Whether you’ve been the parent of the child I’m sure we’re all familiar with the old,” It’s cold outside, don’t you want a jacket?” It’s a question often fruitlessly asked of a youth as they run out into the snowy winter landscape in shorts and a t-shirt. “I’ll be fine” is usually the response and they’re gone.
Though I’m a grandmother in my 40’s I recently felt like the youth in this situation.
I went on a trip and did my usual reconnaissance on weather. I packed accordingly and prepped for a delightful time with beautiful scenery, great company and something new each and every day.
I’d like to explain that my packing consisted of layers. Lighter clothes for the warmer days and wraps and shawls for the cooler moments and evenings. I like the breezy flowy feel of the layers more than a regular “jacket” and they compliment the rest of my outfit.
For the first 3 days of the trip I was often met with the question of “Don’t you have a jacket?” Or the statement of “You should really have a jacket.” I often replied by pulling out one of my warm wool, knee length wraps and showing them I was adequately prepared for the weather and yet their distrust of my situation lingered.
As this seemed to be the focus of locals wherever we went even my travel companions started jumping in with their concern for my well-being. To their renewed efforts I would reassure them I was doing fine. I was warm enough. Dry enough. I promised I was a big girl who could be responsible for getting a jacket if I needed one.
At one point, one of our companions gave me her jacket and told me to wear it as she had an extra one and that way everyone else would be more comfortable.
It was as though the way I chose to show up in life was bringing discomfort to everyone around me. I wasn’t conforming to their idea of the way things should be and this needed to be fixed. It was truly frustrating to continually reassure people I was good to go and they could let me be.
I didn’t want, or need, their idea of a jacket.
I found myself in a conundrum.
Do I alter myself, and my actions, so those around me are more comfortable with my presence?
OR do I stay true to myself and let everyone else squirm?
It was frustrating. I’m an adult. I am capable of making my own choices. And I didn’t want to spend money on a jacket I’d never wear just so others could put their minds at ease that I was covered. Literally.
So, what was the solution?
I recognized their distress came from love. A genuine concern for my well being. And perhaps a little projection of their own discomfort at the idea of being cold. Hail back to the opening of this musing.
I ended up compromising.
I bought a shell jacket. The next time someone asked me if I had one I honestly said, “Yes. It’s in my room.” You know what? They didn’t ask again. Magically just having one in my room made everyone relax. The neon sign I had evidently been wearing, alerting the world to my lack of a “proper jacket”, had been turned off.
I continued bringing one of my wraps along in the bag I carried, just in case I wanted an extra layer, and yet the questions stopped.
I wasn’t actually wearing the jacket. No one ever saw it. They just knew I had one and that meant everything was right with the world.
I didn’t change.. me. How I dressed, how I talked or showed up for the activities, etc.
I did remove the thorn. I sought a solution. What little thing can I do to make this situation better? How can I keep being me and allow everyone else to be them too? Is there something small I can do to improve the relationships around me?
I didn’t have to wear the solution. People just needed to know I understood it was an option.