I wrote a blog post in 2006 entitled “Dr. Chu’s Shoes”. I hadn’t read the post recently, but I thought about it this past week when I put on high heels for the first time since May. My teacher was visiting, and out of habit I felt the need to dress up a little extra nicely in her presence. She was the same as always – meticulous hair, makeup, suits, and high-heeled shoes every time she emerged from her hotel room. By now she has had at least three foot surgeries as a result of her high-heeled shoe habit, and she can physically no longer wear flats. But she looks amazing!
Well, much to my surprise, I found that I was almost unable to walk after about three hours of wearing high heels one day this week. I limped my way to the car at lunchtime, and took my foot out of my shoe at every opportunity I had for the rest of the day. My right foot was crying out to me, refusing to comply with the shoe that I had worn many times before in the past, with no apparent problems.
“YOU stopped wearing high heels??” my teacher asked, in disbelief. “You ALWAYS wear high heels!”
I explained that I had stopped wearing them starting in June, and never started again until that day this week.
“Why do you think it hurts now?” she asked.
“Well, I don’t know, but maybe it’s just shows how well the body adapts to pain. You get used to it after awhile, and then you think that’s normal, or the way it should be.”
“Yup,” she said. “I’ve just gotten used to it, three surgeries later. They keep cutting off the bone, and it just keeps growing back. And I go to the foot doctor every few months to get more treatments, and she just says to me, ‘Keep wearing your high heels!'”
So what did my high-heeled shoes really symbolize? And what shoes will I wear now that I can barely walk in those same high-heeled shoes I used to wear faithfully every day? I still have a deep commitment to dressing neatly and respectfully when I get in front of a group to teach. I’m very aware of the effect of the visual image I project when standing in front of a child. But maybe now, having journeyed through adapting to pain, to numbness, and back into feeling again, I have gained the wisdom to respect my own well-being at the same time.