My Life Without High Heels

September 3, 2009

I’m determined to keep my blog positive…no whining, no regrets, no false hopes, no pie in the sky…just positive, hopeful, reality.  The fact is though, sometimes the reality hits you in ways that are unexpected and sometimes it is those seemingly little things that bother you more than the more important things do…it’s because of what the little things represent.  So sometimes the conversation will be about those things.

On Style Network, there is a TV show called “Ruby.”  If you’ve never seen it, it’s about a woman who was very heavy, addicted to food, and how she is working very hard to lose weight and save her own life. No surgery, just healthy diet and exercise.  She is doing very well and is very determined to do it.  She is inspiring and endearing and I can often really relate to her struggle to find ways to handle the challenges that work for her. 

In a recent episode, Ruby was struggling with the idea of getting rid of the dresses she wore hundreds of pounds ago, scared to really believe she’ll never be 700 lbs again though she has now lost more than half of that.  I think more significantly, she was afraid to say good-bye to the old Ruby.

That hit me like a ton of bricks. 

I have 2 closets full of shoes; beautiful, stylish, dramatic, mostly high heeled shoes, boots and sandals.  I just can’t part with these beautiful shoes, even though I will never be able to wear or walk in them again. You would think that I would have accepted this by now since the last time I was able to wear high heels was in Oct, 2005.   (hey, I could wear them in a formal portrait, sitting there not moving!) (any excuse)   I have gotten rid of most of the dresses that I can’t wear without pretty shoes, but I just can’t get rid of the shoes.    

I don’t want to let go of the shoes because I don’t want believe that I will never be able to wear them again or that the old Jan is gone.  For Ruby, the change was something good and intentional and she quickly accepted it and moved on…for me, it’s different, unintentional and not good. 

It’s not the high heels themselves that are so important, it’s what they represent, it’s the life I don’t have anymore, the life I feel too young to have lost already, it’s the dressing up and being attractive, going out and having fun, meeting new people.  Am I shallow worrying about something so dumb?  Maybe.   But in my mother’s family, for generations the women have been very fashion conscious.  We’ve loved stylish clothes, accessories, hats, purses, gloves, and shoes.  So now, walking around in tennis shoes or those ugly oxfords, I’m not only odd woman out in the world I live in, but amongst the family women, too…not that any of them would ever say that to me, that’s just how I feel.  

Ruby made me think about  it out in the open, and face the shoes still piled in the closets, she made me face how I really feel about it, but I think I also realize that I really have accepted it and maybe I can get rid of the shoes…at least most of them.  After all, I deal with the 1000 necessary adaptations to this life every day, including what to wear to every occasion with ugly shoes.  Ruby’s friends asked her if she thought it was helpful to her progress if she was constantly reminded of her 700lb self by the big dresses still being in her closet.  In the end, it seemed for her a better encouragement to get rid of the dresses so that she only thinks about a future being thinner rather than holding onto that old Ruby and her unhealthy ways.  A friend made a comforter out of the dresses for her so they became a positive memento.

What about for me, is it unhealthy to have those shoes lying around reminding me of what I’ll never be again?  What is it that the presence of those shoes does for me?  I think at this point it’s nostalgia, souvenirs of the times when I wore them, places I went, things I did.  I don’t want to forget those times, don’t want to forget that me because I want to still be her even if I can’t wear the shoes. 

So maybe I can get rid of most of them and just keep the special ones that have special memories attached…after all, it’s tradition in my family to keep special pairs of shoes as mementos…my prom shoes, my daughter’s first pointe shoes, my mom’s wedding shoes…it’s not such a bad thing.



Intro: What Was I Thinking?

September 3, 2009

Hi, I’m Jan.  I’m a youngish baby boomer, a mother of two, a sister, a daughter, an ex-wife, a good friend to many, a professional photographer, an accomplished amateur cook, a former ballet dancer and weight trainer, a music lover and fan of the Blues, an insatiably curious learner, a citizen of the world, and a full-time patient.

I have Multiple Sclerosis.  I have several other autoimmune diseases, too, and I really do Walk With a Big Stick. It lends security and balance to my steps but there’s more.  I follow what the old adage says: I “speak softly” about my health care, sharing what I learn, talking with my doctors, research coordinators, and physical therapists about their perspectives, but I “carry a big stick” that represents the courage and determination to find what works for me and to not surrender to my conditions. The real stick reminds me to never forget what I’m doing or how I’m doing it and it reminds me never to give up.   So I proudly, and with confidence, Walk With a Big Stick.  Well, most of the time…

I like doing research. In the last 10 years since I got internet access, I have spent a considerable amount of time reading and searching online for information about all health issues that are of concern to me, especially new treatments and the possible interaction between my drugs and supplements.  I also subscribe to several medical newsletters online that report of new findings, new drugs, new treatments, new discoveries, all that. 

That’s all great, but really when it comes down to how we are going to deal with the little daily challenges of life with our conditions, whatever they may be, the medical publications and our health care providers are not the best sources for help and support. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they have never experienced it, they don’t know what it feels like in our bodies, and frankly, they don’t have the time to spend on that kind of stuff with a whole bevy of patients to care for. We need them to keep up with the massive amount of new medical info they apply to our care every time we see them.  We need each other to help figure out how to solve the little things that challenge us in every hour of our daily lives and to provide support for how it feels to have to face those challenges. 

So that’s what I was thinking…in this blog, Walk With a Big Stick, we can talk freely about how we think and feel, what we have discovered that works for us, ask each other questions, tell our stories, express what’s on our minds, and we can talk with each other about all of it.  We can share medical information if you like, as long as you understand that we share as friends, not as medical advisors.

My posts here will be about my life, things I’m experiencing or thinking about, sometimes directly related to my health and sometimes not. As you know from your own life, everything in my life is colored by my challenges and that’s what I’ll share. I hope that my thoughts will spur you to write back with your own thoughts and experiences and I look forward to conversations developing in the comment sections to all my posts.

I’ll be back soon.



Walk With a Big Stick

August 6, 2009

my life without high heels

I’m anxious to get started writing in my new blog, anxious to see where this adventure in self-discovery and exploration of options and solutions takes me, and very anxious to hear back from other people about their experiences, too.  I’m getting this site set-up finished and will start in earnest very soon…stay tuned!