Monday Motivation: What Shoes Are You Wearing?
Recovery is a journey. It is a path; a winding, bumpy, unpredictable, scary, unpaved road. We must walk it step by step, one day at a time. That is what I tell everyone I talk to. There is no rush in recovery. There is no right or wrong way to walk. Every day will be different. There will be a new obstacle to overcome, a new challenge to face, a different level of motivation. That is what makes recovery so scary; it is full of the unknown. We do not know what to expect, and that is daunting. In a disorder where we are fighting for control and stability and to keep emotions calm, this process of recovery is fighting against that. It is doing daily what frightens us, doing opposite of what we know, ignoring the negative thoughts that have dictated us, making choices for authenticity and health which we previously denied ourselves to do. The hardest decision is to determine whether or not to put on a pair of shoes and begin walking the path. Once you do that, you have to commit to wearing them every day. But let me tell you, every day, every moment will not have the same pair. In recovery, you are going to have a closet full of shoes to choose from.
I have a close friend who I always would every day what shoes she was wearing. Yes, I do have a shoe obsession but that has nothing to do with my question. It isn’t me feeding into my love or imagining from her answer what new pair I should buy next. I ask her to gauge how she is feeling that day, where she is in terms of her recovery. This organically started one day and caught on. It sparked a new way for me to connect, to help, to be a support. In recovery, we do not always know what we are feeling. In many cases, the eating disorder/struggles was our way of suppressing our emotions. In doing so, we almost forget how to express ourselves, what sensations we feel are linked to different emotions. We struggle to vocalize our feelings or even know what they are. We can tell our thoughts and our actions but not so much as how those correlate to our emotions. What are we feeling that caused us to use a behavior or not use one? What are we feeling that brought on those obsessive thoughts? This shoe practice is my way of getting people to connect to their emotions. By determining the shoes of the day or the moment, I can decipher through their choice their feelings. Each pair correlates with an emotion without one even consciously connecting the two. Our recovery shoes display a lot about us and what we are going through physically, emotionally, and mentally.
I have compiled a list of my recovery shoes and the reasons for each. I have a wide array to accommodate the ups and downs of recovery, the ebb and flow of motivation, the unpredictable journey. I always need to be prepared for whatever may arise on the path.
MY RECOVERY SHOES
Stilettos-For the days where you want to move forward with grace, beauty, and confidence but are shuffling. You are a bit unsteady, trying to get used to little holding you up. You are making small steps but a bit shaky in the process. It is scary and unfamiliar to be high up, but you are determined to move even if you fall.
Sneakers-For the days of making small steps fast. You want to run a marathon in recovery and accomplish a lot at one time, a series of small changes that will add up to get you far.
Moon shoes-For the days you are committing to making huge changes, bouncing far, springing forward in the journey. You are ready for a big change that will bring you multiple steps ahead in one big leap.
Flats-For the days you are walking comfortably at a steady pace with normal sized steps. You are maintaining a stride and sticking to changes you previously made. There are no dramatic ups or downs. It is a time dedicated to preparing yourself for an upcoming change and resting up, conserving energy for what is to come. They are helping you become acquainted with where you are before embarking on the next big thing. The flats are the calm before the storm.
Pointe shoes-For the days where changes are absolutely painful and straining to make. The changes don’t look like they are moving you far and may seem fruitless yet they put a toll on you and test your strength. While seeming to not progress much, walking in the shoes is developing a tremendous level of stamina in you to help you endure future changes. They are building in you a strength you didn’t even knew you could possess. Outwardly it may not seem like much but inwardly it is making huge changes in you.
Boots (the ones you wear when you sprain an ankle)-For the days you want to move forward but need more support and structure. You cannot trust yourself with flexibility or you will slip and hurt yourself. You need something to hold you up as you walk to prevent a lapse. When you are feeling weak or vulnerable, this is what to put on to keep you safe.
Rain boots-For the days of storms, the days in life when it is one challenge after the next, one trial after another. It seems like the clouds will never close up to stop the downpour. But regardless of the rain, you know you have to keep walking and moving forward. You are determined to not let anything stop you from recovery. Puddles will be everywhere trying to distract you, but you have to continue walking. Whatever life throws at you, you are determined to not give up.
Jelly shoes-For the days of being a kid again. You want to make decisions for genuine happiness and to help you connect to the innocence and peace of childhood. It is about having fun and doing what your inner child loves, being carefree and spontaneous.
Skis-For the days you are making strides in recovery with support, those being the poles to keep you upright and balanced. You know you have to rely on others to move you far. You have to sacrifice some control and hand over some of your decisions and care to others. This will allow you to save up your energy, make the changes less strenuous, and help you focus on other aspects of recovery that need your attention. It takes time and practice to be able to tend to all facets of recovery so skis help you until that skill is better mastered. You can get more done at one time because of the help.
Sandals-For the days of great ambivalence. You are teetering between wanting to be free and being confined. You are split in two so you are making decisions based on being torn between two desires; not fully committing but not completely giving up either. You are up and down emotionally and mentally.
Crocs (and this is based off of my strong dislike for these shoes)-For the days you make decisions that you are not proud of because of your thoughts being overwhelming strong and urges being extremely intense. You seem to be going against recovery in your actions. Despite how hideous they are and how much you do not like wearing them, they are comfortable. There is no shame in these days of wearing the crocs. There is only an opportunity to change and learn so you do not make the mistake twice.
Tap shoes-For the days you feel you are not moving on the path despite using up all your energy. You are making frantic movements in the same place, looking like you are not going anywhere to the world, but internally you are fighting hard which nobody can see because you are staying in one spot. You are not moving back and you are not moving forward. You are moving in place, kicking up dust desperately determined to make some progress if only by not slipping back. You are fighting to stay focused and on the path. You are making noise trying to get people to pay attention, to look over and see the struggle and offer help. You are using up more energy trying to be acknowledged than in making the next step in recovery because you are scared what is next.
Slippers-For the days you are IN recovery, fully embracing the process. You are finally at a place of comfort, where life and recovery are not such an effort, where smiling isn’t a chore but a natural action. You are truly free and living your dreams. You have walked the most treacherous parts of the path and are now devising a plan for paving a new road where fantasies meet reality. You are aware of your emotions and feeling in control. You are at peace and learning to relax and enjoy life.
These are the shoes of my recovery. Nobody and nothing can adequately describe or prepare one for this walk. Words do not do justice to the amount of work, pain, struggle, frustration, and exhaustion that ensues with recovery. It is without a doubt the most difficult thing I will ever endure in my life, but with the appropriate shoes, it is possible. It is a process that takes time and patience and every ounce of your strength. But I have complete faith that it will all be worth it and all my efforts will pay off. I will let nobody tell me differently. No matter how much the anorexia wants me to believe otherwise, I refuse to give up and stop trying. I will prove it wrong. I will get up every day and put shoes on my feet and keep walking. Each step forward down this path brings me something new and beautiful. Recovery is a journey. For me, I have learned it is not about the destination as much as the walk to get there. I know there will be stumbling and changing of shoes constantly. I know that there will be unexpected potholes and barriers on the path that will lead me to have to readjust and switch out the pair I am wearing. But I am embracing the process. I am accepting the journey and all that it will bring. I am coming to terms with what recovery entails. It is that which gives me the strength, hope, love, happiness, teaches me valuable lessons, and helps me grow so I can fully appreciate a life in recovery. It is the journey that is making me who I am today and reconstructing Jenna to be a fortress in the world. This journey, however long and arduous, is giving me the experience to share with others. It is making life beauty full.
Love, light, and bravery, J.L.