The Case of the Home Alone Optimist

A few weeks ago my husband went on a business trip to Minnesota. Given that it was about -10 degrees most of the time he was there, I was not too sad to be hanging at home in sunny southern California. I miss winter and snow. I do not miss freezing snot and chapped eyeballs.

I hate when we are apart. I like the part where I stay up to 3 am and eat ice cream for dinner, but I hate the going to bed and waking up without him part. Given that he is one of those rocket scientists though, I’m just glad that his trips right now are to icy places like Minnesota rather than Mars or the moon.

I was single for a long time before I met said rocket scientist, and I had spent a lot of time by myself. I like to think that I had gotten pretty good at it. I ate green vegetables and read newspapers and went to the gym. I still had problems with spaghetti jar lids and remembering to take out the trash and little things like that, but for the most part I was a capable and happy single gal. Like most things in life, if you do something enough, you become reasonably proficient. The other night, however, really made me question how much my proficiency of caring for myself might be in jeopardy.

During his relatively brief trip I managed to fall asleep in bed with a computer playing a video 8 inches from my head for hours, not eat one green thing, and lose an adorable piece of clothing.

It was late, and like all night owls, I get my best ideas at night—or at least I believe I do. Well that night was no different. I was wandering around in our tiny apartment thinking up things to do before giving in and going to bed, when I spied a pile of clothes and the edge of a cute little yellow shirt. I had bought the shirt at a thrift store a couple of years ago, but had never worn it. It had been too small, and I was perhaps a bit too optimistic. Small. Optimistic. These are matters of degree.

In my post midnight wanderings I was feeling imbued with an extra dose of optimism, so I grabbed the pale yellow delight. It was a strappy little number with a lace panel down the front. It had nary a zipper or button anywhere. You just slide it over your head, so I engaged.

I pulled the shirt past my head and around my shoulders and down onto my torso that almost didn’t look like it was begging to burst free. It was cute. Kind of. I turned sideways in the mirror, sucked it in, and smiled. This could work. Just a few more weeks of a little thing I like to call dedication but actually looks more like dedi-maybe, and this yellow sausage casing was going to be sweet.

Another glance and a sly “you’re killing this look, almost” smile into the mirror, and I went to pull the adorable shirt off. It did not budge. Not at all. I stood there calmly assessing the situation. I was being held together by a lacy cotton casing. I slipped the straps off the shoulders. Nothing. I pulled the bottom of the shirt up a few inches until it stopped moving. I rutched (a good Pennsylvania dutch word for squirming around) and did a funky little dance as I tried to wiggle my way free. I pulled my shoulders into my neck and screwed up my face as I pulled harder. Out of breath, I stood in the mirror and admired this slightly “less cute than I had thought a few minutes ago” look. I pulled up, pushed down, sucked in, bent over, wiggled, and contorted my upper body in ways I did not think possible. The shirt was going nowhere and neither were my shoulders. My Cirque de Soleil skills were on the up, but the shirt was staying right where it was.

It was after midnight. I was tired, and a little unsettled about my predicament. Had it been daylight, I might have run out for a cup of coffee just so this almost cute outfit would get to see the light of day. I considered sleeping in its light and airy style, but I rethought it as it dawned on me how much difficulty I was having breathing just standing upright.

After briefly considering just how inappropriate it would be to knock on my neighbor’s door and ask for assistance and deciding that the answer was “quite inappropriate,” I did the only sensible thing there was to do. I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut myself free. I twisted oddly to cut along the seam, as I watched the sweet little yellow shirt split. I breathed in deeply, a luxury denied to me in the previous 10 minutes, and I pulled the shirt off.

Optimism is no guarantee of a good ending, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t extraordinarily important. What would life be if we didn’t hope and dream and imagine what could be? Even in the simple moments, it’s still important to hope and try and put yourself out there (or squeeze yourself in there, as the case may be).

And now that I have a great “open seam” up the side of the little yellow strappy number, I can install a zipper. And with the edges of the zipper, I’m looking forward to that extra ½ inch for breathing and moving and drinking coffee while looking almost stylish.

And I’m optimistic that I am still very much capable of managing my own life, even if green veggies don’t play a prominent role. Honestly though, I wouldn’t want to be any of my clothes after midnight. Because there’s nothing I love like a game of “it didn’t work last time, but it might now.” Oh, optimism, you keep me on my toes. That’s one of the things I love about you.

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