a gift waiting for you to open it. A gift that you can then share with someone else.

    I wish you love and courage T, and pray for you to love yourself. You are worth so much more than pity or bowing under the world’s injustices. You are capable of so much more than being a victim. Please don’t give up on yourself, and your light. We can’t wait to see it! Hugs, ML

  20. Victim. It is a family inheritance of mine, one that I am not okay with keeping. When I realized this several years ago, I decided that this is not me. Playing the victim and throwing pity parties always breeds negative thoughts, pulling me into the pit of despair. You have already made a huge step by realizing it and admitting it to yourself and others. I know without a shadow of a doubt that you WILL overcome through Him Who has already won the victory. I love you both and am so thankful for you.

  21. HERE IT IS: “–what I’ve learned is that removing a label doesn’t change you—it frees you.”

    I replied to your Monday Morning email asking you that….. well that’s what I get for not keeping up to date on your blog! Silly me. 🙂

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