Overdressed (2): On Bethany and the Art of Regeneration.

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Bethany was, at that time, a woman caught between two lives.  Or a woman caught between a series of lives.  In the least, she was a woman caught between two marriages– years from one that took her old soul like antique lace to a flame, and weeks away from one that has replaced reams of her life’s fabric.  This is not to describe Bethany in relationship to one man or another.  This is just to say that Bethany did not choose her old wedding dress for this project, nor did she violate the Sacred Rule by pre-wearing her new one.

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The 11-year-old J. Crew A-line cotton white dress was bought for her christening at the Eastern Orthodox church– and she just can’t let it go.  Not because of her devotion to orthodoxy over a decade ago– she has since disengaged with the church.  It’s just that the dress, at the time, was so damn expensive.  Buyers blues evidently can have a startlingly long trail.  But judging by the faces of the occasional icons on the walls, casually placed among the photos of her four children and fiance, the dress isn’t just a guilty pleasure.  It isn’t an anchor to history masked with denial, either.  It is a snow white declaration of re-purposing what she has to tether a long rope into a future made of better things– as Bethany described, the value of the love of self over the art of suffering.

“I have extracted all the good parts and left, traveling down this road alone, now.  Just like everyone needs to.”

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Add in a bucket of paint, and you have one of the prettiest metaphorical ropes in history.  Her house is divided by color, but united by the lived in and tenderly cared for.  A house that has the vibration of regeneration– one that held her when she wanted to leave, and forced her to paint small patches each day to help forget about the old life and marriage, “I would buy something small every day with my 50% off coupons at Michael’s to recreate the space.  Little steps.  Every day.”

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While I was surprised and delighted that she didn’t choose a wedding dress, it was apparent she chose a dress of renewal– which surrounds her every day– because she actively pursues it.  Her curtains are her grandparents dresses and tablecloths.  There is a wall of heroes who, I swore, moved Harry-Potter-painting style as she lightly tapped each one and described their importance.  And that bucket of paint.  It sits now with two brushes between the kitchen and the laundry room, resting-in-wait of the next old memory to be painted over new.  The house is mystical with the energy of a woman who has taken careful time to be brave and keep working.  Even her two black cats– Dusk and Dawn– spend most of their time beneath her feet, bewitched.

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Who I met that day was not who I would’ve met seven years ago.  Probably none of us are.  But some people– like Bethany– are able to wear their past selves remarkably well, without shame, and know that the transition is where most of their life is squeezed in.  And it is her responsibility to proclaim those times as starting new.

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Also, I’ve never seen anyone eat cereal so elegantly in my life.

 

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