87: Finding My Sparkle

87: Finding My Sparkle

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


Finding My Sparkle

I would rather be adorned by beauty of character than jewels. Jewels are the gift of fortune, while character comes from within.

~Titus Maccius Plautus

When I saw an ad for a jewelry auction in my town, I attended, excited about the prospect of scoring a great deal. After all, what woman can resist a beautiful bauble to make her feel special? It turned out that several baubles caught my eye that day, and I spent a lot more money than I had intended. I took most of the pieces home with me, but one, a bracelet, was a little too big, so the jeweler running the auction said he’d size it for free and mail it to me. When I learned that the estimated arrival date would fall during the few days I’d be out of town for Thanksgiving, I asked him to send it to my parents’ house, instead of the address I had previously given him.

Returning home from the auction, I couldn’t even find room in my jewelry boxes for my latest acquisitions, so I ended up tucking them into a drawer. As I stuffed the boxes behind my T-shirts, I felt a pang of buyer’s remorse. Would I even have any occasion to wear such fancy pieces? If I had thought more about my purchases, rather than letting my bidding enthusiasm carry me away, I would have realized that they didn’t go with my casual lifestyle.

The following week I made the long drive up north to spend Thanksgiving with my family. On the eve of the holiday, I was making a pie in my parents’ kitchen when my father handed me the phone. It was my neighbor Sally, calling to say the police were at my house. Someone had broken in about an hour earlier.

I felt my insides clench and couldn’t breathe. I could hear Sally giving me details of what had happened, but my mind couldn’t process what she was saying. All that registered was that my home — my sanctuary — had been violated, and I was five hours away and helpless to do anything about it.

I set out for home early the next morning, less than twenty-four hours after I had arrived and without even eating Thanksgiving dinner — a ten-hour round trip just to bake a pie. I called a friend and asked him to meet me at my house because I was afraid to go inside alone.

Once home, I talked with Sally and learned that when my security alarm had gone off, the monitoring station called her when they couldn’t reach me. She came over to investigate and saw a broken window, so she called the police. She handed me a business card for the police officer assigned to the case, and after meeting with him, I inventoried what was missing. Coincidentally, the thieves went straight for my jewelry — they took it all, leaving my TV, camera, and computer untouched. It occurred to me that perhaps they had been at the auction, seen me buy several pieces, and overheard me tell the jeweler my address, along with the fact that I’d be out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday.

As I itemized the missing pieces and their estimated value, I was appalled by how much jewelry I owned… and had lost. Some items had sentimental value, like the necklace a boy had given me at my sweet sixteen party and a charm bracelet that marked every important event in my life. It was the loss of those that I felt most deeply. My insurance only covered a tiny fraction of what was stolen, so I didn’t try to replace everything. Instead, I saw this as a chance for a new beginning.

I had received some of the jewelry as gifts and didn’t care for it anyway. Other pieces had appealed to me when I bought them, but I had outgrown them; they were no longer me. I made a conscious decision to only buy the bare minimum: a simple pair of gold stud earrings, a pair of silver hoops, a plain gold chain necklace, and a strand of pearls (all costume jewelry, in case they were stolen again). This was all I really needed to accessorize.

After the shock and horror of being robbed wore off, I actually felt lighter, less encumbered, without all that “stuff.” I was almost embarrassed to turn in my multi-page inventory of missing items to the police. They probably wondered; why does one woman need all this? Having only a few pieces of jewelry certainly made it easier to get dressed in the morning. If it weren’t for the awful feeling of violation, I would have wished for someone to break in and take most of my clothes, too!

Years have passed since that angst-ridden autumn. I don’t hold onto things as much as I used to. When they no longer serve me, I let them go. It’s not wasting money or hurting the giver’s feelings, as I once thought. I like to think I’m freeing them up for someone else who really wants them and will use them. Beautiful jewelry deserves to be worn, seen, and adored, not shoved in the back of a drawer and forgotten.

When I was younger, I loved to “try on” new things: new activities, new foods, new people… to see what suited me. Now that I’m older, I finally know myself. These days I’m simplifying my life; with fewer hobbies and commitments, I need less stuff. I can get rid of the dance shoes, athletic gear, and business suits that were part of my old lifestyle, as well as the home furnishings, beauty products, and even people in my life who are no longer right for me. And when it comes to jewelry, I’ve come to realize that I’m not the diamond tennis bracelet type. I had to lose all those sparkling things to find my own sparkle. As I’m paring down my lifestyle and possessions, I’m homing in on the essence of me.

~Susan Yanguas


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