By Patti Samar
In 1991, John Engler fired me.
Okay, that is not exactly true.
He wasn’t brave enough to come by my office and do it himself. 😉
In 1991, then-Michigan Governor John Engler sent one of his minions to the office where I worked in Lansing, and Mr. Minion told our entire staff – including our boss, a gubernatorial appointee of out-going Governor James Blanchard – that we were all being released from our nice, cushy state jobs.
Work for a gubernatorial appointee, change governors, and look at what happens? You get the boot.
On the first day of my layoff, I sat down on the floor of the walk-in closet of my bedroom and I “arranged” my dress shoes. Obsessively. And, the thing is, back then, I probably owned a grand total of 15 pairs of shoes, if that. But, those shoes? They were all perfectly aligned, not one toe or heel out of alignment with the others.
I arranged them by color, from white and light taupe to black. Flats to heels.
I was 27-years-old and though it was early in my working career, I’d had a job since I was a senior in high school. I took a great deal of pride in my work and in pleasing my supervisors. It had never occurred to me that someone would one day tell me, “Don’t come back to work here anymore,” even if it was through no fault of my own.
I hadn’t thought of any of this in almost 30 years until, a few weekends ago, I found myself obsessively straightening out the shoes in my shoe closet.
When I was done, the shoes were all neatly straightened out and organized, with the sparkly dress shoes, usually reserved for formal nights out, on the top shelf, followed by a shelf full of Patti’s Practical Black Booties and Shoes, and then a shelf full of colorful high heeled pumps that I often wear to dress up a work outfit.
A fourth shelf holds a collection of dressy summer sandals.
While in the process of organizing and straightening out my shoes, I found several pairs that had never been worn. As I slipped my foot, Cinderella-like, into a pair of brand new, never-worn beautiful sparkly rose-gold strappy stiletto sandals, I wondered, “When will I EVER get to wear these? When?”
With the onset of this global pandemic, it has occurred to me, on a daily basis, how very fortunate I am. My husband and I are fortunate in that we are not in a position where we do not worry about how we will eat. We are not worried about losing our beautiful home that is more than adequate in size; we are not stuck in a small structure with no place to escape from one another during moments of, ahem, inevitable marital tension that can only come from spending 24/7 together during a pandemic.
We are certainly not lonely. 😉
Our blessings are many, and that weighs heavy on my mind when I think of the hundreds of thousands of people in the United States alone who are in any number of financial or food crisis situations.
Or, worse yet, those losing loved ones, or their own lives, as a result of this pandemic.
So, I stood there, in front of my shoe closet, staring at the beautiful rose gold strappy stiletto on my foot, feeling ashamed.
I’m ashamed that I own such a beautiful, and yet so unnecessary, item, while others have so much less.
I’m ashamed that this beautiful pair of shoes sits in my closet, unworn. Why didn’t I spend that money contributing to a worthy nonprofit?
And I’m also frustrated with myself: Why didn’t I ever wear those shoes? I remember when I bought them, thinking, “These will dress up or dress down! I could wear them with an evening gown or a cute blouse and a pair of blue jeans.”
And yet, I didn’t.
Every time I saw them in the closet, I thought, “No, not tonight..it’s not a special occasion.” Or, “Nooo…I shouldn’t…I don’t want to scuff them up.”
But what the heck am I waiting for?
If I’m going to allow myself the luxury of buying sparkly, fancy shoes, I’m damn well going to start wearing them. I do not want to die – from Coronavirus or anything else – with a closet full of beautiful, sparkly unworn shoes. If they go unworn, what joy did they bring me? (Cue Marie Kondo…)
And, if I am not receiving joy from the items that fill my overly abundant home, then shame on me for the indulgence.
My takeaway from the pandemic is this: Over the next couple of years, as we begin to move toward gathering in groups, both small and large, EVERY occasion is reason to wear the damn sparkly shoes.
A night out on the town with friends? Sparkly shoes. Date night with my husband? Sparkly shoes. Meeting with a client? Sparkly shoes.
Who cares if I scuff them up?
Almost 20 years ago, when I started racing on a sailboat called RUM, the owners had laminated and taped up on the bulkhead a Hunter S. Thompson quote:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
I believe they took liberty with the quote and added “beer” and “pizza” in there somewhere, but the sentiment was the same. Race after race, I saw that quote down below, and week after week, every summer for 12 years, I decided that was exactly how I wanted to live my life, however long – or short – it turns out to be.
I recently sat here at my desk, during a dark, momentary lapse from my usual “power of positive thinking” mode, and thought to myself: “Why care about anything? I’m just going to die of Coronavirus 19 anyway!”
While that sounds extreme and overly dramatic, I really hope that is exactly what it is: overly dramatic. I just know there are more than 100,000 people in the United States who, two months ago, had probably never even heard of the Coronavirus, and certainly didn’t expect to die from it.
So, the moral of today’s story? Pretty simple:
–Give to those less fortunate than you. Everyone has something they can give, even if it is not money. You can volunteer your time. You can say “thank you” to the clerk waiting on you in the store. You can check in with elderly neighbors and friends.
–Allow yourself time to do the obsessive things, be it cleaning out the cupboards, baking, or perfectly aligning the shoes in your closet. These are not small things. When we perform these tasks, at least for me, it is one of the ways in which my mind processes great, unexpected, and somewhat traumatic, change. I learned that almost 30 years ago when I lost my job, and I’ve relearned it during a global pandemic. Allow yourself the time and space you need to cope, in your own way, with the lemons life has thrown at you.
–Make sure that whenever you arrive at the grave, and hopefully that is later, not sooner, “you skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, (eating pizza and drinking beer) thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
–Wear the damn sparkly shoes.