How a Sparkly Hat Helped Me Be More Authentic
Around three years ago, after a lifetime of activity, adventure and accomplishment, I began to learn who I am and how to please myself.
My Dad had recently died and with his passing the foundations of life as I had known it began to crack. Through these seismic shifts, the delicate tendrils of a new, more authentic me began to emerge.
At about that time, I went to a hat sale.
It was a charity event, and I was determined to support the cause. Well, I tried on hat after hat after hat, but nothing worked. Finally, as if guided by a will of its own, my hand reached for the most extravagant and, well, the gaudiest hat on the table.
It was like those moments before a fall or a spill where everything seems to shift into slow motion: my hand reaching inexorably for the hat, and my mind silently screaming, “Ohhhhhh noooooo—not that one!” I mean, the hat was just ridiculous—shiny, gold, wide brim, big satin bow, covered with gold sequins.
Wouldn’t you know? The hat fit. And, with all due modesty, darn if that thing didn’t look fabulous on me!
I might secretly wish to be a cool sophisticate wearing natural linen, however, deep inside I am still that little girl who reaches for shiny objects and bright colors. My sophisticated intellect did not like the hat, but my soul surely loved it. I glowed the minute I put it on.
Oh dear, what should I do? Should I buy it, or shouldn’t I? Would I wear it, or wouldn’t I? Could I pull it off, or couldn’t I? Back and forth my intellect and my inner child struggled. Finally, remembering that the sale was for a good cause, I surrendered the battle to my inner little girl, and bought the hat.
I took the hat home and gingerly put it up on a shelf in my hall closet. And there it sat, a foreign presence in my home.
Now that I bought it, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I tried it with one or two outfits, but nothing felt right. So, the hat sat on the shelf in the closet. I looked at it, and it seemed to look right back at me: détente.
One sunny morning, I was ready to go out with my young son when, on a whim (truthfully, it felt more like on command), my hand once again acted as if of its own volition. I reached into the closet, grabbed the hat and put it on. Knock me over with a feather! I was astonished to find that the hat worked with the navy dress I was wearing.
I knew that this might be my only chance. So, hat perched firmly on head, I grabbed my son’s hand and we marched out the door.
Two houses down, my elderly neighbor, Irma, did a double take. She looked at me quizzically for a moment as I held my breath. “Nice hat!” she finally said, sounding somewhat incredulous.
So far, so good. With thanks, we marched on.
On the next block, a man, a complete stranger, called out to me from across the street, tapping his head with his finger. “What?” I asked with a smile. “Crazy hat,” he said, quite seriously.
Ah! There it was, my haiku of a life lesson: two swift strokes—one up, one down—drawing their resonance in the play of the lines against each other.
Up, down—I had to laugh. I couldn’t please all people all the time so I had to please myself! And to do that, I had to take risks.
At the time, I had been working on writing a book, and I had been putting myself “out there” in ways I had never done before. It was scary to allow my truth onto the page—truth I had hardly even admitted to myself—and I needed a reminder not to crave approval, nor fear criticism, either, but to keep on expressing my truth. Wearing the hat that sunny day gave me the reminder I needed.
Even wearing a hat can be an act of courage. Not everyone will like it; not everyone will hate it. Whatever they think will have more to do with them than with me.
If I don’t express myself, the nay-sayers will have won, and nothing good—for them or for me—will come of that victory. If I do express myself, the rewards are great: I satisfy my soul, I make my contribution, and, if I’m so blessed, maybe even inspire others to express themselves as well.
But the story doesn’t end there.
When my son and I got to where we were going, we bumped into a friend who remarked that she had originally purchased the very hat I was wearing at a previous charity sale! It turns out that a friend of hers had pushed her to buy it, but when she got home she realized it just wasn’t for her, and so she had contributed it to the event where I found it.
I swear that hat had a living presence! Like two long lost lovers, the hat and I were destined for each other, and my friend was part of the twists and turns of its journey to me.
For the rest of the morning, the hat sparked compliments, laughter, and stories from almost everyone I met. It was the life of the party.
As I write this today, three years after that sunny morning when I first stepped out with the hat, my neighbor, Irma, has recently passed. She reached her nineties in fine form, swimming and playing tennis every day, taking in shows and community events and cruises where she would dance with folks half her age into the wee hours.
Irma had a talent for happiness, so I chuckle to think that she recognized the joyous nature of the hat as a kindred spirit, and I feel somehow blessed by that recognition. Those two strokes of the haiku, one up and one down, are not equal: I choose to be on Irma’s team. I wear the hat even today (minus the fancy trimmings), and I hope I’ll still be on the dance floor when I get to be Irma’s age.
The hat has quite a resume: it was sold twice to benefit charitable causes; it traveled through many hands to get to me, and I’m sure I don’t know half its stories! When I first brought it home, it felt like an adversary, a challenge. And then it became a teacher—the gentle instrument of a lesson in self-acceptance. I had wanted to teach my son about following his heart and not listening too much to others’ opinions. Really, my own heart needed those lessons.
Now I know that there are more than just skeletons hiding in people’s closets! Who knows what fabulous hats are in there as well?
