Since my divorce, I have done so much “spring cleaning” of my life, that I’ve given myself a pass on actually cleaning anything this year. And, as the ice melts away, I will sit idly by with a cup of tea and admire the dust as it collects on my winter clothes that remain taking up precious space in my closet.
The truth is, I don’t have all that many clothes left, especially since I went through several cycles of gaining and losing weight during the end of my marriage and my divorce. I chose to give away anything that didn’t fit as I cleaned and sorted out my home, and my life, at the time. It probably was a subconscious act on my part to discard items that held negative memories. I much prefer starting fresh with a few integral wardrobe pieces in my collection.
The First Steps of the Journey
Which is why I was surprised the other day when I found myself moving aside several pairs of shoes that would have fit my outfit just fine in order to search for a pair that didn’t really match. Maybe it’s a woman thing, but apparently, I did not find it quite so easy to part with my shoes, memories or not. But what I found most interesting was my thought process as I scanned my collection of footwear. I realized, my shoes were a virtual journal of my life. Each pair told a story from a brief moment of my past. And what’s more, I learned something about myself: I buy shoes when I am, shall I say, not in a good place, emotionally.
It was quite a story unfolding as I picked up each pair, and all I could think was: Why didn’t I pay attention to these feelings at the time? I picked up a pair of short boot-type shoes, and I remembered the day I bought them.
A Familiar Scenario
It had been after a confusing and frustrating argument with my (then) husband. We had been at a friend’s house when one of the women suggested going out to a local clothing store, just to get out. It was still early, and all the children were playing together nicely, as they always did. My ex-husband waited for the reaction of the other husbands, as usual, before responding with his encouraging and positive approval of the plan.
The other women grabbed their purses, and we headed out the door. Everyone was at ease, but right at that moment, I caught my ex-husband’s eye, and it was not filled with ease. His jaw was clenched, his stare was menacing, and my stomach twisted in reply. I heard my friend call my name, and I turned back to join the ladies as they piled into the car.
I spent the whole time on the verge of a panic attack. My friends seemed to sense my unease, and told me not to worry, they other guys would get my ex to relax. I smiled and nodded, but I knew in my heart, that would not be the case once I got home. I kept checking the time while everyone shopped, and I wondered why I didn’t bring my own car. All I wanted to do was leave so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the inevitable argument and retribution when I returned home.
Knowing What Was Waiting
When we finally arrived back at the house where we were gathered earlier, my panic increased when I saw my car was gone, meaning he had taken the boys home early and left me to get a ride on my own. I tried to pretend I didn’t notice, but I’m sure my face couldn’t hide my anxiety.
True to form, once I walked in the door of my home, I was greeted with an irate husband and a lecture about leaving him to take care of everything after he worked all week. Implying, of course, that I had done nothing all week, even though I was in school part time, running his business full time, and taking care of the children all the time. The argument lasted several days, but the most difficult part was seeing how disappointed my children were that they had to leave their friends early the night before. It was one of his favorite punishments for me-disappointing the children and blaming me for it.
A Memory I Couldn’t Ignore
The next day, I returned to the store my friends and I shopped at the night before, and I bought the shoes for myself. I held them now and wondered why I kept them. I knew I would never wear them. I think it had to do with reminding myself of those feelings. Sometimes, it is easy to discard our feelings and tell ourselves it wasn’t such a big deal. But, I couldn’t do that now; I held that shoe, and I felt just what I had that night. There was no pretending.
Each pair of shoes- and I had shoes everywhere, hidden away under beds, in the basement, in boxes- each pair was a message of warning, experience, and survival. Going forward after my divorce, I made sure to validate my feelings with every new encounter. These shoes were a sort of check-list to make sure I wouldn’t overlook any warning signs the next time around. And I haven’t.
My Relationship Self-Check
I’ve learned to ‘check-in’ with my emotions in a much healthier way. If I argue with my boyfriend, I am able to ask myself some very simple, yet critical questions:
Do I feel like my voice is being heard?
Am I afraid to respond to his questions?
Do I feel like I am respected?
Did the argument get resolved?
None of these questions had a healthy answer when I argued with my ex-husband. The fact that there was a never a resolution caused even more anxiety and stress, because I knew the situation would be revisited at his whim. It was like walking around a ticking time bomb. He was the one who set the tone for the rest of us. I could tell just by his footsteps on the deck what type of mood he was in when he came home at night.
Taking the Important Steps
I guess shoes, and the steps we take in those shoes, can tell us a lot about where we have been, and where we are going. I may not wear most of these shoes anymore, but they were an important step (no pun intended) for me to learn how to express myself and live a healthy and peaceful life. I may make an exception to my ‘no cleaning’ rule and give my closet some room to begin a new chapter in my shoe journal. Then again, I won’t need much room for my new fuzzy sock collection.