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the red scarf

In the dark days of winter, when grey sometimes seems to be the color of the day, I found a respite in a beautiful, chunky, vibrant red scarf that a friend knit for me for Christmas. It was probably the 101st scarf that I have received in my lifetime, but for some reason, this scarf became my instant cold weather companion and one that for me, has become a symbol of healing and hope.

Going through divorce is a painful process. No matter which side of the break up you are on, it can create a vortex of anxiety and despair. For the lucky, like me, you have a strong support system that is behind you to help you see the light of day when all seems lost. But for some, even this light is fleeting as they navigate the journey to separation alone.

A few years back, they said that gray is the new black and I guess in fashion that opens up a whole new set of neutral options for choosing “what to wear”. However, for me, the color gray is the best way I can describe life on some of those deepest and darkest days where I would have much rather been under the covers than stepping out in the sunshine. When I reflect back there were indeed many shades of gray days, and not the ones that Anastasia Steele or Christian Gray took part of. True shadows and places where light and hope had a hard time getting in despite the best intentions and help of great family and friends.

I associate gray with being unwell. For me, the color is stuck somewhere between life and death, not quite gone, but completely drained, bloodless, and a color that is barely breathing. In theory, somehow even black is less unpleasant to me because at least it is passionately dense, rich, dark and well…black. It is a color that is committed despite its darkness. I still can find that admirable.

In my gray days, color truly escaped me. I missed having that moment of joy when you see an incredible sunset, I missed seeing the beautiful array and display of summer’s wildflowers, completely overlooked the brilliance of a clear blue winter sky…instead in my memory I see the last two years in various shades of gray. A never ending tunnel of graphite that others promised would end, but I shared no belief that it would. But thankfully, it did.

As they say, all things happen in time and indeed there was a crack in the gray armor of myself made tunnel around Christmas. Mind you, it was not a particularly happy time. My children lost their grandfather, my ex-father in law and his death was felt deeply by so many that knew and loved him. There were many tears, but even in this darkest of dark days, somehow a crack of light began to seep into my world. This man, who lived so vividly, who gave so easily and loved so deeply was gone. But yet, the vibrancy of his life and the love he gave to his family and his friends still resonated as deeply and as beautifully as if he was still with us. I realized that death doesn’t really make everything fade to black if the life lived left behind a watermark of beautiful colors in the memories of the loved ones that remain.

So on Christmas day when I received a handmade scarf from a dear friend, I embraced it for the vibrancy of the color. She said she picked the color because it reminded her of me and I realized that even when we can’t see our own “colors” others can. From that moment a switch turned back on inside of me and as I marveled at my new gift and I started to celebrate the life in the fibers and the energy in the handiwork of my friend that knit it. It was big and thick and so soft that it offered comfort with every big, bold stitch. I wrapped it around my neck to model it for the family that was gathered around the tree and immediately felt its warmth. Like a hug from a long lost friend, the scarf made me feel safe, peaceful and dare I say, happy.

In the days that followed, every day, whatever coat I wore, I found myself reaching for the red scarf. It called to me and asked to be worn and I did. With each day, I felt my head clear a bit more, I felt better, like I was ready again to take on the world and strangely more confident that the fragility I had been accustomed to living with, was being challenged to become stronger, to dream bigger and to move forward.

So what is the moral of my red scarf story? Simply put…it is important to never let the color out of your life but if you do, get it back. Let it amaze you, let it humble you, let it keep you honest, let it make you reconsider that you have the choice every day to live in the shadows or the sun, to be happy or to be sad, to work hard at doing better or to lie down and accept that you have no control over your life or your circumstances. Every day you can choose to live in a world that is filled with shades of gray or you can choose something better and brighter for yourself. Take my advice, the next time have the chance to choose, choose the “red scarf”. You’ll be glad you did!

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