cynthyb


Leave a comment

Feet You Meet

Blog Post #34

InStep-S

“Front feet, Back feet,

Red feet, Black feet,

Left foot, Right foot,

Feet, Feet, Feet,

How many, many

Feet you meet.”

(Dr. Seuss, The Foot Book)

I found myself meeting all kinds of interesting feet while sitting on a bench at a Southern California amusement park. It began with simple people-watching. Then, a man stopped about twenty feet away. My eyes zeroed right in on his feet, or rather, his man-sized ruby slippers. (Not the Dorothy from Kansas variety, but resembling something akin to the Nike or Adidas type.) I’m sorry to admit that, as far as I was concerned, the guy wearing the shoes was completely incidental to his feet—he might have been a Wookie, for all I knew. I never got a good look at anything but the brilliant, fiery, shiny, red boats carrying him adrift in a sea of paved walkways filled with other colorful foot-supporting spectacles. Those red shoes shouted like a diva, “LOOK AT ME!” and I did, until they became lost in the mass of “Red feet, Black feet, Left foot, Right foot, Feet, Feet, Feet” parading up and down in front of me.

red shoeCutout

LOOK AT ME!

The rest of that day, my eyes were riveted on the phenomenal number and variety of shoe-shod feet crammed into a relatively small area, as well as the excessive diversity in design, texture, shape and size, and the equally excessive diversity of the people wearing them. Especially impressive was the enormous quantity of feet in motion—all busily going this way and that, while mostly avoiding collision with other feet in such close proximity. The numbers were staggering, really. There were shoes of every kind—sneakers, pumps, flats, boots, even stilettos! (I have never understood women who wear stilettos to an amusement park—some strange obsession or vanity must consume them to self-inflict such torture! Just spike my shoes with nails, why don’t you?)

228041b4571ef35cd0398bd7546a37e3shoe_of_nails2

I realize that the prescription for comfort varies from person to person. Some opt to get as close to the mercilessly hard asphalt as possible, choosing flat, barely there sandals—a thin piece of leather separating foot from scorching heat, and a spaghetti noodle strap to insure one’s foot doesn’t slide off. (As a teen, I wore a pair precisely like this to the same amusement park; I perfectly recall the heat radiating up through the sparsely protective sole, and the pain and soreness my feet suffered in the name of fashion by mid-afternoon.)

blogbernardomilly (1)

Probably most popular among amusement park goers, are those who cushion their feet in the sweaty comfort of rubbery padded vinyl. (I’ve also experienced this type of sweltering, stink-enhancing foot environment. Great for cooler days, but a virtual sweatshop in 104 degree temperatures.)

spin_prod_833055912

With crowds as thick as peanut butter, still others find comfort in making sure they can see parades and shows from any location by wearing platforms that give them eye shot five or six inches above the heads of their low-heeled counterparts. (I have not experienced this, and doubtless never will,—even if I had platform shoes. Five-inch heels would barely place me on an even keel with those of average height. Most of the time, I’m too short to see above heads belonging to persons over six years of age.)

5322d7a5d826be6926dd2a0526a17d81

While in the attitude of foot-watching, my mind wandered into one of those “what if…” imaginings that have no real merit, and do no real good.  I conjured in my mind’s eye some futuristic shoe connoisseur doing the equivalent of a Google search for “shoe fashions of the early 21st century,” and pictured results showing a pathetic sampling of sneakers, flats and pumps reminiscent of 19th and 20th century fashion plates. After seeing such an enormous variety of shoes in one place, at one time, I felt certain our generation’s multiplicity of shoe styles would be lost to history. No one in the future would ever really comprehend a hundredth part of the varieties of shoes available to our generation from, literally, all “walks of life”.

01b036423448ff28e9802d8530cb6dc7

Once home, I did a Google search myself. I was flabbergasted at my findings! My imaginary shoe connoisseur would not be disappointed if cyber files remain intact eons into the future. Indeed, our era has produced the most enormous, and I might add, ridiculous, array of footwear ever conceived of. Surely, comfort is not a primary motivation! Nor is the proper alignment of one’s skeleton while in motion. Beauty does not seem to be an all-encompassing rationale, either.