Or perhaps it’s our golden dreams of beauty that turn into dusty skeletons if they are not taken out to play. I’ve decided to let my dreams out into the sunlight—while I still have the chance—and discover the wondrous treasures they have to offer!
A friend just shared your blog post with me and I’m in love with it. I put it on my FB page so I can read and reread it. Thanks for writing about hats and being real. It has more significance than I can put into this comment. <3
Your story brought that hat to life. It’s a great example of how the little things in life can make such a big difference when we’re open to receiving. Thank you.
Being yourself is a fabulously freeing feeling 🙂 Love the hat and you do look super cute in it.
Thank you, Zeenat! Yes, it is so fabulously freeing – you said it right, honey! Love you! Reba
Thank you all for this wonderful response to this story. It is amazing – if you look back over the comments each person picked up on a different aspect of the story. We each bring our own unique perspective to the story and to the world – bless you all! xox, Reba
Love this – so inspiring that we have to take those courageous steps…no matter how big or small they seem 🙂
Yes, Alex, small is the new big! lol, xox, Reba
Reba, I love how the sparkly hat chose you! What a wonderful story of trusting your inner wisdom and being your true self. xoxo
Thanks, Pamela – yes, it really wanted to teach me something – I love how you picked up on that! Blessings, Reba
Awesome story. (Mine’s blue.)
Do show! Pictures, Andrea! xox, Reba
I love that hat! What a fabulous story about courage and being yourself (so hard to do both, sometimes). Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. xoxo
Thank you, Jill. Yes, sometimes people find it easier to jump out a plane (or something big like that) rather than wear a bright color, or follow their heart in some small way. Interesting, isn’t it?! xo, Reba
Wonderful and uplifting story, Reba. Thanks for sharing. As you said: you can’t please everyone, and life is too short to keep hiding, so do what your heart and soul guides you to do.
Yes – life is too short to keep hiding! Thank you for your wise words, always, Reba
I love this Reba. So inspiring. I will be sharing tomorrow on http://www.facebook.com/HuntingHappinessProject/
Hugs of happiness to you, Kriz <3
So grateful, Kriz! It means a lot to me that this story of the sparkly hat spoke to you! xox, Reba
I love this post! What a great story. It’s a testament to the value of reaching outside of our comfort zones and embracing spontaneity.
And you’re wearing a hat, too, Kim! How fabulous! That hat certainly took me outside my comfort zone, and it was so worth it! Big love, Reba
What a pleasure to read this. The writing is exceptional. Your paragraph breaks are exemplary! And I just love the story–it resonated with recognition.
Thank you, Andrea. I appreciate your comments. Blessings, Reba
Such a wonderful story, Reba. As someone who also struggles with putting myself out there I found it very encouraging. Reading along, as I got to the first guy who said ‘crazy hat’ my first reaction was a ‘grr’! of annoyance, that’s not cool! But as I read on I saw that he had his part to play, and he played it well, in the beautiful teaching that was unfolding for you.
Thanks so much, Dave, for living that moment in such kind compassion for me! That speaks volumes about who you are, and I really appreciate that. And, yes, he had a part to play, bless his soul. It’s always so wonderful to read your comments! xo, Reba
I’ll be looking for my sparkly hat Reba! Thanks for the reminder to show up and be real – sparkly hat and all! <3
Oh Peggy – with or without the sparkly hat you sparkle with such kindness and joy! Thank you, and Blessings, Reba
I love the hat, Reba! And the silent and not so small apparently mundane acts of courage that open us up to new worlds and new opportunities of Being. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you, Michele! I so agree – and I’m astonished about how the seemingly tiny and silent acts of courage can mean so much. Big love, Reba
Love this story so much! And you look fabulous in the hat. It’s magic! I gotta start looking for my own magic hat. This follows nicely with your “wear the crown” pieces.
Yes, Denise – it’s funny, one newsletter subject line asked “Can you wear the crown?” and the next one asked “Can you wear the hat?”!!! I guess it all boils down to “Can we be ourselves?” Big love, Reba
I am consistently moved by seeing the ways we can learn more about ourselves and choose to shift. This time a hat, next it could be a …
..a beautiful, regal necklace, made with loving inspiration by you, dear Roslyn! Thank you and blessings, Reba
Cheryl, I’m so glad the story touched your heart. Your gifts are unique, and you are the only one who can choose to share them, or not. If you like, please come back and comment on what brave thing you did today to follow your heart! Blessings, Reba
Vironika, I am so moved by your comment, and I hope and pray that others allow the simple, quiet message of loving yourself enough to do what pleases you, into their hearts, souls, minds and ACTIONS! Long live the sparkly hat, for me, for you, and for all of us! So much gratitude to you for presenting this post on “The Real Us!” xox, Reba
Wonderful story, urging me to do what my heart is telling me to do.
This story moved me so much more than I ever expected it to! Just after I read it, I found myself in a situation where I could do as I pleased or to worry about what others thought. Choosing myself was near effortless, and I believe I have you to thank for it, Reba. Thank you for your wisdom ♥