I like shoes. No, I love shoes. In fact, I can admit I have somewhat of a shoe obsession. I like to have shoes that complete any outfit and since each ensemble is different, from sweats to dressy, I have a lot of shoes. I enjoy when shoes can be a statement or a fun and exciting accessory to my wardrobe. I love the feeling of a comfortable pair of tennis shoes or slippers when my dogs might be barking. I even like having just the right support for a workout or working outside. I believe I can always find a use for more shoes… even if I my husband thinks I have enough. Sometimes I like a pair of shoes because the are simply pretty or unique; different than any other shoe I have ever seen or worn before. I know that I don’t need anymore shoes, but that doesn’t stop me from shoe shopping (usually virtually, actual purchasing is less often than it sounds). It is fun for me, even rewarding to find the perfect pair of shoes that compliment, comfort, support, complete, dazzle, or improve my overall look or outlook. You know that pop-culture saying, “There’s an app for that”? Well… I have a different one that plays on a loop in my head, “There’s a shoe for that”!
Since I feel like I have a deep-ish understanding of shoes I have found I can use them as an analogy to talk about relationships. I have used this to help myself and my own daughters navigate the sometimes turbulent friendship/relationship waters. I think friendships and relationships can be like a shoe collection… stay with me, folks.
We, as humans, shop for shoes for many different reasons…comfort and protection usually being the first reasons, especially when we are younger. And just like we look for comfortable shoes when we are younger, we seek out friends that are safe that can add comfort to our lives.
Often we buy the same type of shoes over and over because they are tried-and-true (Birkenstock for me). We know the fit of these shoes to always be the same, we are aware of what we are getting and we know we will be satisfied. There is little to no wearing-in that has to happen with these shoes because there is a long history of muscle memory. These shoes are usually what I think of as my oldest-dearest friends, the friends I have had since childhood or those that have been collected throughout the years that possess that life-long-friendship quality. Most of these friends have seen me through the ugly, awkward and difficult phases with grace and have devoted equal time in the beautiful, easy and good times of my life. This small group of people are the kind that no matter how much time has passed we are able to slip back into the comfortable ease of where we were before. These are the friends you can count on in the most joyous and the most difficult of times.
Relationships may be fewer with the people in this group. These shoes are hard to come by but once you own them you will never let them go. These tried-and-true comfort shoes are the kind that support and love you without judgement, they are honest and real. They live comfortably in the back of your closet, always… just waiting patiently to be worn. They are not demanding of your time but celebrate every second when the time comes for you to be reunited. Because there is a shared history, a strong foundation of wear, they know you almost better than you know yourself… your rough spots and curves, your cracked heals or manicured toes. But most importantly these shoes are understanding and available at a moments notice. They don’t have to be worn all they time…but ohhhhh when they are worn you know it in your soul (or down to your sole, pun intended). You are rejuvenated by their presence, their touch, by their constant love and support and you are better because of them. You fit well together. You and that pair of shoes were meant to be lifelong friends.
Then there are the shoes you wear for going out on the town; fun shoes, colorful shoes, shoes that often look fabulous but can sometimes leave you with a shoe hangover the next day (AKA blisters). These shoes are fabulous, no doubt, but can leave a mark for better or for worse. This particular group of shoes are always there for a good time, they like things to be easy and fun. Long distance walking or support is not really their style… they were not built for that. These shoes are often tucked away in a box or hidden behind other regularly worn shoes, waiting to be taken out for special occasions. These are the friends or relationships that you look forward to but for limited amounts of time, shorter periods of wear. There is not a deep emotional connection to these shoes but you can typically count on a good time and something different than your regular everyday routine. These shoes can be SO MUCH FUN but can also be a little exhausting if worn to often.
There are also the shoes that get worn every week, often multiple times per week. Sometimes these shoes are worn for shorter, seasonal spurts, other times they are worn more long-term. They are the basics, the shoes you count on to be there for your daily support, carpooling, comradery, hard work and determination that gets you through you daily life. These shoes are made up of friends you call acquaintances, coworkers, neighbors, and other kids parents that you hang out with at theater rehearsals/productions, softball games, swim meets etc. (insert your child’s interest/activity here). Sometimes these shoes become a pair you wear more regularly because you learn you can count on them for support on a deeper level. Sometimes these shoes can even become a pair you rely on and thus slide into the tried-and-true category. Often though, this particular group of shoes are worn for a season of use. They are perfect for work but when you get home you slide right back into your slippers. They fit great during the performance or swim season but when that is over you rarely reach for them in your closet. It is great when you bump into them and sometimes you may go for coffee to catch up but you recognize that you don’t have as much in common with these shoes as the other shoes in your closet.
Sadly, not all shoes last forever. There are shoes that need to be removed from your closet. Sometimes this can be easy, other times this can be really hard to reconcile. The hardest is the pair of shoes that you have worn for a long time, you have come to rely on their strength and steadiness when suddenly they start to pinch or squeeze. Without warning, the shoes that used to feel so good and comfortable now hurt and do not compliment anything in your closet. These are shoes you have invested time, energy, love, laughter and connection in but realize something has changed in your relationship and you need to let go… somehow you have to get rid of them or donate to someone else.
These shoes represent relationships that no longer serve you. They are the people in your life that had a valuable place in the closet, for some time, but that through life circumstances or personal growth no longer support you being the best version of yourself. These are hard relationships lost, friendships that have ended and they are not easy to get rid of because of the memories of what they used to provide. Sometimes these shoes sit in a donation bag, ready to go for a long time before you can actually let them go. As hard as it may be to remove these shoes from your closet you are often better for it in the end. Later, when you see these shoes on someone else’s feet, and you will, you can hope for relief knowing you were able to love them and then let them go… but it can also be devastating.
In order to move through this life and to grow personally I realize that sometimes I need to clean my closet; to make space for new friends, there must be room in the closet. This can be hard… SO hard, but also necessary. New friendships and relationships take time and space to create. New shoes need to be worn to determine whether they warrant a place in the closet. Through wear, trial and exploration you may find a new pair of shoes that fits perfectly! New shoes can be just what you have been searching for for a long time or you may find they just do not fit… and that is okay, too. Either way you give them a try.
My closet is not limited. I have shoes for work, shoes for exercise, shoes for play and shoes for parties. I have tall boots that feel like a hug and short booties that lift my mood. I own shoes for hot weather, cold weather and weather in between. I have shoes for sand-between-my-toes and shoes for uneven rocky surfaces. There are shoes in my closet for all of life’s occasions… I do not try to exclude any shoes but I do try surround myself with the shoes fit ME the best. Each occasion is different and may call for a different pair of shoes to be retrieved from the closet.
I feel blessed with all the shoes I have met in my lifetime and I can’t wait to see what shoes I get to try on in the future.
So whether you are choosing to wear:
Shoes for comfort
Shoes for a statement
Shoes that look great but may give you blisters
Shoes that no matter how long it’s been between wearings, still fit and feel fabulous
Shoes that support your feet
Shoes that lift you up
Shoes that ground you
Shoes that are easy to slip on
Shoes that may have complicated lace up, zip up, tie or all of the above
Shoes for just the right occasion
Shoes that leave you thinking about them for days to come
Shoes that people like to talk about
Shoe that can listen with all their heart
Shoe that are tried-and-true, like Birkenstock for me, that never disappoint…
…Whatever your shoe choice is, choose wisely.