The Man In The Dress – A Tale of Courage

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” 
~  Washington Irving

 

I’ve lost a lot of confidence with some daily activities while I’ve battled Lyme disease. One of them is driving. Lyme disease caused me vision problems and poor reflexes that until recently made driving safely impossible, but as my health has improved I have been talking about getting behind the wheel again. In the last month or so I’ve driven around the farm getting my confidence up, but I wasn’t feeling ready last week when Ben asked if I could follow him in our second car because he needed to visit a town thirty minutes drive away to have his vehicle serviced. His ride home had fallen through and there was no public transport. If I didn’t drive, he couldn’t go. It made me nauseous from anxiety. What if I couldn’t do it? Still, I agreed.

That first drive was nerve-wracking.  My hands ached from clutching the steering wheel by the time I pulled in behind Ben’s car. But I’d done it! Ben drove us home, and we quietly celebrated the fact that I’d gained a little more of my old life back.

The next day Ben drove us both back in to Lismore, and then left me to bring the second car home.

To be out of the house, on my own… I struggle to explain how liberating it was, even as it took every fibre of my being to stay focused and to not give in to my anxiety.

After we swapped cars so Ben could bring the newly serviced truck home I stopped at a shopping centre and did a few chores on my own. My first unsupervised shopping trip in years. Oh the freedom of being able to decide where to go and how long to take! Of being able to please myself as I looked at clothes or laboured over yoghurt choices. When I finally returned to my vehicle I saw that Ben had left a swimming-pool water sample on the seat that he’d intended to drop off to a local store. I decided that I’d go there myself. Miss Independent. It felt marvellous.

I couldn’t get an easy park out front of the pool shop so I pulled up in the next block. As I got out of the car I saw him coming towards me. An older man, perhaps in his early seventies; thin and stooped, wearing a large faded dress over his shorts and shirt and pulling an old-fashioned wheeled shopping basket behind him. He looked so odd and awkward as he shuffled along. As he got closer I realised that he was crying, but his face was furrowed with determination.

I wondered if wearing a dress was an act of bravery regarding gender identity. It’s been in the news so much lately as Australia goes to a postal-vote plebiscite over marriage equality. Whatever it was, I could see the old man was struggling.

Walking over I asked him if he was okay, handing him a tissue to wipe away his tears. He nodded, without saying anything.

Are you lost, I asked.

No, he said. I am going shopping. I must go shopping. There’s no food left.

Image from www.atablero.com

Then his story tumbled out. The man had lived with depression and social anxiety his whole life. It became so bad that ten years ago he had moved home with his elderly mother and she had taken care of him. He’d barely left the house in that time, and she had done all the grocery shopping and town duties. But his mum had passed away a few months ago. He hadn’t even gone to her funeral, although he’d wanted to. Now the cupboards were bare and he needed to shop. It had taken days to work up the courage.

There’s not a scrap of food left, he said. Nothing. And no-one to go now but me.

In the end, this man had put his mum’s dress on over his clothes, because then it felt like she was with him, keeping him safe. He didn’t care how it looked anymore. He just needed to eat. He just needed to get to the shops. It was the only thing he could think of to do. Her dress was a shield. A talisman. His only hope.

I asked him if he wanted me to go with him. No, he told me, standing straighter. I’ll be right. He wiped his face with a tissue, his hands big and gnarled and old. Then he put the tissue in the pocket of the dress, thanked me and kept walking. His courage and dignity broke me wide open and I cried for him as he continued his halting journey out into town.

As I drove home that afternoon I pondered what had happened.

What does it matter if a man wears a dress or not? What does it matter who a woman loves, or who a person marries? All that matters is kindness, and taking care of each other.

I understood a little of what it had cost him to leave the safety of the familiar and risk going out into the wider world. I hope each trip out into the world becomes easier, for him and for me. Freedom is wonderful, but it is not always easily grasped.

