Other People’s Shoes
My sister has a lot of shoes. Like, a whole lotta lot. Not merely more than anyone needs (sandals, sneakers, flats, and boots in my world…notice I did not say “heels”) but more than a person could wear in a month if each pair were worn only once and changed twice a day. This is all approximate, of course…
I, on the other hand, am a nomad—and nomads can’t have too much stuff. I wasn’t always this way. For 18 years I grew up in one town, and as a child of divorce at age 5, I had not one, but two houses-full of stuff. Much like my sister with the shoes, I could have changed my clothing multiple times per day and not worn the same outfit until next week’s episode of “My So-Called Life” aired. I also practically invented the “junk drawer”. I the Stuff Monster.
But these days…
These days I don’t have much stuff and I believe my sister has too many pairs of shoes.
It’s a belief I have, not a fact.
It is my Opinion. She would disagree…and we’ve had this “stuff discussion” (don’t call it an argument) many a time, always coming down on opposite branches of the shoe tree.
But, in the spirit of letting go of the need to be right—which is a challenging proposition any time, but especially during this current period of pre-election “us vs. them”–and all of that. Couple it with my personal current living situation–helping to take care of my mom who is under in-home Hospice care; navigating daily and nightly amongst a Clowder of Cats and my sister’s shoes…in the spirit of letting ALL of that GO (you see how I’m letting it gooooo?), I have been making a conscious effort to see things other ways.
To continue…I was in the laundry room simply trying to open the door of the dryer and there were SHOES in the way. I wanted to toss them—somewhere, anywhere–but, instead, I started thinking of them as living beings with opinions and preferences, observations and experiences. There’s a Tiffany blue-and-beige 2-inch heeled shoe. She performs a solid imitation of 40s-era foot covering. I wondered what she thought of me storming around the small space, wrestling the vacuum cleaner to its corner, moving the economy-sized detergent out of the way to make room for the swinging door of the dryer. Grasping, clawing, working harder-not-smarter to MAKE ROOM. She probably thought it uncivilized and gaaaaawdy of me. She probably never behaved so garishly in her day.
And then there was the shoe with the funny foreign name: Børn. The letter with the thingy through the ‘o’. He sat sandal-still and questioned the very existence of the dryer itself. “Firwat dës Dryer?” Valid question, Børn. We really could hang the things up and let them air-dry. But this is America! We do things our way.
We do things our way. We do things our way. We do things our way.
Børn had opened up a can of mental worms for me and I wondered, “Why?” Why do we do things a certain way? There are so many reasons…. we walk in our certain pair of shoes—some of us changing them–two, three, four times a day; others rarely, if ever. But the shoes are ours…unless we borrow them, which can be uncomfortable. My feet are size 11, for example. If I put on a pair of my sister’s size 8-and-a-half shoes and walked—anywhere—I’d end up with a sore pair of toes. But the experience would have jostled me out of auto-pilot stagnation mode—that mode antithetical to empathy.
I need my own shoes—we all do. It would be silly to walk in another person’s wrong-sized kicks all of the time. Ouch. But, as that familiar aphorism states:
“Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” (I must admit I enjoy Steve Martin’s addition, “That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.”)
Quick! Back to the Brass Tacks Mobile, Batman!
The inauguration of our 45th president is, at press time, tomorrow, and the aphorism (the first part) is more important than ever. This weekend, many Americans will line streets and plazas, cordoned-off and designated ‘protest areas’, steps of capitals, and couches of their homes…calling for unity and acting in division; calling for division and acting in unity.
All of the sides (there are more than two) will think they are doing the correct thing. They will wear their most sensible shoes (if they have any sense) to march with; carry signs with phrases they (think they) believe in; chant. The ones at home will wear socks or slippers or bare feet and also believe what they believe.
All of this makes sense, since each of us must do what aligns with our value systems. But what’s scheduled to happen will likely happen.
So what’s the antidote—AN antidote—to our Destiny of Division? I don’t care if it’s cliché, it’s this:
Upon closer examination and consideration, it turns out she is right, my sister–at least in the figurative sense (did you think I was going to turn 180-degrees?) : a person can never wear too many pairs of shoes.
We walk on.