Everything You Have Lost

“For everything you have lost, you have gained something else.” 

December 8, 2012, Fulton, Kentucky: I heard my mother’s footsteps coming down the hall. “Charissa, it’s time.” I immediately got out of bed and followed her to my father’s bedside. We held his hands and tears poured down our faces.

“We love you, Daddy, ” we said.

“I love, honey, ” she said.

The words of my grandfather and grandmother rang loudest in a room filled with cries and tears: “You have been an incredible son. We love you. It’s ok. Go home.” And so my father passed away, peacefully, surrounded by love.

December 23, 2017, Henderson, Kentucky: William Finley “Finn” sat in my lap as we watched his favorite show on the TV monitor in his grandparents’ kitchen. Piper Rose was playing nearby. The last few weeks had been filled by a bit of turmoil: during the day, her father and I had pushed her to achieve her reading goal for the quarter whilst wrangling our individual careers.  She hated it. By night, I had stressed and toiled over Christmas gifts for each of the children and sewed a Christmas program costume by hand. But more than that, there was the “turmoil” of a young and budding family. The ebb and flow and four people learning to live in harmony and peace with one another.

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Always Behave: Part 4

It was a hot summer’s day, and I could smell the scent of freshly cut grass as I zigged and zagged my way down a quintessential country road. Every few miles, my journey was delayed by tractor or combine taking up half the road. But I’ve learned through the years that it is impossible to be angry with farmers with their cheery smiles and friendly nods as you pass them by.

Earlier that morning, I have my half-asleep sister a hug and left Huntsville, Alabama bound for Union City, Tennessee. It was Memorial Day weekend, and in keeping with tradition, I spent that weekend with my sister in celebration of her birthday. But on that Wednesday morning, the celebrations were over, and I was bound toward the temporary location of my parents.

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Every day they greet me…

Dozens of pairs of pretty shoes lined in perfect rows. They are, in a sense, an expression of our lives: the physical foundation on which we stand.

A shoe will never replace our foundations, our families who built and molded us into the people we are, or our friends who hear our thoughts and dreams and encourage us to pursue them.

Rather, shoes are a small, physical reminder of these things. And my shoes—with their tall, slender heels and pointed toes—have held me up through a lot over the years: A reminder of where I have been. A symbol of where I am going.

 

My Best Friends’ Wedding (or New Years’ Rambling)

dddd“People have a right to fly…”

My best friend is getting married. Last year, after she met him, I knew it was coming—and soon. But I never really anticipated what it would feel like the moment it was officially so. I don’t think anything adequately prepares a person for the moment someone so close tells them they’ve found “true love.” In life, there are a lot of phrases  that change everything once they are said. And I always thought “I’m getting married” was one of them.

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Swinging Birches

“So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be…”

I think I want to run away. Pure, blissful freedom…

I wrote these words one night earlier this month after a particularly stressful, exhausting day. I have a friend who is usually on the receiving end of these pointless, rambling emails that I will never take action on. Well, at least I think I’ll never take action on them. I’ll confess, I have this silly little dream of uprooting and starting over sometimes. For some reason, I have romanticized the idea of living and working on a ranch in New Mexico, surrounded by mountains and plains. (Yes, go ahead and laugh. If you know me at all, you are aware that I’ve watched Legends of the Fall a couple dozen times too many.) I have this other dream of living in Segovia, Spain…undoubtedly my most favorite place in the world.

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The Perfect Shoe

Someday, I’m going to slip my feet into the most beautiful, perfect pair of Manolo Blahniks, and my life is going to change.

In the photo albums, picture frames, drawers and coffee tables that contain the memorabilia of my life exists the world’s most beautiful picture. At least it was (in my opinion)…long ago. I remember where I stood, what I was thinking, and what I felt when I took it.

It was 2002, the night before my junior prom. A smaller, skinnier version of me (with long, straight hair that nearly reached to the middle of my back) was leaning against the frame of the doorway between the dining and living room, holding my head at an angle as I watched my whole world strum the strings of a guitar a few feet away from me. He was wearing a black t-shirt and jeans, the muscles in his arms clearly defined as he played a song he wrote: my song.

As I watched in adoration, I reached for a nearby camera (filled with black-and-white film) and captured the moment. He heard the sound of the camera and looked over at me and smiled. My mother always said he had a Humphrey Bogart smile. And she was right.

I never know when I’m going to come across that picture: a profiled picture of a beautiful boy and his guitar. I never could bring myself to throw it away. From time to time, it appears in a drawer, a notebook, or a random folder, and my life freezes. I stop and sit down on a couch or a chair, and a wave of “could have, should haves, would haves” wash over me.

While there are experiences that I will openly talk about—whether good or bad—and even embrace, I rarely talk about the years between 1998 and 2004. I’ve learned to tuck those memories away in a little corner of my mind and I’ve learned to forget what it felt like to love someone so much you felt you could stop the wind if you wanted to.

