When my ex-husband went to rehab for the second time, our closet became MY closet. It was a beautiful walk in deal – not huge but not tiny. I had taken the dimensions and designed shelving and spacing and it had been rebuilt just for us. I cannot explain why exactly this closet became the symbol of my reclaiming of my life, but it did. I cleaned it out and donated everything I knew I would never wear again. I organized it by style and color. There was a place for everything and everything was in its place. When he returned from rehab after this particular stint he moved home for a couple of months. I was so emotionally attached to the closet space that it upset me greatly to think of having to rearrange this masterpiece to accommodate his clothing again. . . I wasn’t ready. It was like the closet was a symbol of my life if it were put together, neat and tidy. Adding anything would mess with the organizational system I had created. Perhaps it was also a representation of my giving over complete trust in him to love me, as if moving into my closet was allowing him to move back into my heart. (Cheesy, corny, I am an English teacher/librarian, remember??? It is how I am wired.) Also, this closet had been where I would go to cry so my kids couldn’t hear me. It was a safe space. I wanted my marriage to work and I wanted our family to be a strong one with love oozing all over the place, but I was still heartbroken when he returned; I needed time to heal with him and find a way to be with him and not on the defensive from him. I had an absolute come apart over this closet thing. He was very accommodating, if not understanding. The trauma of recovery isn’t for the faint of heart. It affects everyone in the household – not just the one with the addiction.
Now, when I say this closet thing is a big deal to me, I mean it is a BIG DEAL TO ME. When I started dating after the divorce I sorta started judging each man by whether I could see myself allowing him a fraction of my closet space EVER. Honestly, I am pretty sure I used this to give myself an excuse to not date because how would I really know after a date or two anyway if they were worthy of closet space???? But, maybe I didn’t. Maybe I really did know after a date or two that the date would never be a man I could share my sacred closet space aka LIFE with. Who knows. This was one of those evaluation practices that ran on gut intuition and not facts or an evaluation of boxes a man’s qualities might check off of my “perfect match” list.
At this moment, five years or so from the morphing of the closet into a coping mechanism to deal with the pulling apart of my life, my family, and three years or so since the divorce and my re-entrance into the dating world, I am still very fond of my closet but it does not hold the same uber significance for me that it once did. My post-divorce house was built in 1909 and (I assume thanks to the needs of some previous owners) I have a nice size walk-in closet here as well. It is large enough that I am turning part of it into a very small (tiny) office space – to write and begin podcasting. I love my closet. I like that I have shoes in color order, by season. I like that my clothes follow a ROYGBIV pattern and are all facing the same way, grouped by type. I like my neat stacks of sweaters and tshirts. You see where I am going. My house can be in utter chaos and the first place I straighten and get put back together is this closet. My closet is still sometimes my safe space. It calms me and makes me feel safe in chaos. It just makes me HAPPY. And, thanks to embracing vulnerability, it is now nothing more than this.