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    Four Home Hanger

            In my closet, there resides a particular item. There’s something special about it. It stands out from all the other ones just like it. I still use it, and it performs it’s job admirably, despite the fact that it’s over twenty years old and has been “repaired”, more than once. This is more than just a piece of my history or a link to my past. Anybody who saw it would probably say “Just throw it away. You’ve got plenty of them.” But I don’t want to. I hope I have this thing until the day I die. Maybe I could even pass it on as an heirloom.
            It’s not a piece of clothing. It’s not a book or a hat.
            It’s a clothes hanger.
            When I moved into my first condo in Boston in 1987, it was the first time I had lived alone. In college, I shared a dorm room with a roommate, then a house with six other guys. Now it was just me. Living alone in the city.
            When I first moved in, I didn’t have that many clothes hangers. So when this one broke, I took a page out of my dad’s book and just duct taped it. Worked just fine. A pink plastic hanger with red duct tape holding it together. Dad was proud.
            When I moved across the hall, nine years later, the hanger came with me. The move broke it, so I just re-taped it. Dad was even prouder.
            Moving into a house on the cape, then an apartment on the cape, then back to my house, the hanger withstood the rigors of the road. The only move it didn’t make was when I went to California for the summer in 2006.
            The other day, I was going through my closet, and I took a shirt off of a hanger to try it on. And there it was. The pink plastic hanger with red duct tape holding it together. Still working.
            There are probably other hangers that I’ve had since my first move over twenty years ago, but I wouldn’t know. Because there’s nothing distinctive about them, nothing special. They blend in with all the other hangers. Ones that have been there for two decades look like the ones I bought last week at Home Goods. But the pink plastic one with the red duct tape holding it together, that one’s unique. That one, despite it’s obvious flaws, despite that it’s been hurt more than once and was pulled back together, has a special place in my closet. Silly as it sounds, it means something to me.
            Aren’t we all a little like the pink plastic hanger with the red duct tape holding it together?
            If we look back on our lives, honestly and openly, we will see that we are shaped as much by that which hurt us as by that which created joy and happiness and love. Instead of denying our pain, we can choose to embrace it. Not get stuck in it, but throw our arms and hearts and minds around it so that we can heal it. So that we can grow past it. So that we can wrap duct tape around it and keep going. In doing that we also understand that our pain makes us all unique. And our pain makes us all the same.
            For most of my life, I wouldn’t let love hurt me, because I thought that’s what love was. Love meant pain. To let love too far in meant being vulnerable to the inevitable. It looked like a set up. And I wasn’t going to fall for it again.
            But despite that, despite my trying to outsmart my feelings, they showed up anyway. In my past relationships, love showed up, albeit not at it’s full intensity. I loved, and was loved, but I felt a need to exert a certain control over it that stopped me from letting it all hang out.
            My last two relationships have been the most painful of my adult life, although in vastly different ways. But they have opened me up, because I let myself feel more than I had in previous ones. Eventually, I became open to letting them hurt me instead of staying in denial, or defense, or rationalization, or justification, or blame, or bullshit.
            In my last two relationships, I recognized that I’m the pink plastic hanger with the red duct tape holding it together. And in doing that, I set myself apart from the man I used to be. Not that he was bad. But he was limited. He wasn’t loving to his full potential. He was protective. He was too stingy with his emotions.
            How many of us don’t realize the full potential of our ability to love because we stay protected? How many of us don’t allow ourselves to fully feel? How many of us don’t let all of ourselves shine through because we’re afraid?
            They are one in the same.

    ©2009 Clint Piatelli. All Rights (and a clothes closet full of hangers and Wrongs) Reserved.

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