Bursting out of a dress several sizes too small, sporting a severe case of bedhead, and stumbling down the street in platinum silver stilettos, she was a train-wreck. I watched this woman collapse into a cab and assumed she never made it home the night before. She was hungover and found the whole thing hilarious, so I judged her. A lot.
But then I was driving today and something inside me whispered you’re not so different, you and her.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized the voice was right. That woman stumbled into my life several days ago, but she’s been in the back of my mind ever since. Why? Because I understand pieces of her. I understand craving attention, feeling lost, falling apart, and not being able to walk in heels. I understand parading through life and trailing my baggage along in a box labeled eye-sores. I do not always stride confidently down the sidewalk in straight lines. I veer to the left and to the right, searching for validation in all the wrong places. Perhaps I didn’t wake up, caked in last night’s makeup, to a cruelly illuminating sun, but I assure you I have minutes I’d like to re-write, days I’d rather forget, and seasons I’d like to have skipped.
From a tiny office in the middle of Charlotte, I looked down upon that woman and instead of seeing the fight in her eyes or the fragility of her soul, I saw the classlessness of her exterior. That was a move which really revealed more to me about the crooked status of my interior. As I drove along today, I wondered what if, from the midst of the heavens, God looked down upon me and saw nothing but my bruises, my cracks, my imperfections? What if he chose to judge me based on my hardest nights, my biggest mistakes? None of my usual fixes – oversized sweaters, puppy cuddles, chocolate, tea – would be able to soothe away my shame.
In my American Lit class this semester we read John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” which is an exquisite short story about a man (Neddy) in the 50’s. He’s trapped by what we call false American tranquility – conned into believing he is a-okay, when in reality he is an alcoholic whose life is devoid of real substance.
My drive became pretty darn philosophical as I decided I was proud of skimpy dress lady tottering down the street. I would far rather see her bearing her struggle for the world to see, than pass by a hundred businesswomen wearing facades by Ann Klein. They may look the part, but behind closed doors surely many of them fall apart?
Cheever’s story is not so different from our story. Neddy doesn’t want to grow up and he’s afraid of reality. I have no idea what circumstances my uptown girl came from – she may not have been broken at all, just a lightweight insisting it was 5:00 somewhere. I’m willing to bet though, that when her cab reached its destination, it took most of her strength for her to open the door, pick herself up, and risk being noticed all over again. I hope she did not encounter anyone else like me.
Getting knocked off my self-constructed pedestal stung a bit and that’s alright. Humble pie tastes so much better when you wash it down with reflection. I think losing ourselves is commoner than we presume. Only in finding others like us, will we discover the confidence to believe better versions of ourselves exist. Take it from a girl who’s drenched in God’s grace: it’s possible to begin again.