Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wearing a Friend's Shoes

Last week I led my friend’s life. I stepped into her shoes, a different size than mine, and tried not to stumble. I remember organizing help, living communally, keeping people safe, sleeping little, balancing needs, opening to sorrow and joy, breathing in suspension, holding tight, and letting go. I cared for her special-needs child. She regularly does all these things, with grace. I did it for one week, clumsily, while she lived through other crises of life and death.

No longer did normal things matter, like whether I’d eaten, put on deodorant, or brushed my hair. I was happy to brush my teeth. To be honest, I had moments of self consciousness (“What did I smell like?!”), but mostly not. I was too tired and too focused to care. It was a gift, this sense of freedom. Freedom from my ego and my insecurities (well, mostly). I was also challenged. The line between things that didn’t matter and true needs blurred. I neglected to eat and then crashed. I didn’t take a break when I really needed one.

This experience was like a bubble: fragile, beautiful, sticky, and short-lived. After the crises passed, I slowly laced up my own sneakers. I began to process what I felt. I walked back to my life. My friend returned to her daily, daunting routine.

I write now, frantically, in my journal. I rage at an unfair world. I express thanks for my life’s blessings. I sit, numb. I try to write something else, something more coherent. The writing helps me decide what to keep from this experience and what to release. I know my friend keeps a journal. I hope that she finds the time to write.

--Stephanie W., for the Poplar Grove Muse


  1. Stephanie,

    It's amazing how a change in circumstance can affect us, even though we know it's temporary. You wrote beautifully about how that change manifested itself in you, even down to hygiene.

    It was very poignant reading about how you walked back to your life, but the aura of your friend and her life are still with you.

    I feel that way when I leave the Monroe County Jail circle. And am reminded that I am just a decision away from being right in there with these women and how quickly our lives can change. Your friend had these circumstances dropped on her and in that one instant, when a diagnosis was made, her life changed forever.

    I'm glad you wrote about this and I hope you write about it some more. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Steph,

    This is wonderfully evocative of the urgent, all-encompassing experience of getting through a moment of crisis, and expresses so well how our usual self-conscious concerns fall away in such a time. Only to return, but with new awareness of choices, once things are back to "normal." I appreciated reading this. Mary

  3. Wow. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.