Life is…wearing an orange dress

in and out last imageBirth and death teaches us that every part of life is changeable.
Everyone comes into your life for a reason and leaves once they have taught you the lesson that you need.

I met this extra amazing girl once (I’ve actually met plenty of extra amazing girls and woman in my life, and I’m lucky enough to work with plenty of them, but stick with me with this). She was in the hospital bed down the hall from mine and was marking time in the hospital system for a similar reason to me. As girls of a similar age we were content to spend that time together, reading, drawing, talking, dreaming of McDonalds (this was a time when McDonalds had their own restaurant within the hospital –bliss for those of us regularly spending time eating hospital food). Once we were discharged and sent on our merry ways, we kept in touch via snail mail. We sent presents for birthdays and Christmas, shared our news and ongoing recoveries with each other until one day it all stopped. ‘No forwarding address’ was scrawled across my letter in thick black vivid. It was a sudden end to a friendship, with an amazing girl, now woman, from afar.

Years later when I was going through a rough phase, her name popped into my head. It was sudden and unexpected, a colourful burst of hope penetrating my bubble of despair. With the invention of Facebook, I looked her up and sent her a message. I was anxious to read her response. Would she remember me? Had our friendship just been a drop in the pool, a fleeting moment in our lives when we’d both needed the company the most? Her reply was positive and what’s more, it turned out that she’d been living in my town for the last two years. What luck! As we messaged each other it turned out that she was leaving soon to train for her dream career overseas, so we arranged to catch up before she left. Perfect right?

We met and had a great time together. In fact she was keen to share her passion with me, fashion styling. Anyone who has ever seen me knows that fashion is not my jam, but I appreciated that it was hers and that I could learn something valuable from her. We went shopping. I spent more money than I had on myself ever (as a single mum spending money on myself was a new concept to me anyway). I tried on clothing that I never would have usually. I tried colours and fabrics that I wouldn’t have chosen, and you know what? I actually enjoyed the clothes shopping experience for the first time ever. On one of our shopping trips during the weeks before she left, this amazing human wore a bright orange dress. She turned heads in the mall. She turned heads in the food court. She even turned heads returning to her car in the underground carpark, as that was how vibrant and beautiful she looked in that orange dress. When I pointed this out to her she told me that she was feeling down that morning but had chosen to wear the dress anyway because it made her feel confident. That orange dress was her badge of confidence, her kick of inspiration that showed the world she was a woman who could do anything. I would be lying to say in that moment that I didn’t wish I had that much confidence and trust in my worth. I did. And I wished that an orange dress could do that for me, but I also knew that what worked for her wasn’t necessarily going to be what worked for me too. So over the next few weeks I tried to find it, that thing that would help me to have confidence and trust in myself above all else.

Unfortunately our friendship went south just as she was leaving the country. Our passions were different and although I was willing to learn about hers, she wasn’t willing to take the time with mine. The lessons that remained from our short reignited friendship were powerful.

1) Not only was I a single mum, but I was someone worth spending money on and time with. I was still interesting.

2) I still had a hunger to learn about everything. This is something I had side-lined on account of my responsibilities to my small person.

3) If wearing an orange dress was enough to boost your confidence, self-esteem and change your negative feelings, maybe I could make some small changes to my day to boost those things for me too. It didn’t mean I was going out of my comfort zone to wear an orange dress, but I added spontaneity to every day, ‘me’ time, reading, writing, candles –all of my personal loves (a list of small things that continues to grow weekly).

I still wouldn’t be seen dead in an orange dress, although I do have a snazzy green one that I especially like. Either way, she taught me that I needed to make time for myself and love the small things. She left and arrived and then left again when I needed her to, and for that I will always be grateful.

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