As always, I’m holding you in my prayers and meditations and sending love, Nicole xx

16 thoughts on “The Man In The Dress – A Tale of Courage

  1. Dear Nicole. Thank you for that beautiful story of yourself and the brave man. I am holding you both tenderly in my heart and wondering upon the small, beautiful interactions that flutter outwards and help us all. Much love, Simone

  2. Humbled. Grateful. Love IS all there is. Everyone’s journey is different but we’re joined with our courage and resilience. The parallel though- with your having your independence returned and the bravery you showed – and this man and his struggle with independence… what the dress represents for the man and what someone looking from the outside would see are so different. Kind words unwrap depths of emotion, struggle and bravery beyond words. The silent struggle is so crippling. I’m sure your exchange with him showed him kindness he wasn’t expecting. I’m sure you gave this brave soul strength. My cheeks are wet. There are no words. xoxoxox

  3. God/goddess bless Nicole.Such a beautiful story, his and yours.My daughter in law, a naturopath, is also recovering from this illness.It takes time patience and faith.I enjoy your posts and I am glad you are getting so much better.

  4. Bless you Nicole for your bravery and wonderment at your newly-found freedom. And bless you again for taking the time to engage with this man at a time when he most needed kindness and understanding xxxoooxxx

  5. On July 20, 2005, Canada became the first country outside Europe and the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide after the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act. Same-sex adoption has also been legal in all provinces and territories under varying rules. The sky did not fall in and the world did not come to an end as some on the ‘evangelical Christian right-wing’ of the political spectrum assured us. I am proud to live in a nation that believes that ‘diversity makes us stronger’. I am also grateful to live in a society that has come to understand that, love is love. Thank you for sharing this story Nicole as you say, “What does it matter if a man wears a dress or not? What does it matter who a woman loves, or who a person marries? All that matters is kindness, and taking care of each other.” If we are to survive as a species for much longer on this little blue dot in the cosmos, we are going to have to learn not to just ‘tolerate’ one another, but to truly learn to love one another. I think this is at the heart of all your writings. Love is the most powerful energy in the Universe. This was a very powerful posting to me as i struggle with depression and anxiety, what helps me along more often than not is knowing the world is filled with loving, caring beautiful souls such as yourself. Thank you again.

  6. Yep, my heart definitely broke just now, but in a good expansive way. Look after your lovely self, and may you have many more moments of freedom just like those. I haven’t experienced chronic illness like you have, but I have children, and I well know the feeling of blissful alone independence after many years of constant companionship 😊

  7. Dearest Nicole,

    Today’s blog fell in line with a discussion I had with my mom. I caught her weeping listening to a song that mourned the loss of a mother and liked it to a lamp blown out in the wind. She feared the departure of my grandmum who’s well into her eighties. Even I dread that moment but isn’t the final departure inevitable for all of us. I guess my mother dreaded being left behind , having to lose the one person who checks on her health and happiness while she’s busy taking care of us. What the man in the dress said reminded me of the comfort in a mother’s selfless care. We can all but hope to be as selflessly kind to atleast one person in our lifetime.

    Lots of love and hugs,

  8. Hi Nicole. Thanks for sharing your story – first about your struggles and strength in rebuilding your confidence to be independent. I am so happy you are on the road to wellness. I teared up though reading about the dear elderly man. He must feel so alone in the world. I really hope he’s OK. It’s times like these when we need to count our blessings. Best wishes, Rita

  9. As a chronic illness sufferer i have at points in my life spent a day sometimes two convincing myself to walk the short walk to the shops to buy a loaf of bread. Ive hidden behind makeup and clothes to shield myself , prevent the world from seeing me.

    I can totally relate to this and love you for being brave enough to be where you were meant to be today. You touched this mans soul amd gave him and us courage and kindness as you always do.

    Im so happy you got to choose yoghurt and window shop. Sometimes its the small things that make the biggest difference.

    Love and hugs 💖💖💖

  10. Oh Nicole….this story just made echoed my journey…asking me to be brave & that everyone has their own battles to fight & win….thanks for reminding me to keep going no matter how hard things might feel at times…love & light – Kalpa

  11. just when you think your life is bad there is always someone else struggling along side of us. Thank God and the world for kind people who feel our sorrow and really understand. The simple things in life are what matters
    Peace and understanding,
    Jo-Ann

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