The inspiration for many of today’s shoes is a mystery to me. I present to you a small sampling from my own search results. I have to ask, are these for real? You be the judge.

Feet and shoes

Most of what I saw while foot watching was not as extreme as my Google search would have you believe. Furthermore, I recognize that each pair of shoes represents a uniquely individual personality who chooses them. I suspect that if I were to interview a cross-section of shoe wearers, I would find distinctive personality traits tied directly to the shoes they chose to wear. Just as surely as “Stiletto Gal” chose her shoes for looks over comfort, “Ruby Slippers Boat Shoes Guy” chose his shoes as an outward expression of some inward desire to have his feet noticed. Of course, these are very shallow, soulless, (or perhaps, sole-less) observations which don’t begin to comprehend the special, priceless souls that occupy those shoes. I’m no expert—no well-versed student of human behavior—but I do wonder why someone of a sound mind would, by choice, wear a pair of furry shoes with a cloven-footed toe and gold pistol heels….

Weird-Shoes-4

Really?!

Our seven year-old twin granddaughters were with us during part of that day at the amusement park, each wearing a pair of boots.  A couple of weeks earlier, they had desperately wanted to go on a particular ride, and had been straining for months to reach the mark, but hadn’t quite grown tall enough to prevent the ride attendant from forcing a finger between the top of their curly heads and the wooden bar indicating how tall you had to be. Far from dense, these girls conspired a way to measure-up. They chose to wear their boots in place of their usual flip-flops or tennis shoes. Why? Their boots have significantly higher heels than any of their other shoes. Just to be sure, they wadded up tissue paper and stuffed it in their shoes to lift their feet even more. Off they went—on one of the hottest, most humid days Southern California had to offer—in their shorts and high top, laced-up boots. Their efforts didn’t go unrewarded—they were thrilled to find they had made the height requirement, and were able to go on the ride—being re-measured at every checkpoint right up to the last one just before stepping into their seats. Later that day, one of the girls began complaining that her feet hurt. On closer inspection, her mother discovered the wadded-up tissue had formed into tiny balled-up clumps, like small marbles, under the arches of her daughter’s feet, adding absolutely no height to her stature, but causing a great deal of discomfort (a small price to pay for achieving the desired goal). A stranger may have questioned boots with shorts and lightweight T-shirts on such a hot day. Had they know the serious business these girls were about they would have understood the combination.

ANDREA-37K-BRN-GBOOTS__2_9

I suppose the same might be true of “Stiletto Gal” and “Ruby Slippers Guy.”  If I knew the motivation, or the inner workings and desires of the heart, I might better understand the choice of shoes. Doesn’t this apply across the board? People make all kinds of choices about things…things I, standing in my own hand-picked variety of shoes, simply don’t understand.

A well-known adage says we shouldn’t judge a person until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes. After seeing some of the bazillions of shoes out there, and some of the bazillions of people filling them, I’m certain I don’t understand what makes people choose what they choose—whether it be shoes, or food, or other choices of more consequence. But one thing I did notice, and do understand, is that most of those people belonging to the feet I saw were kind enough to say excuse me, or I’m sorry, or pardon me, when they accidentally bumped into, or stepped on my shoes—a frequent occurrence in a crowded amusement park.

stepping-on-toes

Contemplating the vast amount of shoes out there, and the equally vast amount of shoe wearers, I can’t help but think that there’s no way I could ever comprehend the minds and motivations of such a variety of people. I’ve been married to my husband, Brad, for over forty years and I still don’t get how his mind works a good portion of the time. How could I possibly understand what motivates complete strangers in their choices? When one considers the mileage each individual has trod through life—much of which may have been traveled alone on painful, wadded-up-marble-sized-balls-of-tissue-stumbling-blocks, over quiet, lonely, desolate, and difficult pathways, one is certainly not in a position to judge!glass-slipper-coloring-page-2047

