Revisiting “Shoes”

If you’re not a regular follower of my blog, you can find the link to my original post, “Shoes”, by clicking here


It’s now been three years since I had the last major surgery on my right leg in June 2010. Although I feel that my leg will always be a source worry, I think that the range of motion, scars, nerve sensation, and general muscle strength that I have now will be fairly stable going forward. After three years, I don’t think that I can expect much more in terms of recovery.

In the past year, I have struggled with avascular necrosis (AVN for short) impacting the bones in my foot. I have worn Danskos almost exclusively for 10 months, and most of the sharp pain has diminished. I’m left with minor aches and the general feeling of having a stone in my shoe where a joint has collapsed. 

When I moved into my house, I put all of my high heels in the closet in the guest bedroom. I felt that having the shoes in there kept them out of sight for the majority of the time – and therefore less of a reminder of what used to be – but they were present enough to make me hope for the time where I could wear them again. 

Tonight I realized that today is just mere days after the three year anniversary of a surgery that left me with an incision from my knee to below my ankle. I went into the guest bedroom and looked at my heels. I wondered what I should do with them, then decided that I should try them on. I tried on my favorite night-out-on-the-town shoes first, and quickly discovered that I no longer have the control to fit my foot into the shoes. My “bad” toe bent uncomfortably in the shoes, and I had no way of fixing it. Next, I tried on a pair of shoes that I frequently wore to work on days where I knew I was going to have a meeting or important event. Those shoes had a modest, inch-and-a-half heel, and while not the most comfortable, they were manageable. I continued trying on all of my heels, and came to the conclusion that my days of wearing 3″ stilettos were behind me. I no longer have the strength in my foot, muscle control in my toe, and general flexibility to walk in those shoes. 

I sat in the floor, surrounded by shoes that serve as a very tangible tie to my past, and wondered what I should do. I began sorting the shoes into two piles: one pile of shoes that I felt had a modest heel that could probably be worn for short periods of time while I was mostly sitting (like out to dinner), and a second pile of shoes that I knew I would never be able to wear again. 

I put the latter pile into a bag and texted my cousin. She’s about to turn 18, just graduated from high school, and is venturing into the college world. I so vividly remember that summer between high school and college – it was so full of excitement and preparation, nerves and adrenaline, wonder and anticipation. I remember that I had everything figured out – I knew exactly where I was going to college, how long it would take me to graduate, and what I would do after graduation. I knew that I wanted to get married and have babies (not that I think that’s what every person should do, it’s just what I wanted for myself). I remember having a plan and a timeline, and having the hope and excitement that comes with both.

My cousin, who I am so proud of, is now experiencing that same summer. I decided that I would give her the heels that I can no longer wear. The dreams and aspirations that I had the summer between high school and college have grown and changed so many times in the six years since. The shoes that I wore for a couple of years before Behcet’s changed me no longer fit the life that I have made for myself today. But, a whole new world is opening up for my cousin, and I want to pass along something to her that meant so much to me.

In the end, it’s not about the shoes at all. It’s about growth and the realization that I don’t have to go back to where I was; I can dream a new set of dreams. The innocence of youth may be gone, but the freedom of letting go is at my fingertips.

The Go-Bag and the Manila Envelope

I left work early today and have the rare privilege of not having any scheduled activities for the weekend. It’s not often that I get a weekend to myself to just be and enjoy my house, but usually once every couple of months a weekend like this rolls around. I typically spend my time catching up on non-work-related-reading, cleaning out my DVR, and doing some deep-cleaning by going through closets and cabinets. 

Tonight, I found myself cleaning out my entry-way closet. I store my cardigans and jackets there, along with gift wrap and the vacuum. On the top shelf sits a pink bag with my initials monogramed onto it. I believe I received it as a high school graduation gift, but it may have come into my possession some other way. This is my go-bag. Every few months, I check the go-bag to ensure that the toothpaste hasn’t leaked, the clothes still fit, and it has shoes appropriate for the season inside.

Twice I have found myself being admitted to the hospital through the emergency surgery route. Both times I was helplessly unprepared for a hospital stay, resulting in my mom or my friends going through my possessions and attempting to collect life’s little necessities. Now, I keep a little pink bag with all of the necessary items in a space that would be easy for anyone to pick up and bring to the hospital.

I have not been hospitalized for more than a day since early 2011, a fact that I am most grateful for and attribute completely to the careful watch of my doctors. However, each time I open my closet, I am reminded of the fact that on any given day, I could be reminding someone I love where the go-bag resides. Those who come into my home and hang up their jackets rarely ask anymore what is inside the bag – they’re all well-versed in my crisis plan and know the steps that must be taken should I end up not coming home one night.

Also in the top of my closet lies a manila envelope. This envelope contains information for a life insurance policy that I carry for myself, my power-of-attorney and living will, and a letter to two of my uncles. I have not yet been able to steel myself to write letters to my parents, brother, or close friends. Instead, I decided to write two letters to two of my uncles, leaving them instructions for carrying out my last wishes should the unthinkable happen.

These weighty topics are not those that most 23 year olds have ever given much thought to, but these are issues that I consider even at times when my health is at its best. Occasionally, I will glance at the bag and envelope and realize how far I have come since my health was in dire straights in 2010. Other times, I will glance at the items and feel resentful for the fact that I have to take such precautions. Either way, I want to be ready for what life throws at me next. Being prepared makes me feel like I have more control over what happens next and is a coping strategy that I find comforting and meaningful. So, until the seasons change again, I am ready.