When I was in rehab, we were divided into groups, rotating through programs designed to seize on the opportunity of our captivity, for the purpose of life skills training. That is, developing the skills to live. One’s age should never be misconstrued with one’s ability to live life on life’s terms. Grown up addicts of substance, behaviour and/or thing—of every ilk—doctors, lawyers and ditch diggers; grammas, gurus and heads of state; priests, pundits and the entire car manufacturing industry engaged at one point or another during the 28 day stay, in designing the “perfect shoe” with a box of crayons as one’s personal “toolkit.” Just how low had I set the bar; how scrambled had my brain cells become?
I fancy myself to be fairly adept in the metaphor department. Apparently though, this gift was on hiatus as I attempted to find some depth of meaning in this seemingly patronizing exercise, along with the 120 minutes lost, never to be retrieved to my creation of the green shoe. At the juncture of my recovery and my shoe stood 4 solid days of sobriety. I had not had a drink for 96 hours just four hours shy of triple digits, for the first time in 40 years. And to celebrate this monumental countdown, I was coloring on construction paper in a classroom with my peers.
It would not be clear until much later, the significance the green shoe would have on my recovery. The shoe itself could have been purple, red or a nice sensible taupe. Green became the choice of protest—who wears green shoes? Unless the feet inside those shoes belong to soldiers dressed in camouflage gear. This was sheer encouragement to colour outside the lines. I too could be a soldier. I was in an epic battle of my own shoe colour choice.
My shoe. Given the circumstances, I opted for practical, thinking that “AHA, this then, must be what they’re after!” Dorothy’s ruby slippers were on my mind—the one’s that take you home from wherever you are, with just a tap tap tap of your heels. Yes. This had to be it. Mostly because I never knew where home happen to be. Perhaps my shoe could be designed to take me there? That ephemeral place of existence without real estate or possessions, where time lives in the nanosecond of being present now and ether produced from surrender becomes the spirit fuelling the booties on their quest. I kept the magic of her slippers—the sound of her glass bound feet tinkling amidst the silent peril of a melted witch—but ditched the preciousness. Nothing employed to raise the foot above the surface of the earth and made from materials impermeable to environmental obstacles. More like a tank slipper, destined to take me places I had not yet entertained. Truly, Dorothy’s journey could have been much easier, had her slippers been appropriate to the terrain. I am learning from Dorothy’s mistakes?
I understood the unpredictability of my topography and that is all I knew, pondering my stupid shoe. “What would it take to take me where I want and need to go” I asked myself, while making my stupid shoe. I will make my shoe do what I cannot do. It will transport me, that stupid shoe.
My shoe: Her most salient characteristics included being totally flat with tiny suction cups attached to the four corners of the sole. The shoe was capable of astro-projecting to an altitude of about 6 feet—a realistic distance for by passing a difficult portage. She had a powerful LED headlight powered by the sun (because who wears shoes at night?) with the capacity to repel water. She could be programmed to lead or follow—with her own internal circuit breaker, to circumvent a catastrophic programming error.
By all counts, she was one spiffy shoe: a hoofer of hill and dale, a navigator, a foot shelter, an anchor to earth, able to ground on a dime, pirouette with grace, skate on hot water, and stop me from losing my shit. As in full stop. The power to take me where I needed to go and rein me in when I was off track. Just how cool would that be?
So I’m into the shoe, a little bit—more conceptually than artistically rendered because I cannot draw worth shit. And as I ponder the issue of laces, I am directed by a fleeting thought to a slogan I heard the day before: “your brain will kill you, your feet will save you,” a simple recovery expression with entendres of meaning if you think about it. But in just that moment, I realized I was developing a relationship with my feet. Those appendages, without which, the whole shebang has no balance, no foundation and no stability. When you can’t stand on your own two feet, the universe lets you know, sometimes quickly but more likely in the slow, contemptuous erosion of self I experienced. The brain, with all its fancy shmancy circuitry doesn’t get much of a rest, unless it is a focused exercise of intention or conscious surrender. Neither of which came naturally to me. Nor did the realization I was in said dilemma until that particular point in the shoes’ evolution.
About 75 minutes into this, I am grooving on my shoe and the promise of where it will take me. I actually know that there IS a way through this slog and it is somehow related to my feet. Unbeknownst to me, by the 100th hour of my sobriety, I had begun the process of Samskara: integrating new intuitive goals, purpose and mission with the shoes that no longer served my feet.
My shoe: Was designed for action. It was soft enough to cradle me, tough enough to straddle frack cracks in the universe. She had the ability to watch the rear while facing forward; to hold space in enemy territory. She supported me and led me to places I did not know I was going. That shoe was a moat between foot and roadmap.
Never mind that this brutal task actually involved impugning a shoe with supernatural powers—those traits and qualities I determined at the 100th hour of sobriety, essential to the endgame of living “happy joyous and free”—in hindsight, it was at this confluence of My shoe and My recovery that a yoga practice was born. If only I could harness the spirit of hope I gave to the shoe?! That shoe would be going places! If only. If. Only. Only if. Only if I do something. Ohhhhhhh. The leap from conceptual to actual. I made a conscious decision to surrender my brain to my feet and listen with my heart; all of which seemed ass backward. I mean, really? You cannot make this stuff up. It took me 6 months of walking with my new feet before I found the perfect shoe in those very grooves where my hands and feet meet me at heart center. I am the warrior, now. And looking backward from a place of sobriety I wonder how it could ever have turned out differently better? How would I have known what I needed to do had I not been compelled to create the perfect stupid shoe?
I would never walked into a yoga studio of my own volition had I not been a drunk in the vulnerable throes of early detox designing a recovery infrastructure in the form of a shoe leading me to a place of unprecedented personal peace. Who knew?
If the shoe fits, wear it!