It’s ME awareness week and for lots of us that means shoes! At protests all around the world today and tomorrow, people are laying out shoes sent to them by people who are missing from life because of ME. Others post pictures of their shoes from home. It may not seem immediately obvious why, or maybe it just seems like a clever way of representing people visually, and it is. But to those of us who send them, and to those who carry them out for us, they are more.
You have a funny relationship with shoes when you don’t go out. I haven’t bought new shoes in years, because I so rarely wear them. I still need them for the few times I do go out, and because it would feel very odd not to have shoes at all, even if they never end up on my feet!
And I lose them … all my shoes are lost. They get buried under the shoes that are worn by other, more intrepid feet, or put away somewhere sensible, so long ago that I can’t remember where.
Some have migrated to the toy box – a cot for a tiny bear or a boat for a Sylvanian family. High heels live in the dressing up box with princess dresses and fairy wings, and other improbable far away wonders.
When I do find a pair, they’re usually from the wrong season. Flip flops at Christmas time, or winter boots in July. The seasons have changed several times since I last needed footwear. When I put shoes on I invariably have to dust them off first.
They’re just a pair of shoes. But winter boots on the hottest day of the year, sandles in the snow, the rummage and the hunt for a pair because I’m going out and I have no idea when or where I last had some; out of date shoes, old tired shoes, hardly worn shoes, hiking boots, running shoes and high heels. They are each a reminder of everything I’ve missed and am missing.
It’s why the images of all these shoes is so haunting to me. I don’t know what they look like to the outside world. Just a load of shoes, maybe, but they speak to us. They speak to me. They cry out.
I have kept all my shoes. They are scattered around, hiding in dusty corners seemingly forgotten and redundant. But I keep them all. Because they aren’t only what I’m missing, they are also what I’m hoping for. They are who I was and who I am, and who I hope one day to be again.