Saturday, September 24, 2011

Charming Shoes

One seemingly ordinary weekend afternoon, I went shopping, which was actually a bit out of the ordinary for me.  My girly-girl card may be confiscated and cut to pieces for this, but I generally don’t enjoy shopping. In fact, the word “detest” comes to mind. This may be shocking news to any who remember me from my recreational shopping days when I shopped three or four times a week. Back then, I was trying to get out of the house and away from a husband. I thought buying things would fill the emptiness in me. I know better now. 

For one thing, I know I already have far too much stuff. I could probably hang a banner outside my house and have enough clothing and housewares to run a little shop for a month or two. For another, beyond the quarterly pest treatments at the house and two random visits by the cute guy who used to live next door, I rarely have people over. This means there is no sense of needing to impress anyone. No need for the latest and greatest kitchen gadget, toothbrush holder, scented candle or hostessing outfit. In the nearly four years I have lived in my house, I’ve had exactly two parties, so it’s not like I am competing for the Martha Stewart home entertainment award. Fact: New Year’s Eve 2011 will be the fourth anniversary of the same bottle of champagne living in the lower right bin of the refrigerator.

Given my absence of house guests, already excessive wardrobe, and lack of need concerning basic living accoutrements, why would I invest my precious time and risk the potential of being hypnotized by some retailer’s Muzak system lulling me into shelling out money I don’t have for things I don’t need?

Like I was saying, it was unusual that I was shopping. The place I was shopping, however, was completely usual for me -- Goodwill. People thinkI am kidding whenI say it, but Goodwill is my first choice for shopping in Clarksville. Yes, the mall here is THAT pathetic and overstocked with disposable clothes clearly intended for one wearing as evidenced by their propensity to disintegrate in the washer the first time through. The TJ Maxx in Clarksville is the smallest I’ve seen in the five American cities resided in during my adult life. Since the flood of May 2010 there has been no Opry Mills with my beloved Gap and Nine West Outlet stores, so yes, shopping here stinks and I am almost exclusively a Goodwill gal.

This one particular day, I must have had a lot of time on my hands, because I was wandering all over the place, way beyond the usual skirts and tops for work section, and the “I don’t really need more jeans but these are cute and only $8” rack, and and even paid attention to the shoes, a category I tend to ignore because I already have some decent hookups for inexpensive shoes.

If you know me, you might have guessed that there is a tiny chance I have too many pairs of shoes to count. I have not figured out how to make the abacus go that high,  or maybe I just don’t want to know. The last time I took an inventory (many residential moves ago), I had 150 pairs of footwear (including specialty footwear like snow boots and hiking boots, but not counting super specialty footwear like ski boots). Family members vowed to never again help me move my household due to my excessive holdings of books, clothing and footwear. Ignorance may be bliss on this one, unless I can convert the unworn footwear to cold cash.

But there I was, cruising the shoe racks, when I spotted them. Amazing blue croc-textured shoes with squared toes, bearing a garish orange price tag proclaiming the price to be $5. It was a plunge into instant adoration. With me and retail, the lower the price, the deeper the love.  A wistful sigh escaped my lips. Or maybe it was a gasp. I stroked the uppers and examined the soles which were barely sullied by asphalt or gravel and still seemed perilously slippery. The pale gray, pristine insoles still had cushiony cushions. The black heels bore hardly a nick nor a scuff. I was swooning. Somehow, I tore myself away and walked halfway to the checkout to clear my head. Even from half a store away, I heard the shoes whisper my name.

And suddenly, a vision of a tall, handsome, muscular man in nicely fitting dark-dyed jeans and vintage-styled, hipster shirt burst into my head. This stunner of a man, worthy of a magazine cover and as yet unknown to me, was the perfect accessory for these shoes. I returned to the shoe rack. I snatched up the shoes.  As I walked to the checkout, clutching the shoes to my bosom, I imagined the dates I would go on with the the beautiful shoes and the handsome man I didn’t happen to know yet.  And I bought them.

Here’s the good part -- they are men’s shoes. Size 10. In my date fantasy, the handsome and charming imaginary prince is wearing the shoes. It will take a special guy to pull off wearing these shoes, and that is the guy I want.

