Charlotte’s White Dress

Charlotte donned a white dress for the wedding. It was a simple error that she didn’t see as an error in advance. It was the dress that stood out when she opened her closet. It is not her wedding.

Her error makes no sense. Charlotte overthinks everything. Her friends often advise her to stop thinking so much, and she wishes they understood that they are asking someone with Tourettes to stop her motor tics. “Oh, if I could!” she wants to say. She overthinks all the scenarios that may emerge from the red flags of early dates with a man. After all, if she can figure it all out then her mind can be her body guard that shields her from all pain, especially any pain that resembles past pain. She has thought about that premise, and she knows it is faulty. Her thinking brain has the next answer: it might not be perfect, but it can’t hurt.

She recreates circumstances that fail, even though her brain does its best to make sure the new situation is very different, bases are covered, analysis is complete, and therefore it is important and safe enough to be open to the present. And then she thinks about fears and well-meaning advise about self-fulfilling prophecies and instead tries extra hard to steer away from them and towards self-unfulfilling prophecies. Until that doesn’t make any sense at all and she is left with the revelation that she doesn’t have to steer. Worse. She can’t steer. It is a steering wheel-less car and all she can do is be present and try to eject early enough so that when the car collides head-on into a wall she is not inside for the worst of the destruction.

She wonders how the same brain that brings her professional accolades could undermine what seems to be a basic tool for successful relationships – this stop thinking skill. To be aware intuitively, to see, to absorb, to set boundaries. To make good choices. Then she is stuck again with this conundrum about how to make good choices without thinking.

All Charlotte knows is that thinking and overthinking have led her to poor choices. Then she corrects herself. It is not poor choices. It is learning opportunities! Wonderful gifts that seem like being handed a bag of face-burning, heart-slamming, explosive dog excrement, but that provide their own not-so-subtle steering towards something better in the future. Gifts that test strength and then build it so that there is more resiliency with the next let down that she will initiate or receive because – for the most part – life doesn’t promise anything.

This epiphany stands in contrast to the brave promises her friend is making to a man who a few moments later will be her husband. Promises he is returning. Charlotte looks at her beautiful friend and at the man who is looking at her friend as if he is in such awe about his good fortune that he needs to wrap her in the swell of his heart. The groom pulls back the delicate veil that drapes midway down the white dress – gently, as if peeling off the last layer of invulnerability – and seals their love and dedication with his lips on his new life partner’s lips. As if at that moment talking or thinking or anything or anyone present in the room washes to nothing compared to the faith they each have in their commitment. In their promises.

Charlotte looks down at her lap, her hands crossed on the fabric of her inappropriately white dress. She knows she was kidding herself when she decided a short time ago not to be brave again, and it’s not because she wants the white dress to be appropriate at some future moment but because she has actually reached a place where her brain doesn’t always get to be the boss. She knows who she needs to be, and that may be a person with miserly, mature mental expectations, but also with hope that scoffs at all that has tried to undermine it. She smiles because the dress tells her that she wasn’t thinking when she put it on. It may be a small token of progress, but she’ll take it.

 

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