Everyone probably knows about how hard it is to go out and find the right pair of shoes. For every event in life we have a pair of shoes that will take us on a trip, to a wedding, or to the gym. Each event requires a pair of shoes that will work for that event. If I wore crocs to a wedding, then everyone would look at me strangely and say, ‘those shoes don’t fit the occasion’ or if I wore flip-flops to play in a basketball tournament, then I would probably trip over my own feet and wind up in the hospital.
The act of finding the right pair of shoes is probably one the hardest things that we can do when it comes to going out and shopping for ourselves. Why is it always so frustrating? Why is it that when I’m looking for a pair of dress shoes for an event, I always find the most perfect pair of tennis shoes or when I’m trying to find some beach or swimming shoes, I can only find insulated hiking boots? They may be the most perfect shoes, but they certainly are not the right shoes for the events that I am preparing for.
When I started clogging four years ago, the act of finding the right shoes became very pertinent for me. One of the first things the instructor said was: ‘You need special shoes for this form of dance.’ So, I went out and looked for these special shoes. We went through the mall looking for them, and what I found that I thought might work, turned out to wrong. The shoes I found looked the part, but they were not the part. They were slip on men’s leather shoes. They would work for cosplay, but they did not work for clogging. When I returned to the class, the teacher said that I would need shoes with laces.
So, off I went, yet again, to seek out the most perfect pair of dance shoes and instead of going to the mall, I went to a small shop that specializes in dancing shoes. Later, after purchasing the shoes, the instructor was able to affix metal taps to the front and back of the shoes that gave them a distinctive sound whenever I would dance. If the taps were affixed too tightly to the shoes, then the shoes would make an odd sound that did not match that of the other dancers in the club. If they were affixed the way tap dance shoes were, then they would not work for clogging because the taps have to be affixed more loosely. It really was an established sort of science, but it was one that proved vitally important.
The reason I mention this is because I truly believe that finding one’s spiritual path is very much like finding the right pair of shoes. If I walked into a house of worship and I saw women with their heads or shoulders covered and I was wearing a sundress, I would probably not fit into that place and my presence would be unwelcomed. If I attended a service and the preacher was speaking about a group or groups of people in a judgmental manner, then I would probably walk out and go somewhere else.
The act of finding the right shoes is very much like finding a place or a community where one belongs and perhaps not just in a physical sense, but rather in the manner or ideology that one has. If my thoughts and ideals matched the community that I am visiting, then I would feel myself inclined to stay, simply because I would want to be in a place where my ideological or spiritual center is conducive to that of the community. As I reflected more and more on this sort of concept, my initial thoughts were ‘I must be mad to be thinking about something simplistic like shoes on such a deep level as my spiritual growth’. I mean; shoes can’t equate to the meaning of life, they only act as a means of getting me from one place to the next…or is that their sole purpose? (No pun intended.)
When I stop and consider all the places that I go and how walking is sometimes a form of meditation, then perhaps this makes a lot more sense than I initially thought.
Breaking this down a little, I reached the conclusion that if the shoes I am wearing do not fit comfortably, then how willing am I to walk in them from one moment to the next? If I feel intense discomfort while walking on a cobblestone street; then either the path I am walking or the shoes I am wearing are the problem. It could be, in many instances, both of these things. Perhaps the universe is telling me something through my pain and discomfort. It is not just the question of moving from point A to B, but the question persists about whether or not point B is really where I want to go or the path to point B is not workable. Maybe the path I should be following will lead me to point C instead.
If that is the case, then perhaps what I’m experiencing is a nudge from the universe, which is telling me that try something new. Walk on the sidewalk where it is smooth, or change my shoes and walk where I am. If the path still reaps discomfort with a different pair of shoes, then the path is wrong. If the shoes reap discomfort with a different path, then the shoes are wrong. If both changes are made and the pain ceases, then perhaps the right path has been found. However, if the discomfort does persist, then more changes are clearly in order.
I don’t believe for an instant that I will automatically find the right solution the first time changes are made, but I do believe that it is my soul’s intention to find the path as well as the shoes that will work the best for me. I also must understand that what is best for me may not be what’s best for another person.
During the past few weeks, I have discovered that the act of finding a place where one belongs is just as difficult as finding the proper shoes for any given event in life. It’s not just the act of going into the store and pulling down shoes from the shelf and saying ‘oh these are perfect’, or ‘these are just what I need’. In order to find the most perfect pair of shoes, one has to walk around in them. See if they can rest against one’s foot comfortably and if the shoes actually move with the person wearing them.
Sometimes, discovering that the shoes that one has been wearing for many years no longer fit or the purpose is served and moving on is the only option. I think often that finding this out can be very difficult. One of the things that I have discovered with myself is accepting the fact that I will never be hired to work at Build a Bear. I’m 46-years-old, not afraid to learn new things, find younger people to be absolutely inspiring, love teddy bears, and have always thought and believed that a job there would be the most ideal thing in the world. I was devastated the day I discovered that basically they didn’t want me. It broke my heart, but what could I do? I had to move on and I had to understand that the shoes I had been trying to wear represented the notion of working at Build a Bear and that would, sadly, never fit me.
What did I do instead? I decided to start making bears for other people. I realized that it was not about making a ton of money or getting tons of recognition for my work. I knew that 99.995% of the time, this form of recognition would not happen. It is wishful thinking for me to believe that I would constantly be recognized for making these. After all, only last week, when I was at the dance club, someone did acknowledge me for my dancing, and I ended up the color of an overripe tomato. Clearly, such recognition was not the reason for my dancing; it was simply me expressing my joy through it. The reality is that it is really quite simple. I didn’t need the recognition for the bears and I didn’t need it for dance, because I found joy in doing it. The shoe fit.
If I were to have expected something in return for the act of trying to spread joy, then that emotion would be depleted and I would be missing out on why it is I’m making bears, dancing or basically anything. This is how I know that the path I’m on is the right one. When I begin doing something strictly out of obligation, then I question why I’m there if it depletes my expression of joy.
So, perhaps the idea is to find the shoes that fit and move towards the joy that exists in living and if I discover that what it is that I’ve been trying to obtain does not bring joy, then it perhaps it is time to change my shoes and/or change the path I am journeying down.