I have a pair of shoes that I will not get rid of. They are brown, low heeled with a cut-out pattern and pointed toe. They are not particularly beautiful. They are certainly not comfortable. I own very little that I can wear them with, most of my wardrobe has transitioned to black pieces and distressed jeans that I wear to work. I don't think I've worn them in close to five years. But I have kept them. I have brought them with me here to Texas. And I cried tonight when I found that my new dog has turned one of them into her chew toy. The damage was minimal, wouldn't even be noticed when worn, but I still cried. Even the smallest damage to a piece connected to a happy period of time shook me. Those things we carry, those pieces we keep, they too will be lost, they will be forgotten, just like the memory of the time when they came to us.
Those shoes were the first things I bought when I lived in England. I remember showing up to the first bar we could find, my roommate and I, on our first night in our new city. It was raining, typical English weather, and we had worn sweatshirts, tennis shoes and jeans. Our hair was pulled back in pony tails. I don't think either of us were wearing any make up. We stuck out instantly, and not in a good way. The girls there were all like painted birds, fanning around in velvet heels, impossibly high skirts and immaculately curled and smooth hair impenetrable to the humidity outside. We drank our beers quickly and left, hunkered down in the rain, feeling every bit like the ugly Americans we hoped we weren't.
The next day I went shopping. I had to find something or some things that would allow me entrance into the world of not only culture and sophistication and history, but the world of bars and men and flirting. I needed to gain access to the other side. I needed shoes. And there they were. They were perfect, fit, and cost much less than I expected them to. I was wearing those shoes when I met the first man I would ever fall in love with. I was wearing them when I went to Thanksgiving dinner that the university threw for us Americans away from the extravagant spreads at home. I wore those shoes everywhere. And they hurt, they pinched my toes after an hour or two walking around Covent Garden looking at all the fairy lights in the window displays and Christmas decorations strung up from the ceilings. But I learned to ignore the pinching, balance on one foot and then the other. Drink until the pain was nothing more than a dull ache and the least of my worries.
The man I loved in England, I tried to bring here, to the states. He stayed for a long weekend. But he wasn't the same person I fell in love with there, I wasn't the same person I fell in love with there. Because, you see, it wasn't just him that I was happy with. I did not meet him in a vacuum devoid of other factors or people or experiences. The allure of him, the appeal to him, was so much more. It was the feel of the cobbled street underneath those brown heels outside of his door as I kissed him goodnight. It was the incredible maturity that I felt as I ordered drinks and shared stories about where we grew up sitting on bar stools late on a school night. It was the feeling that came along with him telling me that no one has ever looked more adorable studying - when really, I was simply lit up with the knowledge, the opening windows and doors of the books and essays that I was reading. There are so many factors and people in play when it comes to the construction of a moment. I do not love him anymore. But I kept the shoes. I kept a token and a reminder of a time when I was happy. They serve as a talisman that good things can happen every day. Pure bliss can be found in the magical alignment of time and space and energy and interactions.
I have for a long time come to the realization that it is much more likely that human beings are only capable of being truly happy, in love, content, etc. etc. for moments, for brief pockets of time. No one can be truly happy all of the time, every minute a waking dream. And I know that most people would agree with me on that assumption. However, the danger and the disappointing trap is trying to cling to those moments, squeeze them so hard and try with all of one's might to reawaken whatever it was at that moment that worked. The disappointment comes when you realize those moments will not last. They cannot be repeated or revisited in real time.
Do not focus too closely on the moments when nothing good is happening. And more importantly, do not try to grip and cleave to the fleeting moment of happiness hoping it will not slip away too soon. Because the important thing to remember is that new moments, new opportunities for joy cannot take place while you are still yearning for another. Be open to what may come and have the grace to let go of what has passed. Keep the small tokens and reminders of the happy times, but remember also to embrace change. Always welcome the new.