I’ve always had a thing about shoes.
As a child they had to fit just right, not pinch or poke anywhere. They had to be the right color, right fit, and be buckled or tied perfectly. My socks had to be adjusted so as not to bunch up inside the shoe– the seams arranged just so. Confession: I didn’t get any less picky as I got older–I will still throw out a pair of socks if they so much as slip under my foot, and I will rearrange a buckle or tie as many times as it takes to be exactly right. You could say I’m a shoe perfectionist.
Over the years I’ve cultivated a collection of shoes that speak to me in some way. Some are fun, some are colorful. Some sexy, some demure. Some whimsical, some strictly business. For me, shoes have always been more than just a practical need–they’re a fun form of self expression and the only thing I’ve ever really collected. Each pair of shoes I own has been carefully chosen for a specific attribute: shape or height of heel, bold color, uniquely shaped toe box, hint of embroidered detailing, or even the way they sound clack-clacking on a hardwood floor. I’ve chosen shoes to stand out in a crowd or shoes that help me melt into the background. My shoes and I have had a great journey, so for the last few years I’ve been dreading this day: The Day I Say Goodbye To My Shoes.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
First of all, thank you for being here, and for being interested in what I have to say. This isn’t my first foray into blogging, but the last time I tried I struggled with finding my voice and my purpose. I posted a few times, felt awkward and insecure, then gave up. It turns out that I was as picky about my writing as I am about my shoes. I worried about putting myself out there and worried that no one would want to hear what I had to say. I wasn’t sure it was worth sharing; was I really that interesting?
That seems like ages ago. That was when autoimmune disorders were something I had read about but never seen firsthand. It was before I spent hours and hours searching the internet for people who shared even one tiny piece of what I was experiencing. People who, like me, were in pain and struggling to make sense of what was happening in their bodies. People feeling isolated and frustrated and searching for hope. Every new symptom I had, every medication I tried or considered trying, every diagnosis, side effect or procedure: I took to the internet to find comfort and a sense of normalcy from the brave souls who cared enough to share their experiences with the world.
My story is too long to tell in one post, but now that I’m feeling well enough to share it I hope I can provide comfort to even one person who needs support. And since I have multiple autoimmune disorders and health conditions, I should be able to relate to at least a handful of you!
Now back to the shoes. Or, more accurately, my feet.
It’s the left foot, mostly, that doesn’t look or feel like it used to. It’s not particularly painful at the moment, but it has certainly gone through some odd changes that make it challenging to wear many of my friendly old shoes. The pinky toe is starting to twist toward the bottom of my foot and my other toes don’t like to straighten out anymore. My big toe no longer joins my foot in a clean, graceful manner, preferring instead to poke out at the base in a red bump. I have inflammatory arthritis that affects many of my joints, but most of the changes you can see from the outside are in my left hand and foot.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the last few years hoping that my feet would one day return to the pain-free, symmetrical state they once enjoyed while my beautiful shoes have languished in the closet or on the back of the door waiting to be returned to the rotation of shoes that actually leave the house. Part of me knew better, but I just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) let go of the feeling that giving up those shoes was giving up part of my identity–that I would be less me. I hated my body and my foot and I didn’t want to believe that I had no choice in the matter. My body wasn’t mine to control, but I tried anyway, and I held onto those shoes for dear life waiting for the day that I could enjoy them again.
That day has not come, and yet I’m finding myself ready to move forward. I’m learning to accept my new feet and I’m finished mourning the feet they used to be. So goodbye, leopard print Enzo’s that have always pinched but were so luxurious I bought them anyway. Farewell, first pair of Fluevogs with the lime green detail. Adios, brown cowboy boots with turquoise inlay that I got for a killer bargain. Au revoir, pretty peep-toe slingbacks. I’ll miss you and your friends, but thanks for the memories. Now I’m going to go save up for the prettiest comfort shoes I can find (I’m looking at you, ) and practice my at-home pedicure technique.