Many years ago while out shopping one day I spied a little tank top in a store front window. It was just a plain, ordinary white cotton tank top. Nothing special. But it spoke to my heart and mind and I knew that I had to have it.
As I stood outside of that store gazing at the shirt I realized that it was the inscription on the shirt that had stopped me dead in my tracks that day. The message on shirt clearly spoke about my life and me.
At the time I was divorced with three small children and trying to find my way and place in the world again. I was also involved in my first ‘romantic’ relationship since the divorce. Dating was a process that I had been putting off for quite some time. I hadn’t quite reconciled myself to the idea of getting involved again. Just wanted and needed to get my bearings, my center, and my focus back I suppose.
Between the kids, school, work, housework, homework (mine and theirs), shopping, doctors appointments, uh and the relationship that just didn’t seem to fit and was on its last leg I was one hot mess.
I was constantly rushing to and fro. Never resting and just trying to keep up with the mounting demands of my young and growing family. Juggling and balancing the duality of being a single mother/father had begun to take its toll. Keeping up with everyone else’s needs and wants was my first and only priority. And that alone kept me focused and but barely functioning. Tired and restless all the time, some days it felt as though I had forgotten to stop and breathe.
But I had set so many goals for my newly reconfigured family and myself following my divorce that I wasn’t about to let anyone or anything deter me from meeting those goals. I wasn’t even prepared to let my own misgivings or unhappiness about my life stand in my way. I could worry about me much later. Pushing down and swallowing whatever I felt or thought and moving on with the business of living became the norm. It wasn’t the right thing to do but it was all that I knew how to do at the time.
Whenever you live outside of what you truly desire there is no happiness or peace to be had because you’re not being true to yourself.
But spotting that shirt that day was like a divine revelation meant just for me.
I wasn’t happy with the way my life had been going up until that point. I wasn’t in a place whereas I could say that I was content or at peace with myself.
Although I was living but I wasn’t alive. Every aspect of my life was being carried out automatically. Everything was planned, scheduled, mechanical, and executed with the precision of a Swiss watch right down to the most minute and intricate detail. Outwardly I appeared to be the perfect mother, employee, daughter, sister, friend, etc. But inwardly I was a mass of tiny little emotional time bombs just waiting to explode.
My ex-husband often teased me about being so meticulous and methodical in my habits. He went so far as to say that if anyone ever wanted to come after me they’d only have to watch my basic routines for a day and they’d know exactly where, when, and how to find me.
At first I laughed at the remark. Then I wondered if he was dropping subtle hints since our divorce wasn’t exactly amicable. Just kidding. We were and had remained best friends for many years after our divorce.
I knew that he was merely making an observation out of concern for my safety and well being. But it hit a nerve. His comment forced me to look at how practical, predictable, and boring I had allowed myself to become.
Seeing the shirt that day marked a definitive turning point in my life.
After a few misgivings about exceeding my immediate budgetary constraints I rushed inside to purchase the shirt. As I approached the display rack I can distinctly remember hoping and praying that it came in my size.
This ordinary item carried an extraordinary message for me…
In bold black non-descript lettering against the crisp white fabric, the shirt simply read, “This is not the life I ordered.”
As I picked up the shirt suddenly everything became crystal clear. In that instant I knew what I desperately needed and wanted just for me. Change and lots of it.
Purchased over twenty years ago, that shirt has seen its better days. But like and with me it has been through many things and it’s still whole, and in one piece. A testament to the significant place and purpose it holds in my life. It is one of my most valued and prized possessions. And I plan to hold on to it as long as I draw breath.
The shirt was the catalyst for some tough decisions and major changes in my life. And all of the choices and changes were for the better. Starting with the elimination of the ill-fitting boyfriend…ugh!
It now serves as an inspiration and reminder that I don’t have to settle for what is right now because I have the ability and power to control and change the course of my life and everything in it.
I pulled my t-shirt out the other day as I sat contemplating the changes that I’m undergoing at this point in my life. In the present, it has once again inspired me to revive a life that I had stepped away from and forgot so long ago in order to accommodate the other people in my life who are no longer there.
I am no longer leaving myself open to be an option but a priority within my own life.
That shirt has brought me back to where I need to be…centered, motivated, and focused on the things that I need and want from this point forward. And placing a new order for my life…