One of my favorite shirts is a striped polo from Banana Republic the salesman practically guilted me into buying. As I headed back to the fitting room to make sure the shirt would actually fit my odd frame (wide shoulders, narrow chest), the salesman made a witty comment about how cheap it was - $7 - and how I would be an idiot not to buy it.
My $7 shirt has been great. It is comfortable to wear, breathes well in the Houston heat, fits me comfortably, and works well within my seasonal clothing rotation. But, a few months back I had an unfortunate lunch incident involving guacamole, which left the mostly white surface blemished with a few greenish splotches.
I used a Tide-to-go pen, but I think it was old, and only served to smear around the green color, expanding the blobs beyond their original borders. I used stain removers at home before washing it, but to no avail. I bleached it. I used Samantha’s Mary Kay Oil Free Eye Makeup Remover (which is great at getting set in stains out, by the way), but even it was not successful. I never dried it in the dryer, working to prevent the heat from setting the stain, but no matter what I did, it wouldn’t go away.
So, it sat on my dryer for weeks and weeks. Finally, I got tired of it sitting there, so I washed it one more time. Then, clenching my jaw as I did so, I tossed it into the dryer. When I took it out, the stain was gone. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. I just know it is a clean white surface again, graced only by the thin green horizontal stripes that drew my attention in the first place.
So . . . this is the point I could wax rhapsodic about the values of patience and never giving up, but I won’t. I’ve played that song before. I want to talk about has happened every time I have worn the shirt since.
I have gotten to the point where I don’t cringe any longer when I reach into my closet to grab my favorite shirt, certain that this time, when I remove it from the plastic hangar, the green, faded avocado tinge would have returned again, mocking me with its longevity and staying power. But, every time I wear it, I still expect to see a hint of the stain, a faint, shadowy reminder of my clumsiness when eating. It doesn’t matter if I catch sight of myself in the mirror, or glance down when driving, my brain constantly plans on seeing my stain.
I am glad it is gone, but I had become so used to seeing the stain sitting there upon the white fibers that my expectations became dictated by my past. I have somehow become trained to expect the worse when I glance at my shirt. But, I should not. I know my reality isn’t dictated by my past experiences, but, for some reason, I can’t bridge the gap created by that stain. Keeping my stain free vision in mind, I know I can correct my expectations, keeping them in line with reality. It simply takes persistence and correct mental positioning.
Anytime I walk into my closet, reach up and grab the white sleeve, I do so with the knowledge it will be blemish free this time, freeing me from the discouragement I have experienced in the past.
Your own personal disappointments and discouragements work the same way as that stain. Just because circumstances worked out one way in the past doesn't condemn you to repeat them in the future. We are not Bill Murry in Groundhog Day, repeating the same day over and over.
Now, though my brain isn't quite over the stain, whenever I don the $7 Banana Republic polo, I am reminded that every day is a new one. I have the opportunity to experience a different reality this time. I am not condemned to wear a stained shirt every single day.