Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Wrong Shoes

This was originally written in August, 2008.
I just realized I’ve recently worn the wrong shoes and now I am really paying for it.  Last week, I went to visit a client with my boss.  I wore a nice, conservative dark suit and my nice, conservative dark shoes.  These shoes are high heels (the pants are too long to wear with flat shoes), and though not flashy by any sense, they are still ‘heels’.   Four days later, my feet still hurt!
Up until a few years ago, I was a ‘shoe fiend’.  I LOOOVVVVVED shoes (I still do, but not quite in the same way).  There were the shiny red shoes (NOT high heels, but red patent-leather loafers with a little chain of brushed nickel links across the toes – they hurt my toes, the tops of my feet, and the tendon above my heel, but they looked great); the awesome gold pumps that I got for a steal that go with just about anything (not gaudy, shiny gold, but a tasteful fabric-y subtle gold, with pointy toes and a very high heel---also hurt my toes); and the pride and joy of my shoe collection:  a black and white swirly patterned-fabric-covered high heel pair that garnered comments and inquiries just about every time I wore them (also hurt my toes); just to name a few of my shining stars.  The shoes made the outfit.  With my swirly black & whites, a simple black turtleneck sweater and dark jeans became worthy fashion show attire, where even the agents would state, “I LOVE your outfit.  Where did you get those SHOES?”  Take away the swirly shoes, add tennis shoes, and I would be a soccer mom ready for a game or bake sale.
Several years ago my love affair with shoes went into the “I-think-it’s-time-we-start-seeing-other-people” stage when I was diagnosed with arthritis in my right foot, where my big toe joins my foot. Sure, I had noticed pain there, but I just chalked it up to paying the price for wearing my heels.  I thought it was not uncommon for everyone to have some pain from wearing shoes that are in no way shaped anything like the human foot, so I figured I would endure. Running, something I love, had become nearly impossible.  I ended up at the doctor’s office because of something totally unrelated, except that it was on my foot:  a little knot on my little toe that I thought surely was a tumor (I usually tend to think everything is a tumor). 
While the podiatrist assured me my little toe was fine, he said he was “very concerned” with the condition of the joint at the base of my big toe on the same foot.  When he showed me the x-ray of my foot with virtually no cartilage between my toe and my foot, bone completely rubbing against bone on one side, he pointed at my cute pointy-toed, two toned brown mules and said, “You can’t keep wearing stuff like this,” and proceeded to fit me for prescription orthotics that I would wear in (gulp) “sensible” shoes, explaining that my foot condition was most likely hereditary, and due to a bone malformation.  He said that there was surgery to correct this condition, but it was often much more painful than it was worth, and that being preventative from here on out was the best course of action.  During my visit, I kept stealing glances at this huge chart detailing various foot problems and their surgical ‘cures’, complete with illustrations.  The surgery to correct my problem involved actually removing my toe and putting in some kind of synthetic cartilage, then putting the toe back on my foot (!)…and it supposedly stays on after that…
I got my orthotics and began wearing sensible shoes.  Around that time, I began running more, and I realized that I did not have the foot pain that I had been having.  The sensible-shoe-thing worked.
From time to time, I realize that I am wearing the wrong shoe when I begin to notice the pain in my foot (which has now spread to my other foot, as well).  I'll stop wearing the shoes that have triggered it, and things do get better.
I named my blog “Finding a Fit”, because I realized, while helping my oldest daughter figure out what to do with her life right after high school, that it is so very important that we find the particular life-path for us to walk on in life, not automatically taking the same path that someone else, or nearly everyone else, has taken.  I used the example with her of finding the right pair of shoes that fit us…not just the correct size, but the correct design and style, as well (you can read more about that in my blog posting, “Finding the Fit”), so that you can carry out your walk with strength and endurance, without limping or getting blisters…
I realized what a mistake it was for me to wear those high heels last Thursday.  Sure, I pulled it off for the day, walking around in my power suit, appearing to be several inches taller than my 5’9” frame, but I am still paying for it four days later.
I have done the same thing with a current pair of career “shoes” that I find myself in, and I am not sure how to come to a resolution.  This job was something that seemed like a good idea at the time; something “respectable”, something I thought I could pull off by sucking it up and sticking it out, but lately it is affecting my walk.  I am getting blisters and beginning to limp, figuratively, and I wonder what kind of “wearing away” this is doing inside me.  It has been so important to me that I pay my tuition for my health counseling education myself, that I have forced myself into some shoes that are turning out to have not really fit me in the first place.  Instead of a swelling arthritic joint, I have a pain in my gut.  Instead of limping, I snap.  Instead of taking a break from running because of the pain, I’ve withdrawn from some aspects of simply living and enjoying my life.  I have asked myself how I would advise any client of mine who was looking for a healthy work/life balance, and found herself affected by her job the same way I am affected by mine, and my answer would be “RUN”!
I’ve tried reminding myself that this is just a temporary place, this job I am in, and that in only a few short months my tuition will be paid for and then I am free and clear to move on to my "real" fit– if only I can hang on.  In this process of hanging on, I am finding that I am shutting down in some areas of my life.  I can barely pick up a textbook.  Writing, once a joy and great outlet for me, seems to be just another chore.  My BURNING CONFESSION:  I have resorted to medicating myself with a scoop of Rocky Road ice cream in the evenings (and I don’t even like chocolate!), so I know for sure I am headed for trouble if I am not already there.
I may be able to convince myself to give it another go, one more try, but I don’t know…my “feet” are killing me. Can I find figurative “orthotics” for this mal-fitting pair of figurative shoes? Ask me in a week.
I heard part of an interesting article on public radio yesterday.  The reporter had done a piece about “compulsive liars”.  She’d interviewed people who had committed crimes successfully (for a time) based on their lying; as well as researchers who’d studied brains and brain activities of really good liars – people who showed little hesitation or difficulty in coming up with plausible lies (as detected during brain scans) when asked potentially embarrassing questions.  One finding was that these “good liars” had a large amount of ‘white matter’ in a particular section of their brains.  They compared these liars’ brains with brains of different groups of people and found that many top athletes also had large amounts of this same white matter in their brains, possibly enabling them to easily deceive even themselves, allowing them to push themselves physically and mentally harder than people who did not have this type of brain/lying ability into performing in spite of extreme fatigue and overwhelming pain.  I don’t think I am a very good liar.

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