Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Writing Inspiration

Many moons ago, my college English teacher had each student write a paper with only the following sentence to base it on: 
"She wore a mask and her face grew to fit it."
That was the first time I knew that I loved to write. My pencil flew across the paper as words magically and effortlessly came to me. I was so excited and proud of myself when I turned my paper in, and waited anxiously for two days before receiving my grade. I got an "A"!

I stared at my paper with a true sense of accomplishment, but was forced to tuck it under my desk to concentrate on class. When I got home that night, I reached for my story hoping to read it again. But, it wasn't there! I spilled out the contents of my backpack and rifled through each paper fruitlessly - at last remembering I had left it under my chair. When I asked my teacher about it, she said no one turned it in.

Well, many years later, I still remember how inspiring that one sentence was - enough so that I could write a complete story around it. I wish desperately that I could remember the story. But, while those words are lost to me forever, trying to recall them inspired a new story. So, I bid you to enjoy, "The Wardrobe".

The Wardrobe

“Okay, what am I wearing to this thing?” she asked herself as she flung open the doors to her walk-in closet and reluctantly walked inside.

Over the years, she amassed a large collection. She had much to choose from, but she was looking for just the right one. The one that truly reflected the way she wanted everyone to see her. It was her fortieth birthday party and everyone she knew (and many she didn’t) would be there.

“This one says ‘I’m overjoyed’,” she said as she pulled one out and examined it. “Nah, I’m not really feeling this one tonight.”

She put it back and continued looking. She didn’t really know what she was looking for. It was going to be an “I’ll know it when I see it” based decision. Normally she just wore what she thought everyone else would like. But, that night, she was feeling a little rebellious.

“Sad, fat, floozy…” she spoke aloud as she riffled through each one. “Hmm… happy,” she paused and looked at it for a moment.  “They’ll be expecting to see me in this one. But, am I happy?”

For the most part, she was happy. But, she wasn’t sure she wanted to walk around with that look for the entire evening. She wanted something more… dynamic – something that would change with her moods.

Her whole life she focused on pleasing other people – worrying what they would think or say. Too afraid to put herself out there, she just fell into the habit of wearing what was safe – what was expected. But, getting older did something to her.

She began questioning why she allowed other opinions to have so much influence and control over her. Why did she agonize about what other people thought? Did they worry even half as much about her feelings as she did theirs?

She knew that whatever she wore, she would have to play the part as well. You can’t wear something that says “let’s party” and go around avoiding everyone the entire evening – which she was inclined to do from time to time. Trying to please everyone but herself was, in a word, exhausting.

“Ugh! I have nothing to wear!” she exclaimed, knowing full well she had plenty of options. She just didn’t want to wear any of them. In fact, she was done with them.

Without wasting another minute rifling through the wardrobe, she walked out and shut the doors – determined to never open them again. She walked over to her dressing table and took a final look in the mirror. After adjusting a few stray hairs and applying a little perfume, she decided she was ready.

“Oh, you’re going ‘all natural’ tonight?” her husband asked when he walked in the room.

“Yes,” she said confidently.

“That works for me,” he replied, raising an eyebrow suggestively as he came over to embrace her. “You know I prefer you this way,” he said sincerely and bent down to kiss her cheek.

She smiled contentedly. Her husband was the only one she allowed to see her like that. Because he loved every side of her, she felt very free around him.

“Are you sure you’re ready for everyone to see you like this?” he asked tenderly.

“Yes. I’ve spent too many years hiding. Love me or hate me, it’s time everyone saw the real me.”

She lifted her hair as her husband helped with her coat - slipping it over her shoulders. After making final adjustments to her long, gold evening dress, she looked over at her husband and smiled.

“You look beautiful,” he admired.

She was a little nervous leaving the house without concealing herself. There would be no going back after everyone saw the “real” her. No more pretending to be something she’s not. No more showing people what they wanted to see and losing a little more of herself in the process. No more wearing those masks.

“You know,” she paused as a hint of moisture glistened in her eyes. She swallowed deeply and continued, “For the first time in a long while, I feel beautiful.”

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