But, on very rare occasions I will go to that corner of my mind and revisit those times, just like a collection of pictures. Sometimes, it feels necessary to examine them for what they are and for what they were. But regardless, they always end with the same recollections, faded by time and tears: a dimly lit hallway on a late summer’s night years later where I leaned, crumpled, against a wall and looked at him with pleading eyes and said, “Please don’t break my heart.” And finally, some of the last words he ever said to me, which were uttered over a telephone: “I love you, but I decided to marry someone else.”

To this day, I have never heard the lyrics of my song. I cannot remember what it even sounded like. I always believed he would finally sing them to me at our wedding…the wedding that would and will never be. I hear that he is happy. Sometimes I get a random snippet of news about his life, and a little twinge of pain burns in my chest. Other times, any news bounces off of me because I feel nothing. Sometimes, what happened between us just makes me feel numb.

But I have to remain optimistic. Like a pretty, expensive pair of shoes, there are relationships you may want with all of your heart but you just can’t have. And if you do want them bad enough to pursue them…it will cost you. Like my picture, sometimes our choices in life are clearly outlined in black and white.

So, every morning I slip my feet into my pretty, relatively inexpensive shoes and I set out into an imperfect world with all the optimism a starry-eyed little Cancerian can muster. Among the city lights and the whirl-wind of life that exists all around me, I know my future, my destiny, my “perfect shoe” is waiting. And I know and I believe, that eventually, I will find it.

Someday, I’m going to slip my feet into a pair of Manolo Blahniks—the most perfect,exquisite most perfect shoe—and my life is going to change. But until that day comes—the day when a $685 pair of shoes won’t reduce me to a buyers-remorse-induced-depression—the shoes I have will do the job. And I’m one happy, blessed girl.

Routine Shoes

The Lucky Shopping Manual by Kim France and Andrea Linett offers a broad range of fashion advice and tips on everything from skirts to shirts to purses to (you guessed it) shoes. In fact, they list just a few of the shoe varieties available to all of us “Shoe Lovers”: Strappy, Ankle Strap, Platform, Cut-Out, Stiletto, Thong, Flat, Two-Tone, Ankle Boot, Wedge, T-strap, Loafer, Clog, D’orsay, Mule, Metallic, Round Toe, Embellished, Kitten Heel, Flip Flop, Slide and Knee Boot.

When you factor in color, brand, heel height, the options are endless. But there’s always a pair of shoes that we default to as we go about the tasks of our everyday lives. I like to call these the “Routine Shoes.”

After years of working a desk job in an office, and when I’m in the midst of a wardrobe dilemma or running late (if you know me, you know this happens a lot, not a morning person) I’ve learned that you’ll always be safe in a pair of black pumps. And then of course, during warm weather months, nothing could be easier than slipping on a pair of flip flops before heading out to grocery shop, run to the bank, mail a letter, or peruse the local bookstore.

As time passes, I’m amazed at how life seems to blend together. I get so used to going through the motions that I miss the moments that comprise them. And sometimes, alarmingly, I feel as though I’m losing myself in the midst of it all.

I suppose the fact of the matter is this: we all want our lives to amount to more than punching in our Plus Card numbers at Kroger, cranking out a half hour at gym on the elliptical like hamsters, diligently paying our bills month after month. There’s nothing wrong with these activities. But they can’t be the only thing that defines us.

Five years ago, I sat in my parents’ living room as a college sophomore carefully packing for my upcoming study abroad trip to Spain. I knew the trip of a lifetime awaited me, and I was being ever-so-careful about what I packed. During one preparatory shopping trip, my mom and I found the most perfect pair of shoes: a green, floral strappy number that was just to die for (pictured). What’s more, they went perfectly with a skirt she’d been making for me for my trip. As I packed them away, I had no way of knowing that weeks later, I would be wearing these shoes as I sang and laughed with newfriends in the Plaza Mayor of Segovia at 3 in the morning, as patrons of local cafes sat sipping wine by candlelight. It was one of the happiest nights of my life.

Aside from being the experience of a lifetime, there was nothing routine about the time spent in Spain. Everyday was new—so there were no motions to go through, no already established routine. Even the classes we attended changed on a daily basis. Life was ours to create at every step (and sometimes at the guidance of our teachers). whether we were traveling to Salamanca, Toledo, Salabreña or Granada; attending a local festival; experiencing new food at a hole-in-the-wall diner; or singing new Spanish songs with new Spanish friends at our favorite local hang out (Tres Bs) everything blended to become one grand, beautiful experience.

Whenever I feel bogged down by routine, I sometimes grab my “Spain shoes” from their shelf, put them on, kick my feet up on the coffee table, sip a glass of red wine, and flip through all of my photos from the trip. While I understand I’m admitting publicly to the strange habit single girls can form when left alone for too long, the few moments of nostalgia provided by this temporary retreat is a much-needed reality check: a reminder that I have wonderful life ahead of me and even more memorable moments are left to be experienced. It’s the kind of thing that motivates you to shrug off one measly little chore and do that thing you really love, whether it be running, painting, reading, writing, etc.

We can all continue to love our Routine Shoes for the comfort they give us and security they represent. But let’s make a point this week to put them aside for at least one night and pull on a pair of strappy heals, embellished flats, or trendy wedges—whatever you prefer—instead. It’s not where we go in them that really matters, but rather the memories we make in them on our way.