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Getting Comfortable in a New Pair of Shoes
by Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.

Why is it that women typically own more shoes than men? How many pairs of black shoes does a woman really need? Women are typically teased for having so many pairs of shoes. I am no exception. My shoe and boot collection has outgrown my closet space and has expanded to boxes in the basement.

Shoes serve many purposes; some are for fashion and some for comfort. Many have a specific athletic activity associated with the design.

When I was first paralyzed, I often thought of what my shoes and boots represented to me. I cried as I grieved my losses, knowing that I would never walk on the beach, in the snow or in my neighborhood, dance, ride a horse, jog, roller blade, ski, play tennis or racquetball, take an aerobics class, or bike. My shoe and boot collection in my closets was a visual reminder of my overwhelming loss. My life had been forever changed.

A few months after coming home from the hospital I had two girlfriends come to my house to help me rearrange my closets. It was hard for me to tell them to place my fashion, recreational and athletic shoes and boots in boxes to store in the basement.

It was especially painful seeing my biking shoes for the first time since my biking injury. There was a dried leaf from the tree that crushed me still clinging on the shoelaces.

In those early days, never did I dream that I would ever put those shoes back on my paralyzed feet. The possibility of regaining an active life with inactive feet seemed impossible. I was limiting my own potential. I was unaware of adaptive equipment and sports programs for the disabled. Over time I investigated the options that were available to me and learned to do many of my favorite sporting activities again.

In the three years since my injury, most of the shoes and boots have made their way back upstairs into my closet. I am grateful that my husband, Mark, never donated them to a charity. Now I wear my shoes and boots as I dress up to go out, bike, ski, and ride a horse.

This week I went shopping for shoes. I rolled into a shoe store in my wheelchair and approached a male sales clerk. �I need to buy a pair of dressy black sandals to go with these dresses. Unlike most of your other customers, comfort doesn�t matter. My feet are paralyzed.�

The clerk�s facial expression grew mournful and he looked down at the floor in silence. To break this awkward, uncomfortable moment, I asked him to go to the back of the store and bring out shoes in my size. I then realized that I had more flexibility in shoe size as well as style, since comfort didn�t matter. My selection criteria were that the shoes had to stay on my feet.

I placed shoes of several styles and heel heights on my feet. One pair had a strap that went across the back of my heel, allowing the shoe to stay in place. I told the clerk that I thought this pair would stay on my feet better when I went dancing at an upcoming black tie formal dance. He looked at me with a puzzled expression. I said, �I can dance now. It�s different than before. I stand and put my arms around my partner�s shoulders and keep my feet in one place as I sway gently to the music.�

Since external foot comfort no longer matters to me, I must have internal comfort. Comfort in the fact that being different is acceptable. I must more fully accept things the way they are and help others realize that I am adjusted to my new situation.

As we go through changes in our lives, we are transformed in some way, making us different than we were before.

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. would like to read your comments about her column and the impact it has made on your life. She also encourages your ideas for future columns. Contact her at 1008 Eastchester Dr., Columbus, OH 43230-6230.

Byline: To book Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. to speak at a conference, contact her at: (614) 471-6100; Rosemarie works with organizations and corporations that want to bring out the best in their people, and she demonstrates how to live life with conviction.


Rosemarie Rossetti