Updated: Jun 16
Back in my 20's, I used to be a shoe fanatic. I could go weeks strutting like a foot model without a repeat. Unfortunately, while my extensive collection was fashionable, most of them weren't comfortable. Yes, they were nice to look at but let me tell you, many days, these puppies were crying. Now that I'm older, I think the idiom "Beauty is pain" makes absolutely no sense.
My initial approach to the shoe game was similar to that of most women, who feel that having a 'corn' on every toe and two on the pinky is a small price to pay to be a show stopper. There’s no better remedy than to have other ladies ogling over you to numb the feeling of your throbbing feet.
I was among the women who would sooner opt out of an event before choosing comfort over style. But, seriously, having said that out loud, does that make any sense to you? Likewise, when life starts to squeeze us, we'll look for any loophole to tap out. Meanwhile, some women will wrap up every bunion, blister and sprained ankle while hobbling on crutches before they retire the coveted stilettos. It all makes me wonder: "Why then are we peeved when life comes chomping at our Achilles heel?"
I can recall the first rule of shoe shopping is to try them on before you buy them. But despite a little discomfort, some of us would still make the purchase anyway. We reckon we could 'break them in' by wearing them around the house every day for a few hours. 'Cause, let me tell you, a tight shoe more than scrunches your toes. After an hour or so of such restraints, all your legs start tingling, and before you know it, everything from your waist down feels like you just got an epidural. Surely you've witnessed a lady still trying to look cute while walking in a tight pair of shoes. I kid you not; it's a tie between a peacock on stilts or a baby penguin (wobble baby, wobble baby, wobble baby, wobble). All I can say is what a sight to behold. Sis, I see you walking to the car with shoes in hand; no judgement here, I get it. The pain doesn’t always warrant the price tag.
On the flip side, have you ever lent a sibling or close friend a pair of shoes? But when it was returned, it was stretched at least a half size larger or the heel was utterly ruined? Something as simple as that could have you seeing red—and not bottoms either. And just like that, your favourite pumps fit to go in the garbage. If this is you, I just have one question. "Why lend something that you can’t stand to see damaged?" Better yet, "Why are you even loaning what you’re not prepared to give?" Sometimes life presents us with these trivial episodes, so we begin learning to become comfortable with the uncomfortable.
I know you're waiting for a story, but today it's just a different angle of an old tale. It's no longer a secret that I spent more than three-quarters of my 30's with chronic pain. I'm talking every day, all day. On the pain scale from one-to-ten, my good days were an eleven. I'm not talking about Panadol pain; I'm talking 'bout taking medicine prescribed for cancer patients' level of pain. I mean, the kind of meds that doctors told me if I messed around and got pregnant, my kid would more than likely have an arm where a foot should be. I don't know if that's possible, but that's what he said, verbatim. The majority of folks who know me, namely those who saw me consistently, weren't even aware I'd been on steroids every day for nearly all of 8 years. It was so extreme that I had to pop a pill on time, every time if I wanted to have at least 70% functionality. To miss even one dose meant my entire body would shut down, and I would immediately become immobile, utterly useless for the rest of the day—sometimes longer.
This illness was the worst. I could not wear heels at all, and on insufferable days, my feet were so inflamed they couldn't fit in shoes. I was walking around looking like two raisin loaves flapping on the ground. Every chic lady knows you can't consider yourself dressed wearing flats, much less flip-flops. Someone, please dial Stacy & Clinton cause I was a walking promo for What Not to Wear. All my boujee sistas know, heels are the difference between being polished or being basic. But with knees unable to bend, there was zero stretchability in these limbs. I mean, I couldn't even drop it like it was warm if I wanted to. All things considered, I was in the streets looking like grandma after she got run over by a reindeer. While many of my life's mishaps stretched me, even more than my heartbreaks, this ordeal had me on the verge of snapping.
Be that as it may, this self-proclaimed independent lady had become dependent. I needed help with just about everything, from getting out of the car to dressing myself and opening any object was out of the question. Shoot, as simple as combing my hair became mission impossible. On those extra rough days, my nephew had to pull me by the arms as my niece pushed me from the back just to get off the couch. I mean, these were the kids I babysat; can you imagine my horror and dismay?
Heaven help me if my niece wasn't there to lend assistance 'cause that meant it would take me 30-minutes to put on a pair of pants. If that process became too overwhelming, I'd burst into tears and end up calling in sick. At that point, I figured I should start introducing myself as Gumby. Cause clearly, this ordeal was poised to shape me into something, though I wasn't sure what. Maybe I could have been Elastigirl, the Millennial edition (shrugs shoulder); who knows?
The stretching didn't just stop at the fact that I was sick, whereas I could convalesce at home and resurface once I was well. Oh, no! I had to go to work, waddling along like a little duckling. Ah, boy, if humiliated was a person. It took an easy 15 minutes to walk from my desk to the restroom. Granted, many people have the opportunity to be processed in a darkroom; nope, mine was on display. Hanging out like laundry on a clothesline. That whole experience taught me that being stretched has three main characteristics: it's challenging, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. All things considered, I promise you when everything around you starts crumbling, it’s more of a coming together than falling apart.
In short, Elasticity is: the ability to resume form after being stretched. But stretched, by comparison, means: to straighten, to cause something to last longer than expected (my God, that's a shout right there), to extend over time, to make great demand on capacity or resources. It further means: to be sufficient or adequate (touch ya neighbour and tell them you're enough), to defeat and subdue, to overcome with superior strength. (definitions summarized using: www.wordhippo.com) My word, that's a good place to run around the church seven times shouting, “Won’t He do it?!” Somebody quick, find me a throw cloth.
