I think it’s safe to say that we all have things that we hold up to ourselves as things we will never do or actions we will never take that are actually a way of saying, “I am so afraid that I will have to do that” or “I am so afraid that will happen to me and I’ll be like people I used to think I was very, very different from and would not choose to be.”
One of mine is shoes. I will never wear ugly shoes. By “ugly” I mean shoes that are closed by means of velcro, or marketed as stable, secure or orthopedic. SASS shoes. Sneakers with a dress. I’ll never do that. I may well be wearing supports for my ankles, and orthotics in my boots, but I draw the line in the sand at sneakers or SASS or grandma shoes. I have one pair of boots by Earth Shoes and they are furry and muklukk-y and I only wear them at home, never out. But if you came by, you wouldn’t think I’d given up and gone to the dark side. I have given up heels for anything other than “evening out” type appearances already, so I feel like I’ve made enough concessions.
On Thursday I wore a pair of boots with a “reasonable” 1.5″ heel, and my left ankle felt like it was being stabbed all day, and the balls of my feet hurt, and the ankle supports rubbed my heels and my left ankle ached in competition with my left hip.
Perversely, I prefer that to what I am terrified of, which is becoming less attractive, less fabulous; becoming clunky and old and infirm. So sure, I’ll have to stare at the ground to make sure I don’t fall, and I’ll stand in the elevator and curse my aching joints, but someone will tell me that I am wearing great shoes and somehow, that is preferable to me than walking comfortably about in a pair of crepe-soled loafers that are style-free but stable.
Because, it’s not just the shoes. It’s the loss of myself-the potential of myself as much as the actuality of myself. I think those shoes look stupid and clumsy and gross and I notice when people wear them, and I fear that I will have to, as well, someday. So I would be disingenuous to say that I don’t judge people for the shoes they wear, but it would also be untrue that it’s that direct–I have never wanted to rush gratefully into middle age and settle into clothes that aren’t fashionable, but I don’t pick my friends based on how they dress, either. I am determined, committed, maybe even obsessed with not “giving up,” even as, maybe, a glimmer of a possible upside–or, not upside, but, relief– occasionally presents itself.
Invisible illness is a double-edged sword; one side allows me to appear as if there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. The other side, not a news flash, is that no one knows that there is something wrong with me. They might think my asking them to hold the door is affectation, the same as the ring splints (“Oh, she’s always wearing fabulous things that are over-the-top, those are just a new thing she’s into.”), or long skirts (always a big part of my look, now adapted semi-permanently in case the threatened knee brace materializes), or boots (they lend that edge of toughness to my girly-fem skirts) because they actually lend some ankle support. Surprise, I am not always in love with my combat boots.
It’s been a rotten weekend of having to cater to my body, which is just refusing to be in sync with me in any way, and at this moment it’s possible I’ll be wearing an ugly brace to work for my left wrist for the rest of the week, something I absolutely dread (it’s velcro, feel me?) and want to hide. It’s possible I’ll have moments, like last week, when I think that I might need to pop over to the ER and visit with them about my heart rate, or I’ll have to take a call from my PCP wherein I struggle not to cry because my emotions have decided I am not their master at the moment. How much do I not want to cry at work? SO FUCKING MUCH. So, so much. I’ve only done it once since all this started, and that was in my boss’s office behind a closed door.
Each time I get to a point where I accept something; okay, I will always sleep with a heating pad; okay, I need to take a lot of hot baths; okay, I need to wear the ring splints everyday; okay, I’ll wear the CMC splints for hand sewing, too; okay, I will try to pull open as few doors as possible; okay, I will file for official accommodations at work; I’ll be damned but there’s some other slew of things knocking on that door and I’ve barely gotten the current guests seated and it’s all I can do not to just have a screaming tantrum and take to my bed.
But you’re not going to know that from my shoes, unless you look at the two spikes on the heels of the black ones. They might tell you a little something about my mood right now.