Step down your shoe game, Son!

The world is full of a vast array of beliefs and identities, but not all of them are right for you. Just like shoes, we all wear different sizes and walk different paths, so not everybody wears the same truth. And just like shoes, it's uncomfortable when you're not wearing the right ones. 

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No Such Thing as a Bad Shoe

When encountering an idea or belief we've never come across before, it might feel a little weird at first because they're new and you've never tried them on. Like shoes, if they're truly a good fit, they should feel good after breaking them in. If they're not a good fit, it would make sense to take the shoes off and return, donate or give them away.  But some people might keep wearing them even if they're uncomfortable because they're the latest releases and they "break necks", they're the cutest designer heels according to the magazines and cool people on Instagram, they're priceless vintage deadstock heirloom shoes that you inherited from your grandmother, or you paid good hard earned cash for them and don't want to see it go to waste. If you keep walking in those shoes everyday, the discomfort turns into emotions. You might feel pissed off("These shoes suck!"), fearful that you might trip and fall, or frustrated that it's taking you longer to walk anywhere because the damn shoes hurt so much. And if you keep insisting on wearing those shoes even longer, the emotions and the mild discomfort turn into physical injuries and symptoms-blisters on your feet, pain in your knees and hips from limping, higher heart rate and blood pressure because of the pain and stress. And it might affect other aspects of your life too. Your relationships with other people might be affected because you're always in a bad mood when you wear those shoes. And if you absolutely refuse to switch shoes, the symptoms can become chronic- chronic joint pain that can lead to a need for knee or hip surgery, bunions, chronic fatigue or even heart failure. A little extreme for a pair of shoes, but I think you get my drift.

So what would be the point in treating chronic dis-ease (get it? 😉), "fixing" people and their physical symptoms, if the root of the problem doesn't change? The chronic joint pain or heart failure will only keep causing problems if people are continue to insist on wearing the wrong darn shoes! 

The shoes were never "BAD" nor broken to begin with, because somebody else could've worn those same exact shoes and it would've been a perfect fit. Just like that person was never "BAD" nor broken either. Their friends might beg to differ, though, given how much of a grump that person became while they were suffering from wearing those darn shoes. And even though the body manifested illness and disease after wearing the wrong shoes for so long, it doesn't mean it was broken- it's just doing it's job.  Their body was working perfectly all along, doing exactly what it was designed to do. The discomfort, the emotions, and the pain were the body's way of gently telling you, "Psst. Something's not right here." And when it progressed to disease and illness, that was the body's way of waving red flags and sounding the bullhorn, trying to get the message across to take those damn shoes off already. 

So what happens when the shoes finally come off? Their feet will feel better, their balance won't be off, and their gait will be steady. They'll start to feel like themselves again and they'll start to be at ease. They'll function better without being distracted by pain and maybe even smile more. Their heart rate will slow down, blood pressure eases down, their joints will feel better and they'll feel more rested. Their endorphins will kick in and their body will start healing itself. They'll gain more energy and feel more vibrant. They will be themselves again and it will feel right. That's how perfectly NOT broken we are- Once people find and walk in the right shoes, they fix and heal themselves.

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Bunions and Things

As an ICU nurse, I see people at the point in their lives where they've just worn the wrong shoes for too damn long. For some, they've worn those shoes for so long, it's all they know, so it's that much harder for them to take those darn shoes off. So as medical professionals working with strictly technical medical interventions, we buy people more time, temporarily providing relief from the physical symptoms of disease. 

Medical interventions, in and of themselves, only provide temporary solutions unless people change the beliefs and thought processes that are at the root of the problem. But that's not to say that in the process of their medical encounters they cannot experience realizations that guide them to change their beliefs and lead them to heal themselves. 

Take a patient who has recently suffered from a stroke, for example, who's been carrying the belief (wearing the wrong shoes) that he needs to be in control of EVERYTHING in order to be safe. He probably put those shoes on when something traumatic or painful happened in his past that presented this pair of shoes for him to wear. Ever since he chose to put those shoes on, he's felt an incessant need to have everything perfectly just right or else something bad might happen. He gets fearful, then anxious, then angry or upset if anything is out of place or if any routines are disrupted without his knowledge or input and feels the need to do everything himself to make sure it gets done right. He's worn these shoes everyday, without fail, and after years of feeling anxious and stressed out, his blood pressure has risen significantly, which now led to a ruptured blood vessel in his brain. Now that he's suffered from a stroke, half of his body is paralyzed and he can't speak, much less do anything for himself without assistance.  

For medical interventions, he'd probably get medications to lower his blood pressure but adjusted to maintain enough blood flow to his brain. As doctors speak to him about his condition and tell him about the interventions planned for him, he starts to realize that at this moment, he has no control over what's going to happen to him. It's all up to the doctors, nurses, medical staff and God. As he lays in bed, paralyzed and unable to speak for himself, his biggest fears are coming true and he ties on those darn shoes even tighter and freaks out in silence. 