Indeed, the opposite is true. One must pick up the glass slipper (that was left in a rush before the magic ended), and seek out those who need the magical quality of kindness and charity restored to their life. Among the throngs of feet, we must search out those who have been hurt, or lost, or forgotten, and find the shoeless ones who have had a dream or a hope burning in their hearts, but don’t know how or where to find the lost slipper. We each carry a glass slipper in the pockets of our hearts. We each have within us the ability to restore to those in need the proverbial glass slipper of kindness, hope and truth.  We can start by nurturing patience and tolerance towards those whose “choice of shoe” we don’t understand, and forego unkind, shallow, and false judgements that do injustice to those like “Stiletto Gal” and “Ruby Slippers Guy,” or more importantly, those whose feet are bare, or shod with nondescript, tired, worn-through uppers, insoles, and treads.

worn-out-shoes_001

A good place to begin is by lifting one’s eyes from the ground, and looking into the eyes and hearts of others. This naturally occurs when one accidentally bumps into, or steps on someone else’s toes. That’s when most of the thundering crowds at places like amusement parks actually stop a second, look up, and look into, and really see the eyes and faces of others, and simply, and sincerely say, “I’m sorry.”

charlie-chaplin-original-suit-hat-cane-1_06

Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp Shoes

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

You’re on your own,

and you know what you know.

And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

Dr. Seuss (Oh, the Places You’ll Go!)

© July 15, 2015

© October 23, 2015

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear friends, for reading.

Advertisements


4 Comments

“Through A Glass Darkly….”

Blog Post #11: 


It took over a half century for me to understand an obvious truth: other people don’t see me the way I see myself.

When my granddaughter was nursing laryngitis, she commented on how strange her voice sounded. I replied that she hears her own voice differently from others because she hears it resonating from within her head, whereas others hear her voice from without. How similar that is to the way we see ourselves. Others see us differently and from without, while we see ourselves from a very personal place within. 

Not long after the conversation with my granddaughter, I was visiting with an elderly gentleman at church. In the course of conversation, he used words to describe me that I would never think of using to describe myself. His generous appraisal was humbling. I smiled inwardly at the thought, but found it difficult to believe his view of me was correct, and mine was not.

This brings me to another interesting observation: not only do I not see myself the way others see me, but I also don’t see myself the way I really am.



When I walk by a mirror, I am always surprised by the image I see of myself. I never look the way I think I look. Why is that? I’ve seen myself in the mirror at least every morning and every night for over half a century, so why don’t I know what I look like? I think it has to do with my perception of myself from within. 


I create mental models (often subconsciously) of who I think I am that contribute to my impression of myself. For example, I see myself as a happy person. At a very young age, I decided a smile should be my “normal” expression. (Of course, there was the time I was making jam, and burnt the bottom out of a 2-quart plastic pitcher full of granulated sugar when I inadvertently turned on the wrong stove burner. No, I was not smiling when eight cups of sugar poured out the burnt bottom like a glittering white Niagara Falls all over the stove and floor, but this is beside the point.)



There was a reason for the smile decision. I had noticed people who, unprovoked, looked as if they had a thorn in their shoe. Others wore a perpetual scowl, while a few looked as if they’d like to bite someone’s head off. (I am not referring to friends or family–just people I’d sometimes meet.) I wanted to see happy faces, and I wanted others to see happiness in me. I knew that when people greeted me with a smile, it set me at ease and lifted my spirits without speaking a word. (I’m not talking about pasted-on TV smiles—insincere and shallow,—but kind and reassuring smiles.) 


So, I try to maintain a cheerful attitude, and a positive outlook. I believe that I’m a cheerful person, most of the time. Or am I? Do I really appear cheerful to others, or am I fooling myself?

One day, many years ago, my brother said to me, “Cynthia, you are such a complainer.” I was taken aback….completely shaken. A complainer?! Is that how you see me? I began the arduous and painful task of self-analysis.  I noticed that I did complain from time to time. Indeed, was a complainer! That began a struggle to end the complaining that, unfortunately, continues today. Like a prizefighter, I have bouts of success suppressing individual urges to grumble as they bob and weave in and out of everyday situations.


