Say that you are going to a party, or going to the mall, or to visit your old aunt who is failing. Say that you are going to a new place, somewhere you have never been before and you don’t know what to wear. You put on the usual dress, the one you’ve worn so many times, perhaps it is beginning to fray a little, but never mind. What shoes will you wear this time?
You look at all the shoes you have collected over the past ten years. You know, the black work high heels, the sling backs. The sparkly shoes for the wedding, the strappy sandals for the summer. The boots, high heeled and low, hiding in the back of closet peek out too. And the old comfortable sneakers, the ones with the holes in the toes that are just right, wink.
What shoes will you wear this time? This is not about shoes. Or at least, not only about shoes. Marie Louise van Franz reminds us that shoes represent the standpoint, the attitude towards the outer world. It is the persona that shows the world how you navigate it, how well or not well you are grounded and oriented to the world and your place in it. The shoes we put on show us to the world and the way we see the world to ourselves. So what shoes do we wear now that fit the world?
The outer and inner world reality is that we are at a crossroads in time, where old attitudes and beliefs about who we are and what the world is no longer fit just right. I can tell you I am no longer comfortable navigating the world as though I were wearing my usual high heels. The world I walked on before November was filled with the certainty that reason, restraint, awareness, and hope would prevail. That women and a feminine consciousness would rise and help change the world. Rape culture, misogyny, racism, all the other isms would be revealed and repealed. I loved those shoes.
But standing in the comfort of an elevated attitude, my high heels, kept me from seeing the groundswell of discontent, mistrust, pain and distress of others who I didn’t take seriously. That was a grave mistake and one I cannot afford to make again. Much is shifting all over the world and much is shifting inside of me and my friends as we try to make sense of what to do, how to do it and how to nourish ourselves for the tasks ahead. We gather in video chat platforms on Saturday mornings or afternoons, shoes off, on the couch, and lean in to one another. We share stories of pain and joy, surprise and despair, hope and anger. We are not without some kind of map. The way is contained in ancient and universal rituals that have held us in times of uncertainty and fear. Community. Friendship. The knowledge that grace bats last. That we must love one another or die. That we are deeply related to one another, to the ones who came before and suffered and survived and thrived even in the darkest of times.
Perhaps the kind of shoes needed for this next part of what comes next are comfortable, low-heeled shoes. Close to the ground shoes. Comfortable shoes that will carry us a long way without wearing out. Heels that don’t teeter. We add them to our closet, let them keep company with the frilly and fancy, the fine and the familiar. And the new shoes don’t have to be brown, they don’t have to be somber, they can be red!