These are my shoes. There isn’t anything particularly remarkable about them, except that I find them extraordinarily comfortable.
When I was home in St. Louis for my brother’s funeral I spent a lot of time with my family. I made a decision, or maybe circumstances pressed me, to really enjoy the time with them. I tried to appreciate each minute I had with these people who had shaped, for good and ill, the person I am today. Some of these people I see once a year now, if that.
Growing up I always felt like I stuck out. Perhaps because I was often told so. With a mix of humor and love and exasperation some members of my family (not my parents, thank goodness) tried to keep me to the narrow way of thinking and living that they felt comfortable with. I come from a family of fairly anxious, conservative people. Some were not particularly comfortable with how I dressed, acted, thought, who I was friends with or what I wanted to do with my life. They weren’t cruel, but they did pressure me to be more like them. It was hard for me to understand as a child and a young person. Luckily I was just stubborn enough to not listen to them, to jut my chin out and say, “I’m awesome just the way I am.” Of course the problem was that that was what I told them, but inside I worried that they were right. I fretted about not fitting in and I felt like I was, on some level, rejecting my family.
Well, when I was home my step-sister made quite a to-do about my shoes and how weird they were and how they looked like slippers and what was wrong with me and how ridiculous these “young people” were with their weird shoes, etc. etc. (Keep in mind that she is younger than me by 4 years and went on this tirade while wearing a stained beer logo tshirt)
It was very familiar. Something her mom might have said to me when I was younger. And I was very aware of the reactions I might have had 30 or even 10 years ago, but … nothing. I just didn’t care what she thought about it. I laughed and said they were comfortable and I thought they were cute, but I didn’t really engage and it wasn’t to cover up being upset. I just … wasn’t. My only feeling was just a touch of sadness that she is trapped by some rigid and not particularly helpful rules for living.
It was a big moment for me: realizing I can love my family, recognize what makes them good, but not feel any need to conform to their ideas. I have always known this logically, but, at least at the moment, I also can live it.