Every now and then, a family member will act as referee when I go down for the count, and every single time it comes as a surprise! Was I complaining again? How can I repeatedly be so blind to my own behavior? I must conclude that to family members I am (sometimes, at least) seen as a whiny-fuss, which doesn’t fit my self-image at all, for I am a cheerful, happy person—truly content.



Another example of this conundrum is the question of introversion versus extroversion.  Surprising to me are friends who are surprised to hear that I am an introvert. The minute I walk into a large gathering, I become a worker bee, busying myself to avoid having to stop and find a place in the hive. If there’s no frantic buzzing to be done, I may find a flower or two whose nectar I already know to be sweet, and comfort myself in their presence. I prefer quiet family gatherings to social calls, I dread and procrastinate making phone calls, and I flee large gatherings in which mingling is expected.



The contradiction: I love being with people. I want to know all about them. I love hearing about their fascinating lives, about what they think, and how they feel. I love to connect with people. However, I prefer being with, knowing about, hearing from, and connecting with people one-on-one. I even prefer to skip the introductory appetizers and salads—the small talk—and cut right into the main dish, where the meaty juiciness and flavor is.

These kinds of incongruities raise disconcerting questions: Is what people see a true representation of what is at my core? And worse: Am I a fake and a fraud?

Fake or Fraud?

Am I a fraud if I profess love for others while preferring the quiet security of being the proverbial fly on the wall, or feeling uncomfortable in the wake of large social events? Am I a fake if my mental model is happiness and good cheer, but sometimes exhibit whiney-fuss tendencies?  
  
I believe I am cheerful, but there are those who perceive me as a complainer. I consider myself an introvert and somewhat clumsy at social interaction, and there are those who see me as extroverted. Examples of these kinds of paradoxes are many and varied. I would venture to guess that if I made an illustration of how I see myself and a group of family and friends collectively made an illustration of how I am seen, the results would be two entirely different pictures!*



“For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) I have pondered this scriptural passage, and have discussed its layers of meaning and application with family members and friends. It appears in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians at the end of a description of charity—that quality of character, that pure love—that Christ embodied and exemplified, and that is at the pinnacle of His teachings, for without it, He tells us, we are nothing.  

Christ by Karen C. Kindrick Cox

Perhaps I am a fake and a fraud, but I don’t think so. I think it is a matter of perception, which is often flawed. I think there is some kind of middle ground on which I’m standing—the middle ground of Intent and Faith. If I stand there, then I must allow that others stand there, as well, even if I can’t see them with my limited vision.


We are such harsh judges of ourselves. I believe it is best to look for the good in others, and to recognize the good in oneself, to allow for imperfections, and to choose to believe that goodness will prevail. Seeing goodness breeds happiness and contentment. It is not blindness or falsehood. It is a choice about how to see.


Now we see through a glass, darkly.” I cannot now clearly see what I am, or how others perceive me. I cannot clearly see the results of my efforts, or my influence for good or bad. I cannot clearly see my true relationship with others.

But “then, we will see face to face.” “Then,” to me, refers to when I return Home to God who gave me life. Then, shadows of misunderstanding will disperse. I will see without clouded glass, without blurry, dark and tainted perceptions. I will see clearly, distinctly and thoroughly. I will see and understand all the thinking and feelings (my own, and those of others) that have influenced my choices and judgments—both good and bad. All the facades, fears and foibles that have prevented me from understanding the truth as it really is will dissipate. I will see truth in its glory, and will understand and know without falseness that blinds, sharpness that mars, or vague shadows and doubts. Now, I only know tiny particles of all the truth around me because of the limitations imposed by my experiences, biases and environment, by traditions and narrow histories, by physicality and mortality.

But “then, I shall know even as I am also known.” Then, I will understand.

Then, what I am is what you will see, and what I see is what is true in you.



I look forward to that perfect day.


© Copyright July 1, 2014

*After I wrote the first draft of this post, I discovered a wonderful little video (only 3 minutes long) about this very thing. Please click this link to watch the Dove Real Beauty Sketches video.