First, I remember being in work environments thinking that nothing prepares you more than having to submit to someone you can't stand. Then I felt nothing increases you more than having to report to someone you're more qualified than! I know I ain't the only one. I'm sure we’ve all had at least one supervisor or manager that ain't smarter than a fifth-grader. Finally, I experienced when you're being prepped; nothing spells stretching like a challenge from within. It's easy to point fingers at who you think is your nemesis, but what happens when the thing that brings you your greatest affliction is you?
When an object is being primed, it changes shape, increases range of motion, adjusts, and can more easily extend beyond its perceived capacity. Similarly, when you exercise, your muscles begin to produce tiny tears, which helps them to grow stronger as they heal (Ma’am, sir, do yourself a favour and heal). No matter what exercise you do, to build muscle, there must be a level of resistance. When resistance is more than what the body usually encounters, the muscle-building mode is activated. Translation: The trial didn't come to kill you; it came to form you.
We find that people who embark on a fitness journey usually talk about the discomfort of conditioning their body to a new normal. They lament about the soreness and how they have to push themselves despite how they feel. Albeit, once the body adjusts to a routine, any good trainer will gradually increase the level of difficulty. On the flip side, as soon as one stops exercising, you'll begin to notice changes in their muscles over time. Consequently, they will become weaker and smaller, especially if they exercised intensively or lifted weights. Translation: When trials stop coming, you are no longer a threat.
Elevation Translation: Being stretched is not a one-time deal. Every level of your ascent demands more strength and greater capacity. Therefore, more tearing is always necessary. Imagine David not pulling that sling-shot back far enough; the stone would have never reached its desired target—the head of Goliath. The further the stretching, the more distant the reach. When you don't stretch before a race, your muscles can freeze up and all but disable you. Translation: You don't want to be elevated before you've increased strength. You don't want to be promoted and don't have endurance. And you definitely don't want acceleration without having built up your immunity. Just think of trials as life's 'lil dose of Buckley's, it tastes awful, but it works!
If we had our way, we'd prefer life without pain. But it doesn't work that way. Pain exists for a reason. It's your first line of defence. It's the initial signal that something somewhere is wrong. Or, if you wanna get deep, it indicates you're about to unlock another level. Ironically, pleasure and pain have the same point of origin. In that, some folks even get pleasure from pain. FYI: I am not one of said people.
Believe it or not, pain is there to protect you. The twinge you feel starts a chain reaction that forces you to pay attention to a particular area. And yet, where you feel the pain is not always the source of the problem. Sometimes it’s a side effect. Bearing that in mind, your cries of "Oh, Lord, why me? What again? I can't take on another problem! That's it, I'm done, I gee! or, simply, Jesus help me!" means an area in your life is demanding, almost beseeching your undivided attention.
Joseph usually comes to mind when looking for someone to reference whose life has been under rapid fire. He was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, lied on, jailed, yet he turned around to serve the one who jailed him and save the ones who betrayed him (see Genesis 37-50). No, Siree Bob! I'm not there yet!
So what you thought, it was gonna be a walk in the park? Ahaha, even Buju told you it’s not an easy road. I've come to know one thing for sure, pain is inevitable. And if you've not had any, live a little longer. But even more than the story of Joseph, the Bible says: Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. (Isaiah 53:10 NKJV) Translation: Like clay in the hands of the potter, if you intend to be used in this life, on any level, you better make like elastic to get stretched! Or make like some yarn to be knit. Buddy, take ya pick!
Just in case you needed a better reference to prove contention is part of the package deal, Paul was never scared to tell us exactly what time it is. He writes: For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it's painful! But afterward, there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. (Hebrews 12: 6, 11)
Listen, the ‘stretch’ is more vital than we give it credit for. Runners could catch a cramp if they don't train before a race. Singers will get hoarse if they don't warm up before an intense performance. Bakers need to allow the dough time to rise prior to baking, or the bread will be dense and less flavourful. It's advised that you let your vehicle idle before you drive off in the morning; otherwise, you add extra wear and tear to the engine unnecessarily.
Like you, I'm so much more than the curve balls life threw at me or the not-so-smart decisions I've made. Still, none of the series of my unfortunate events exempts me from being processed, and neither you. But the more we try to bypass the exercises set to mould us, it’ll become the equivalent of us messing around and not stretching our shoes before wearing them. Next thing you know, our feet out here looking like two ears of corn (cornbread, anyone)? Missing even one step in the process can cause irreparable damage. It doesn't matter if you wear insoles going forward; you'll probably still feel residual effects. MmHmm, the mere mention of Tweedledee and Tweedledum still boils your blood, hey?
I've said this before, and I think today it's worth repeating. In the movie The Equalizer II, Denzel Washington's character said a line that I've never forgotten: There are two kinds of pain in this world. The pain that hurts and the pain that alters. So I ask you, are you just compiling a 'Woe is me Resume' by letting things happen to you rather than for you? Instead, I recommend allowing the adversities to sharpen and condition you for service. Hey, I get it; everyone else's road looks super easy. But maybe that‘s part of your issue; stop watching what doesn't concern you. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to walk an inch in anyone's shoes. Life is all about putting one foot in front of the other, but while you're at it, go ahead and dig your heels in, aye!