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My Feet Ache

Even when I fail miserably, I think of how very lucky I am. To find something about what I am doing that has value and structure and purpose. To remember that I am deliberate.

What a morning; waking every day with regret at our feet and remorse at our heels, the unthinkable challenge of living. For some people it is as simple a thing as standing up, and for others, it is quite simply a terror. I seem to forget and remember every day, how precious, how beautiful it all is, this business of living. Even when I fail miserably, I think of how very lucky I am. To find something about what I am doing that has value and structure and purpose. To remember that I am deliberate and not just happenstance; that I am here because I am here.

I hear an echo of myself when I keep still. I hear a faint voice that tells me to keep going no matter what happens. No matter who comes and goes from my life, no matter what death steals, no matter what heartbreak crushes. Keep going. Keep getting up. And so I do. We all do. Humanity somehow manages to find a shred of goodness and carry on.

There are moments that I feel sure of everything, but those moments get swallowed by a world far too big for my shoulders. The moments that shimmer and glow, and make one feel as though you've finally done something right. And you cling to them; you cling and hang off of them like a mother who might well be leaving you forever. Arms wrapped around legs, holding on. That is the bigness of one of those moments.

I am suddenly looking down at my feet knowing that I have failed again, but I still have feet...OH mercy! I still have feet!

There is a Quick Trip just down from my home. I regularly see a woman, obviously homeless. I see her almost every time I go to fill up my tank.  Rain, shine, wind, blistering heat, no matter, she is there. I know that subconsciously I hope to see her so that I know she is still with us. That she is still here and although she struggles, she's making it in her own way.  I've watched her and studied her. I've seen her hunting for food, water, scraps, any shard of unwanted 'anything' that she can use to sustain herself another day…maybe to sustain her just another hour. She has matted hair and sometimes two different shoes on her feet. Her feet which are swollen and bruised, twisted into these shoes found somewhere dark I would imagine. One high heel and one low. Once, she was pushing a bike. She often wears denim cut-off shorts and a t-shirt. Both, uninhabitable by our standards. When we have passed in the Quick Trip parking lot, I've heard her mumbling. Was she asking me for money? I do not know. I didn't give her eye contact. Was I afraid to make her feel uncomfortable or was I afraid to feel uncomfortable by her needs?  I was frightened of her scent, her hands, her breath, and her swollen feet. As she mumbled, a cloud of shame seeped into my marrow and took residence.

I looked down and saw my feet, and knew that somehow I had failed her and me and the world at large.  I will never forget her feet. I can see them now like they were my own, and it aches.

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Julia Harris November 29, 2011 at 02:59 AM
Beautiful writing! Thank you so much for sharing this.
Kiri Walton (Editor) November 29, 2011 at 02:17 PM
This is great! When you see her next time, do you know what you may do?
Heather November 29, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Thank you so much Julia!
Heather November 29, 2011 at 04:58 PM
In fact I do Kiri; I will build my brave and make a connection with her. I'm compelled to.
Kiri Walton (Editor) November 29, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Awesome, Heather. I am truly moved by this piece and will do the same.
Libby O'Ruairi November 29, 2011 at 05:35 PM
There was a man similar to your homeless woman that used to hang out at the Shell station across from where I live. He never asked for money, just sat huddled by an outside ice machine, not looking at anyone. On occasion, I would give him money, just because he almost seemed like a neighbor, he had been around so long. I haven't seen him for awhile, and wonder what became of him. There but for the grace of God, go us all. Let us not forget that caring is a gift that everyone deserves.
Heather November 29, 2011 at 05:55 PM
Libby, your compassion is touching, especially calling him a "neighbor." I'll ALWAYS be a firm believer that we are all familiar strangers connected by the invisible string of our individual and unique stories.
Linda Rehkopf November 29, 2011 at 07:10 PM
Stunning piece of writing.
Donna Espy-Rypel November 30, 2011 at 12:45 AM
Beautiful writing, Heather! You have a definite gift with words...hope you know that! We all know someone like you've described...I kept seeing a man in a wheelchair on the Marietta Square years ago but never approached him....one day I did and asked his name. "Joe," he said to me. "God bless you." I remember that vividly and never saw him again. Hopefully, he found a home and warmth...
Denise Richardson November 30, 2011 at 03:47 PM
I really enjoyed this Heather!
L. Davis November 30, 2011 at 07:24 PM
Bravo!

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