The long black dress. Not little. Not formal. Simple, black cotton. First spotted in Midtown Manhattan near Grand Central Station. I had been walking for about 40 plus blocks and stopped just beyond the New York Public Library. (The one where Carrie gets stood up by Big on her wedding day).
I noticed my reflection in the window first. I looked tired, worn out and yet, energized by the city. Next, I saw the window displays with beautiful clothes--summer outfits adorned with bags worn by mannequins with awkward poses. That's when the long black dress caught my eye. There was a sign in the window, $12.00. The store was H&M.
It had been nearly 5 months since I made the decision to be bi-coastal. With that decision came two rents, my recurring car payment back in LA, subway fares, groceries double the price. Living between two cities wasn’t a matter of budgeting, it was a matter of sacrificing. And that long, black $12.00 dress was tapping into my temptation bone. I justified all the places I could wear it. “Black goes with everything.” It wasn’t so much the $12.00 I was resisting. I had learned a new responsibility about discipline, sacrifice and money and I didn’t want to throw those lessons down the drain with one impulsive purchase. Just then, my inner lawyer started another side of the debate.
You have been working SO HARD.
For crying out loud, you are walking from 14th street to 71st to save on subway fare!
You’ve been eating peanut butter and jelly for dinner for a week.
Go ahead, get the dress. You won’t regret it.
I was in and out of the H&M store in a flash, long black dress in tow. As my imagination served correct, I would wear the long black dress the very next day. It made me feel ultra feminine and slight hipster.
A few months later, I would wear the dress on top of a peak in the British Virgin Islands for a Goddess Circle with a powerful intuitive and amazing group of women. I would then wear the dress to Florida to visit my grandparents. And that’s when my $12.00 treasure almost went to the long black dress graveyard.
We’ve all heard the term you pay for what you get so my long black cotton dress, through it’s physical trips and travels and those trips to the washing machine, had started to come undone. Actually, it was one of the straps that held the dress up. It was clearly becoming unattached and I panicked. I already had enough challenges with trying to grow a business and make it in two cities--I certainly didn't need to flash anyone.
Just then, I remembered, “Hey, my grandmother used to sow. I am here with her now, perhaps she can help me.”
My grandmother was 81 years old. Aging had made her very depressed and sad at the loss of her independence.
I will never forget the smile on her face the morning we sat at the breakfast table chatting. Inspired by my BVI trip, I was playing UB40's cover of "Can't Help Falling In Love With You." My aunt had come in with the long black dress and asked my grandmother in Armenian to sow it for me. I don’t speak Armenian, and my grandmother was aware of the fact. Perhaps my aunt asked her in Armenian in case she declined. Maybe she’d be embarrassed. Within a few minutes, she had her sewing kit out. That's when the huge smile grew across her face and an even larger smile grew on mine.
My grandmother wasn’t just sewing my strap back together. She was leaving me with her touch, always, right there to the left of my heart, always within reach anytime I looked at or would wear my long black dress.
I don’t believe I had the long black dress packed with me on March 8th, 2012, when my grandmother died. It’s hard to recall that period in time, and what I was wearing. Similar to how I had felt that day on the corner of a busy street in Manhattan, I knew the time would be another lesson in responsibility, sacrifice and discipline.
Almost a year after that, April 19th, 2013, I stared at the long black dress hanging on a door seam. My father had been in the hospital for over a week and I would wear the dress to feel my grandmother's spirit with me, to feel her strength, to remember her smile through yet another difficult time. Only the responsibility and discipline were far greater.
I would have never known, some 3 years prior, that this darn $12.00 dress would become a metaphor for life. For learning how to treat yourself to something you want, for rewarding yourself for defying the need for daily instant gratification. For remembering that even as people pass, their imprints on our soul, the lessons they’ve instilled in us, the morals they have left behind, do not.
So, I hope every single one of you that reads this finds that one possession or two in your closet or jewelry box. The one that most people think or assume serves you on a materialistic level. But it’s that one piece or possession that reminds you how far you've come and that you deserve to be rewarded. To be strong yet nurturing. To be able to sacrifice and also learn to acknowledge ourselves in the same instance.
To long black dresses, to little black dresses, to rewarding discipline, hard work and sacrifice and last but not least, to keeping our souls sewn together no matter what may happen in life.
What's keeping your soul sewn together?
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