I’m not entirely sure if it was the change of season, the steady acceptance of transitioning into my thirties or my husband going away on a running trip last weekend that compelled me to de-clutter my entire apartment and clean every inch of it.
You know when you starting tidying up then suddenly you just. can. not. stop. Before you know it, you’re getting ruthless with old items and scrubbing the shower tiles with a toothbrush (not my husband’s toothbrush, although – that would’ve been a good practical joke!)
It’s cathartic and liberating and you can’t help but feel lighter as you toss piles of crap into the bin, or bag it up to donate. You feel healed.
So on a Saturday or two ago, after breakfast with my girlfriends, I excitedly went home and did two things to prepare for this magic ritual, of sorts. I burned a stick of incense and put Carole King’s Tapestry album on (my mum taught me well here. Cleaning like this would require The Classics. Carole, Bette, Cher, Dolly, Celine. On rotation and all mimed into the handle end of the broom. With dance moves. It’s the only way. The spell doesn’t work otherwise!)
I went through the house like a witch. Swiftly and precisely, no coaster was left unturned and soon I had relics and relics of old junk to heave into a burning fire. Ok, so it wasn’t as theatrical as that, but the smoke from the incense got to my eyes and my imagination went into overdrive. I was on a cackling high from purging all the junk that I dared to go there....
into the Ouji board that was my wardrobe.
(right, the witch metaphors are gonna end there. Not even I – Harry Potter extraordinaire - can keep up with this analogy all post long. Avada Kedavra!)
I will be the first to put up my hand and admit that I am one of those ‘so many clothes but nothing to wear’ kind of women. I’d love to have a wardrobe of 10 items that I can somehow always make look different with layers and accessories but if you can’t already tell by my writing style that I go off on tangents, take a peek in my wardrobe...It’s like a treasure trove of distraction and senselessness. Yes I went through the block colour jeans phase, I stopped off for years in shift-dress town. I’ve got boho-maxi dresses for when I was all about being Aphrodite and I’ve got some tight body con things that nearly mummified me like Cleopatra. One with hideous shoulder pads that would even get Buzz Lightyear to ask me for a dance.
Point is, I can actually look at my clothes and track myself through history.
When I lost all that weight, I actually I had a really hard time getting rid of my larger clothes, because I was trapped in fear of gaining it back. I wore them until they near about fell off. One birthday, the boyfriend-now-husband took me shopping and lay his debit card out over and over again until I had a wardrobe that fit me properly.
Then (you know the story, read it here) I lost my way a little and there was this long while there where the smaller the number on the tag the more I felt worthy of the dress or, rather, the praise that came with it. That’s pretty much where the tight dead Egyptian people dresses happened. They were definitely not for me but, alas, this section of my wardrobe ancient history indicates that I was a slave to the idea that I had to look a certain way...so the clothes that used to define me were out and the things that masked my internal pain were in...
The mission that was the archaeology trip through my wardrobe had been on my mind for a while. Something I knew I had to do, but was avoiding, because I knew what I’d find.
Artefacts from a past life that I wasn’t quite sure I was ready to let go of.
Isn’t it funny how, as women, we feel obliged to hold on to our smaller clothes so we can dangle them in front of our current selves like a carrot. Fuelled by guilt and shame, we pull them out like old photographs and lament over ‘the good old days.’ We let the voice of the past infect us with words like ‘you’ve let yourself go’ and ‘you used to be so beautiful.’ At best, we use them as a tactic that’s supposed to motivate us to get up and become our old selves again. Standing at the mirror, for some of us, these old dresses are just a wispy illusion. They trick you into forgetting that your body isn’t a stagnant object that will remain that way forever.
I knew this time would come, when I committed to being healthy over being thin. I knew they’d be a day I’d have to let go of too-small clothes and lay one more piece of my disordered relationship with my body to rest.
As the dig continued I struck it. The one that got away. Where once, I’d liked the texture of this dress, now the crepe fabric felt rough against my skin and even worse in my memory.
I dug it up and out of the wardrobe. Staring at it, I physically started to feel sick.
Not because of its psychedelic pattern (Ah, Yep, I went through the Aztec phase too!) but because of how small it is.
I remember trying it on. Feeling elated as the 8 on the size tag slipped over my head. I looked in the mirror and thought it said: “why-yes-I-am-training-for-a-marathon(but-actually-I’m-exhausted-and-anxious-as-all-hell)-thanks-for-noticing!” I’d made it all the way to single digit town and it was on sale. So I had to have it.
When I was a teenager, a size 8 was ‘it’. The end of the line. There wasn’t anything smaller than that sold in the stores I shopped in. And when I was initially losing weight, I never wanted to BE a size 8. It wasn’t realistic and I wasn’t too bloody interested.