The nurse comes in to care for him and the patient is so scared at the thought of being touched or moved in a way that might hurt him, without him being able to speak for himself. Afraid and frustrated, he tries to swat the nurse away with his good hand. The nurse, maintains her composure, patiently explains what she's about to do. Much to his surprise, the nurse gently repositions him into a more comfortable position and covers him with a warm blanket, as if she had just read his mind. He starts to relax a little. Every time his nurse appeared that night, he felt less and less scared, trusting that the nurse was there to keep him safe and comfortable. As he relaxes, his body gets to work on healing himself. Pretty soon, he relaxes enough that his blood pressure stays low enough for the nurse to turn off the blood pressure lowering medication. He thinks to himself that maybe he'll be okay after all, unties his laces, takes those damn shoes off and gets some good sleep.

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The Evolution of the Shoe Game

When we're first born, we don't come into the world wearing shoes. We are born naked- feet bare, innocent and pure, the closest to the Perfect State we'll ever be in this lifetime. As we begin actively using our senses, observing and exploring the world around us, our parents- the people closest to us- are the first to offer us their beliefs about what the world is really like.

As a baby, they'll put shoes on you that they choose, depending on your parents' own beliefs (shoe preference). Daddy might choose those cute tiny Jordans because he's a diehard sneaker head and his first-born can't be seen anything less than fitted. Mommy might choose those adorable tiny TOMS she saw in the latest issue of Parenting Magazine and because they donate shoes to the needy. (Excuse the stereotypes, but I'm trying to make a point here.)

As a toddler, your dad might continue to dress you in the latest Nikes to match those in his collection (and never let you down from your stroller because you might mess up your fresh kicks). Your mom, however, might insist on putting you in a pair of Robeez because she read in a parenting blog that they're APMA approved and promote natural foot movement (with matching knee pads, butt pads, wrist guards and a crash helmet, just in case). 

As you grow older, you might start to have your own distinct preferences and beliefs as you start to watch TV, movies or play on the Internet and be exposed and influenced by the media. You could be so enchanted by cartoon characters or idolize a superhero that you insist on wearing Disney princess shoes so you can feel like a beautiful princess or Spider-Man shoes so you can climb walls and fight bad guys. Your parents could try to argue with you and insist that you wear your Jordans so you can match Daddy when you go to the mall or wear the Stride Rites because research shows that it provides better proprioception. (Hard to tell who'll win this one. Whomever screams the loudest, I'm guessing.)

And as you start going to school, your friends start to influence your beliefs about the world and yourself as well. You might decide not to wear your favorite Spider-Man shoes anymore because your classmate Timmy said they were for babies. You might start wearing those Jordans your dad saved for you because John, the sixth-grader said you were cool he saw you wearing them.

As you become a teenager and onto early adulthood, you're exposed to more of the outside world. Depending on your experience, you might still rely heavily on your parents' and friends' approval and opinions or you might start to develop a stronger sense of self.

As you get older and acquire more life experiences, you might start to discover that some of the beliefs your parents taught you just aren't true. As you see more of the world and meet more people, you find other perspectives that feel more in tune with your personality. You might still wear the Jordans your dad gave you for Christmas whenever you visit him, but you've found that you prefer to let your feet breathe and just run around in slippers whenever you're not required to wear closed-toe shoes.

You might find a job as an accountant, however, that requires you to dress in business attire everyday so you need to wear dress shoes. The job pays well, so why not? It turns out that it pays well because they ask for you to put in long, stressful hours. You wear those uncomfortable dress shoes for 60 hours on most weeks and looked forward to getting home, ripping those darn shoes off, putting your feet up on the couch and just letting them breathe. After initially enjoying the money, the stress from being driven so hard to perform for the company causes you to gain weight and feel miserable (not to mention wearing those uncomfortable shoes!), so you quit.  You let go of the belief that money is more important than your well-being, along with those painful shoes.

We move along through life collecting beliefs that we incorporate into our truths by observation and discovery through experience. Although it doesn't hurt to have an active collection of beliefs to keep our being colorful, interesting and functional, just like shoes, it is possible to be bogged down by hanging on to those that no longer serve you. Both take up energy and space and can prevent you from taking in new ones that might better reflect you. Reflection and letting go should be an active part of the process. Keep an open mind and an open closet.

As you get older and hopefully wiser, in your processes of reflection and letting go, you whittle away the stuff that never really mattered. Your truth, along with your closet gets less cluttered. Your preferences tend to lean towards the simple and the enduring. The less complicated, the better. And when you've really done a diligent job of exploring, pondering, questioning and loving, you'll eventually discover, hopefully sooner than later, that shoes and beliefs are just thoughts and that going barefoot was the best way to go all along.


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