Like an Old Pair of Tennis Shoes

We had a garage sale as a fundraiser for Class Cabinet during my 9th grade year and for some reason this anecdote has stuck in my head all these years later. One of the popular cheerleaders–I won’t name names because of Google searches–was getting mercilessly teased by another one for not putting her dirty, sweaty Asics tennis shoes in the sale which she’d had since she was like 12 years old. First of all–and bless her heart–the girl was wearing them on her feet right then. Secondly, and in her own words, “They’re my favourite pair of shoes. They’re worn in and I don’t know what I’d do without them.” She didn’t put them in the sale and for all I know she still has them to this day, 19 years later. (I doubt that, but she was a sweet girl and it makes me laugh that this is my main memory about her, because there are so many, much classier memories that should outrank this silly one.)

When I went to visit my friend Chris again a couple of weeks ago, I was so very nervous because it was the first time I was going to see him since he was conscious after his stroke. I knew he still wasn’t able to talk, so when I finally tracked him down after figuring out he’d been transferred between rehab facilities, I just held his hand. I stroked his hair and held his hand for awhile, excused myself and cried in the bathroom, and came back and held his hand some more. He’d just been moved about 70 miles that day and I didn’t feel like BS-ing with him about what a nice place he’d been moved to…it’s nice, but it’s a nice nursing home. I don’t know anyone my age who’d be happy somewhere like that. Anyway I went back the next day and he seemed to be in better spirits, as I was, too, after plenty of rest and laying out a bit at my hotel in Palm Springs. I’d brought a card and a small potted plant and read the card to him; he teared up and tried to talk, which is impossible with the trach in his throat. I told him he’d be able to talk soon and he shook his head, “No.” I told him that wasn’t true; that he’d be back to normal soon, but it would just take some time. He shook his head, “No” again. My heart was broken, so I just sat there with him not knowing what else to say, holding his hand and stroking his hair from time to time. He finally motioned towards his lips and I thought he wanted to tell me something. Knowing he couldn’t talk, I held my ear up to his mouth anyway. He kissed my ear. Touched, I kissed his forehead and told him I loved him…that we all loved him and that he’d be better very soon if he just did everything they told him to do in rehab. He cried and shook his head to the negative again and pressed his buzzer for the nurses. I excused myself and went into the bathroom and just sat on the toilet and sobbed. I came back in and kissed Chris and told him I’d see him again soon.

This past week my ex messaged me on Facebook and wanted to meet for coffee that morning (well, I don’t drink coffee, but to meet at at coffee shoppe). We chatted a bit online and then I called him once I got off work. The call lasted less than 25 seconds…he was rushing me off the phone so fast I hardly had time to think. Then it all came rushing back to me…all the lectures, all the one-sided conversations, all the instances last summer when I depended on him for my validation. My therapist hit the nail on the head last year: I’d put him up on a pedestal, and it had all come crashing down when he didn’t meet those expectations (and I didn’t meet his). I told him thanks, but no thanks to coffee. Why, then–even for a moment–did it feel right to meet up with him? Perhaps because–and I apologize for the comparison and the repetitive sentence structures right off the bat–he’s like an old pair of tennis shoes. In all honesty, I thank the Lord for the flash of insight. That being said, it got me to thinking about Chris back in the nursing home. I was at a total loss for how to comfort him. When I used to stay with him in Palm Springs, he had a(n extremely uncomfortable) double bed that we’d share and sometimes we’d cuddle during my stay with him. We’d go for long periods without saying a word to one another, even when we were both awake. It was never anything serious or intense, but I realize now that’s what I reverted back to when I was visiting him this last time. Embarrassing? Perhaps. Did it comfort him? Yes. Was it like a slipping on a comfortable, old shoe? Sure. But not a sweaty, dirty one I’d give up at a 9th grade garage sale. He’s a person, and one whom I care about very much. And no, I don’t know what I’d do without him.

So I’m not sure exactly where I was going with this confessional. And the horse tripping backasswards over the fence in the GIF at the top of the blog? That’s about how I feel right now…stumbling around and making lots of mistakes as I go along. I know this much: God gives us as much as we can handle when we can handle it, with His help. We can’t do it without Him, nor should we try. Notice the pause right before the horse darts off to its undoing…this Bible verse has been in my head this past week (paraphrasing here): “Be still and know that I am God.” I’ve been taking a lot more time to stop all the whirring thoughts, all the over-thinking, and to just be still. There’s nothing I can do to change the current circumstances, but I can pause and be still to change how I react to them. Sometimes that’s all I need to do…just do nothing and be still.


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  1. Like an Old Pair of Tennis Shoes

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