But after getting lost on the way to the Promised Land (ie – a smaller body must equal more happiness, right?!) and a few rough years of wandering the dessert of confusing and abusive messages about food, exercise and ideal body types, I remember thinking, after a size 8 – what’s next...
...do I fall off the edge?
I was already well over the edge. Thing is, I only remember wearing this dress once. To an uncle’s 50th birthday, where all my family had come together. I was so excited to see loved ones, from all over the country, that I hadn’t caught up with in years. I was dying to be noticed for my new body, at the same time as wanting zero attention for it at all. I was so lost and so swept up in the noise that I didn’t know myself or my body any more. I didn’t factor in my changed fat composition, ate nearly nothing in the day time and very quickly got so drunk that the next day, they all recounted the story of me ravenously eating a piece of pizza from a stranger in a taxi (which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t have starved out of fear at lunch time) and falling asleep on the hotel staircase.
For a minute I held that dress up like a symbolic carrot and thought to myself “maybe, if I just worked hard for 6 weeks, I could wear it again.”
Truth is, I probably could.
But I’d rather die than go there again.
You see, I might’ve fit into that dress long ago but I don’t anymore and I never should have. So, with Carole King backing me up, threw that carrot on the floor to start a ‘sell/donate/burn it’ pile, because it only brought back memories of me doubting myself, pushing my body beyond the limit of what was healthy and constantly moving the goalposts. I’ve had enough bloody carrots to last me a lifetime!
Once the first skeleton came out of the closet, the rest followed like zombies. Slowly and surely, I extracted every dress that was bought in attempt to validate my self-worth, based on its size, OUT of my wardrobe.
I decided that if wearing it at all means wearing myself down...it’s a big ol’ GOODBYE...
Self hate just aint my style anymore.
And so, beautiful woman, If you are holding on to the ancient history in your wardrobe, saying things like “If I can diet and workout every day for a bit, I’ll be to be able to wear this again” but deep down you know that to wiggle back into that dress would mean complete damage and disruption to your life...consider, just for a second, that it’s not worth it.
Would you hold onto a pair of earrings that your nasty ass ex boyfriend gave you as guilt bling because he was cheating on you with Fran from the fruit shop?! HELL NO... they’d make you feel worthless every time you looked at them.
Get rid of what doesn’t make you feel like the person you are NOW. Let it go and then devote the time you save hating yourself to honouring your body in other ways. Letting it run as fast or as slow as it wants. Sitting it in the sun, stretching it and releasing its tension. Feeding it with food that nourishes you down into your soul. Marinate it in the message that it is beautiful and sexy and worthy, just as it is and tell it that you’ll be there no matter what it does, because the truth is we actually have a lot less control over what might happen to our dear body than what we think we do. Nothing in life is certain and if I lost a leg in a street accident tomorrow I doubt very much that I’d be worried about getting back into the Zara jeans like I used to...
Letting go is not "letting yourself go" or "giving up"
In fact, it's the opposite.
When we're able to loosen the grip on dieting, scrutinising our food and our bodies and speaking unkindly to ourselves, it can help you reconnect with your body and its natural signals (you know, the ones that give us feedback about appetite, emotions 'n stuff?). And it's from here that you are in a position to make conscious and deliberate choices - without jumping on the judgement train.
(wise, wise words from the babes at Body Positive Australia)
So as the wardrobe closes and the incense burns out, gorgeous, I want you to know this:
You DO NOT deserve to feel embarrassed or like a failure if your body changes, you grow or soften. Guilt and Shame do not belong in your wardrobe. They don't suit you.
...The things that will always fit you are your tenacity, your energy and the love you give to the world. Your spirit and soul with grow with you. They will expand as you do.
Your smile, and the sparkle in your eyes, will never get too tight.
You are NOT the number on the inside of the Zara jeans you bought in Rome, just to prove to everyone that you can fit into European sized pants. You are the woman who ran around Rome in the rain and climbed to the top of St Peter’s Basilica with legs that were strong and able.
Your wardrobe IS NOT A TIME MACHINE that you should feel obliged to crawl into, hit the ‘when I was 25 button’ and step out back into the present day, being able to wear the little black skirt you used to go nightclubbing in.
And if the dresses in your wardrobe are taunting you, teasing you and torturing you like the mean girls at high school (“you’ll never be one of us if you don’t change first...You don’t fit in here anymore...You're such a loser”) you have the right, and the power, to tell them to frock off.
As such, I’m breaking up with about 15 dresses (and the God-awful Zara pants!) that no longer fit ME and who I am. I’m bigger than that now!
And I am unashamedly proud of that.
Check out how you can work with me to free yourself from food fear, body hate and the relentless energy roller coaster...from one off sessions to private packages...I’m here to help you make your life delicious, guilt free and full of love!