"You have a burnt out look in your eyes" he said. He said the words with laughter in his eyes and a light tone. He said it as a joke yet it was exactly how I felt: burnt out. The accuracy of the statement froze me for a moment. With no response and a cold chill spreading over my body I have nothing to do but stare. I mumbled something and asked him to repeat the question. My interviewer looked to the side as if trying to avoid the emptiness he saw on my face. It looked like he was hoping to find some answers on the peeling white paint of the office walls. For me, any answers would do- even if they did not dissolve my questions. Just an answer or two would be nice. He spoke clearly, as if he already had all the answers, "Where are you holding?"
I was still unclear on what this meant. Still unsure what aspect of me he was trying to focus in on. But I spoke anyway. It was my turn. In this game of applications and patent leather shoes you must move your piece across the game board every time the cycle lands on you. There are no skips, no last minute thoughts, no room for doubts. Appear confident, appear strong. You are allowed to be unsure on the inside, but G-d help you if you show it.
Again his words echoed in my head: "Burnt out."How did that happen? How did I fall into the trap of appearances? This world designed with thick black lines that push you into a corner and surround you. Like a corset, they contract you until you are as small as you can become. Breathing is unnecessary, you need only to fit into the beautiful gown they have sewn for you. You never doubt the beauty of the gown. You agreed to wear this painful corset because they said it was the only way you would ever fit. But somewhere along the way you do start to wonder why they couldn't have just made it a bigger size.
"Burnt out." Out of air as I try to lace up the corset. Without realizing, I have let them slip the heavy fabric over my chest. They have only begun to tighten the ribbons laced through the back and already I cannot breath.
"Burnt out." Out of hope as I realized somewhere deep inside of me that I will never fit into that dress. I think I have known from the start. But the silk and the lace of the gown caught my eye. The though that without the corset I would never have it made my heart shake with fear.
For eight days I lit the candles on my menorah. Each night I added another flame. Each flame given with love and thanks to my Creator. The flames have finally come together inside of me to re-light my life. Not burnt out anymore.
Where am I holding? Right now I am at the beginning, at the start of creating my own gown. Because, after everything, I have learned that I can sew my own. I am starting to take my measurements, sketch out the design, and to gather materials.
I do not attempt to create this gown on my own. There are some measurements I have not learned how to take and some materials I do not know where to find. So I will find others who can teach me. It will take a long time, the rest of my life, but it will be beautiful in the end.
Meanwhile, I will wear it proudly as the simple gown it is. Formed as close to HaShem as I can presently comprehend. Plain, but beautifully cut, it is who I am.
Down the back there are two ribbons laced through the fabric. The only part of the corset I have kept, the only beautiful thing to be found on that suffocating mechanism.
I have begun to embellish my dress with all the beautiful things I have ever know. Everyone I have ever loved has left their mark, but there is still room for so many more.
A gown is not beautiful if you cannot breath. A life is nothing if you do not live it. And the most simple dress can represent so much more than the glittering folds of fakeness.