Closets are for more than just hiding from the world who we choose to love. They are about how we choose to keep secret a thought, idea, feeling, wish and belief from the world, for fear of disapproval. It is where we hide, until something or someone cracks open the door. We may decide in life to no longer play a sport we have been driven to play our whole lives. Perhaps we desire to engage in an alternate profession, dissolve a marriage, or worship in a different sanctuary. Maybe, we can see “dead” people or communicate with animals, and we worry that people will think we are crazy. We may be wanting to act, think and feel differently than we were taught, but be afraid to say, hey world, this is me. And yet when we have the courage to push open the closet door, we say I love myself enough to shout it out to the world. To be true to who I am now, or maybe who I have always been.
Some of us have elaborate walk in closets with tons of stuff hidden that we haven’t put on in years. Others, have simple shelves, open for everyone to see. Regardless of what is in our closets, it feels so good to open the door and clear the shelves of old clothes that are no longer us; shoes with holes, and those damn wire hangers from the dry cleaners that always sneak in when we are not looking. All this stuff that has gathered in our closets is just taking up space. It is simply fear and doubt that we have gathered over the years; denial and the need for approval, collecting dust.
One morning, a few weeks ago, my son wanted to go off to school with his nails polished. HIs sisters did him the honor of painting his nails, each a different color. He also had his hair slicked up into the greatest Mohawk I have ever seen, and put on his best button down collared shirt and khaki pants. He was so proud of how he looked, and so was I. For him, there are no closets, as is the truth for many children. For they do not see labels, only what is on the inside.
It was not to long ago, my daughter was able to choose any doll she wanted from the shelves at the toy store for her fifth birthday. There were hundreds of dolls to choose from. It took her awhile, and then she chose the doll she wanted. She chose the only African American doll on the shelves. Our of curiosity, I asked her if she noticed anything different about the doll. Her reply was that the doll was really cute and the other dolls, not so much. It brought tears to my eyes, how innocent and loving children can be, how they view the world with love, not appearances. Our children have so much to teach us.
Yet, somewhere along the way, when children grow, labels become more important, insecurities emerge and there is a desire to fit into a box instead of being different, being themselves. Yet, is it not how we learn, how our world has become more beautiful, when we are able to be ourselves, love who we are unconditionally? It is the true key to happiness and life where our hearts are open, our days fulfilled.
I would be lying if I said we were not worried the morning, that our son went off to school with polished nails; concerned he would be made fun of, laughed at. But he did not think twice. Off he went with an air of confidence you always want for your child. When my son came home that afternoon, nothing really came of his wearing nail polish. For this, I must thank those brave souls who had once been able to open their closet door, be themselves, love themselves, and honor themselves. To say, I know this is different from what you see, but it is not wrong. It is me. Perhaps one day there will be no more closets, no more labels.
It is never too late! The next time one of your closet doors becomes unhinged, take a leap of faith. Remember what matters most is that we honor and we love ourselves for who we are. We can believe whatever we choose, simply because it is what we believe. We can decide who to love today, regardless of who we loved yesterday. And perhaps, someday, instead of defending our religious and political beliefs with bloodshed, we can simply choose in that moment, what to believe and where to worship. We will be free to be you and me.
Since that morning, the polish has faded, along with Drew’s interest in it. Maybe it will return, maybe not. Perhaps things become more of a big deal, when we make it that way. We judge others, put labels and attack those that are different, until they have no choice but to rally, fight back, or sneak back into their closet. If we accept everyone as they are, whether they dress differently, pray differently, speak differently, look differently, perhaps nobody will need to come out of the closet. There will be no doors shut around them, no labels needed to talk about who they are. We will not be Muslim, Jewish, smart, poor, overweight. We will just be human.
What’s in your closet? What words are you hiding beneath that old suit? What idea is hanging beside one of those old bridesmaid dresses? What creation is tucked away behind that box of old pictures?
When we come out of the closet, we are taking a step not only down the road less travelled, but but a giant leap for humanity. We need to ask ourselves, in the end, does it really matter what other people think?
I will end with a quote from the amazing, Bruce Springsteen. The boss sings praises in one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all times, Rosalita:
Windows are for cheaters, chimneys for the poor
Oh, closets are for hangers, winners use the door
So use it Rosie, that’s what it’s there for
Let’s all begin to use the door. That’s what it’s there for.