Thursday, June 26, 2014

Changing my shoes

          It's a great time to buy winter footwear at a deep discount and recently I've found a couple pairs of stellar boots around town.  But in a few months, when garden season sets in, I'll be in flip flops.  Here's a repeat of a blog I wrote in 2014 for my friend, Zee, who always reminds me of the power in changing my shoes.

"Changing my shoes"
Originally published on  June 26, 2014

My grandmother used to have a tiny plaque hanging on the kitchen wall that said, Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins.  When I was young, I thought the quote meant that before I passed judgment on someone else, I needed to see things from their perspective.  In time I would grow to interpret it another way.
Walking a mile takes me about ten to fifteen minutes, depending on the weather, my energy level, and motivation.  Even if I wore someone else's shoes that were too small, too big, the heels too high, or the soles worn through, I'd be quickly rid of the experience.  No matter what, I can make quick work of 5,280 feet.  But can we ever really re-live a person's past -- the collective experiences that make a person who he or she is today?  And would we be able to move through them in same way as they have?
Each one of us approaches life from our own perceptions.  We often see events unfold as we are -- not necessarily as they truly are.   We may not have all the information before we jump to conclusions.  Or we may wait too long before acting and a door inevitably closes.  We may make the same choices over and over again without regard to the consequences.  Or perhaps we're too careful and over-think every darn thing until we're paralyzed. 
So who's to say that if I try to see someone's life as if I were walking in their shoes that I wouldn't color it with my own interpretation of how they might feel or think or what they embody through their circumstances? 

I can understand what it's like to be single.  To be a yoga instructor.  To be a writer.  If anyone's had similar circumstances, I can certainly imagine what it's like to walk in their shoes.  But I've lived long enough to know that even if I listen with an open heart and strive to empathize with someone, I can't truly know what it's like to be in their skin or to have lived the entirety of their lives and understand how the thread of each experience has woven the tapestry of who they are today.  
We're all going through for me, it's best to practice kindness.
As I delve into publicizing my work this summer, television interviews are in the wings as are infinite possibilities for sharing my novels and memoir with the world.  While I'm more than happy to walk down this road of momentum, I'm also aware that not everyone will resonate with my style...and that's okay with me.  They may read my memoir and make snap judgments about the choices I've made, the stories I've chosen to reveal.  They may be surprised by some of the things I've experienced -- or not experienced -- as I've walked many miles in shoes unfamiliar...even to myself.  
People will judge me no matter what I wear.  What I say.  How I speak.  And that's alright.  After all, I'm working on letting go of my judgments, too.  It takes time.  In starting with myself, in letting go of the criticism I heaped on my head like hot coals for years and years, I've come to understand that we all are a product of where we came from, where we are now, and the choices we're making that will create our future.

A couple of years ago I dreamed that I had just gotten married to Mick Jagger and we were on the way to the reception.  (Get the lyrical drift?)  I was wearing a white gown, but as I looked down,  I saw that I was also wearing a pair of tattered shoes I had donned when I made a dicey decision that haunted me for years afterward.
"I didn't mean to wear these,"  I cried.  "I'm so sorry I dragged that crap into our marriage."
"Don't worry about it, Kate," Mick smiled.  "Just change your shoes."
So I tossed off the faded floral flip flops and slipped into a pair of snazzy red sandals.  Then we headed off to a new life.  Once again I was reminded that I can't always get what I want...but I always get what I need.  Since that time, I've learned that it's never too late to change my shoes, particularly if the old ones are worn and faded.
And these days, I prefer to go barefoot.