So now I have a pair of shoes, but there is no man in my real life (yet) who can fill them. But I have an idea ... a quest!  A reverse Cinderella type thing. I will find the man who fits the shoes. Granted, it will be kind of weird asking men I only recently met what size shoe they wear, and they might get a little creeped out when I pull out my pair of blue mens shoes and ask them to put them on and walk around for me. Sure, some might think I am a total whack job. But think of the stories! I can chronicle my journey for the man to fill the shoes, they can tell their buddies about the nutcase running around with the blue shoes. Everybody wins! Especially me, when I find the right man to fill the shoes.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Final Straw

This weekend may have marked a turning point. The final straw that broke this camel’s emotional back has been added to the load.

While I was frolicking by a river in Tennessee watching cardboard boat races and attending a festival in my stupid, lonely, self-absorbed little life, deliberately crowded with activity in an attempt to fill the vast, emotional emptiness, my sister was in Massachusetts receiving the shocking blow of the sudden death of her father-in-law. While I was wondering about the monumental things in my day, like whether or not the cute guy would be at the beer store and if the weather would remain nice for the rest of the festival, my mom was watching my three nieces until such time as my sister and her husband could collect them to deliver the devastating news about Pepe.

And when, save for the distance of half a country, I could be there helping in any number of ways big and small -- like watching the kids, holding a hand, making dinner, running errands or whatever it is that might need doing -- I am sitting alone (because even when surrounded by people, I am alone and that is just a fact of my life), feeling as isolated and helpless and useless to my people as I have ever been these past ten years.

When my grandmother learned she had cancer again, I was in Tennessee working a meaningless part-time job (it was all I could find) and angrily going through the motions in the marriage that was deteriorating around me -- that same marriage that I let take me so far from my family (and thus, some of the anger). My sister and Mom were dealing with ongoing doctor visits and stress and medication that may or may not be taken correctly by a stubborn woman who wanted things on her terms which meant no nursing home and a flat out refusal to live with my sister and the kids, because she didn’t want to change her lifestyle and/or be “a burden on anyone.”  They took care of Mummu and juggled their schedules and kept me from stressing about things I couldn’t help with by not telling me what was going on. When I finally got parts of the story, I tenderly cultivated a weighty crop of guilt over being the one who left and is no longer around to be helpful.

When Mummu was close to what everyone feared was the end, I finally got the awful story and swooped up to Massachusetts in time to see her in a medicated coma in the hospital, and that night she passed away and then we were making funeral plans. After a few days of actually being there for my family, I was gone again, returning to whatever trivial crap it is that I do on a regular basis.

Any time something happens back home -- whether good, bad, or indifferent -- I get the edited, condensed, sanitized version. There is little (or nothing) I can do to help with the coping or celebrating of it, anyway. This is how we function and half a country is a pretty big distance to cover, and while the florists would have us believe otherwise, lovely flowers do not really deliver all that much.

This weekend, it has hit me harder than ever that this is not the life I want. While never established that it was ever the life I ‘wanted,’ it’s definitely the one I allowed to happen. I chose to leave my family to move away with a husband, because it felt adventurous and seemed like what a new wife should do and it was logical to move into a house he already owned. When we split up four years ago it made sense to take a minute to catch my breath while I figured out what would come next. Yes, it was the perfect time for going home to family, and there were people who were surprised I didn’t, but the “back” in “going back home” tasted like neediness, weakness, failure and defeat, and that is not a stew I enjoy. I am supposed to be the strong and self-sufficient one, a false construct erected entirely to justify myself to myself.

And the fact remains, in four years, I really haven’t started breathing again and I definitely haven’t done any figuring. The only conscious thing I’ve done is (over)fill my life with activity so I don’t have time to deal with the hard stuff like coping with my ever present loneliness; finding a new job and selling a house  in a bad economy; moving 1,200 miles on my own; letting myself feel what it’s like to be human; or even cleaning the house.

But it’s time to get real and do it. I am tired of not being there. I want to hug my sister, brother-in-law and nieces so much right now it is a physical pain, and my arms are not long enough to do it from here.