Surely you, too, have at least one item of clothing that serves mostly as a costume - something you put on so you can be the superhero version of yourself when you mostly want to hide under a rock.
I have red shoes.
I have one pair of red shoes. They aren't the same ones I wore in my wedding. Those are long gone now. No, this pair came from my one and only "Black Friday" shopping experience (never again). I bought them from a sales bin in an Express store, trailing along after a bunch of ladies from my husband's family. They were so red, so bold, and only $10. Of course I bought them! I'm surprised I haven't worn holes in them yet. It's been at least 5 years.
I wear these shoes when my husband has to travel for a long time - usually the day he leaves . . . the sad day. I sometimes wear them on the day he's due back. Often, I wear them because I know for sure I won't accomplish everything on the list. You know what the list is because you have your own list. Most of us know when we wake up in the morning whether or not we can reasonably take care of the list. That can either be a good or a bad feeling.
I wear these red shoes when I don't wake up excited about my work or when I'm struggling to have enthusiasm enough to smile at my precious son - it's alright, folks, to admit that we have these days. No shame in it at all.
My colleagues who are reading this now have the inside track. Y'all know what the infamous red shoes mean!
Something about walking around in my red shoes seems to call me back to myself and the blessedness of my life. I look down at the floor, rushing to my classroom after dropping the baby off at daycare, and the red shoes seem to be saying, "You're young enough at heart to do this. Smile at those kids. Say something nice. It's just a day - you've enjoyed plenty of days before this."
This weather resonates with me. The outdoors has been too long in the same season. The trees have put on their red shoes as if to say, "Enough! Show us the change we've been waiting for."
The change we've been waiting for . . .
It's hard to know what that means for each of us. Facebook tries to tell me lots of things about the change I need. I'm not really sure how all those algorithms are organized, but I'm sure there's science about what I see and when I see it - scrolling past articles and stories about the lives of people I know and people I've never met. We're inundated with this 4th dimension. It's a whole other set of social expectations whispering in our minds all the time. And I've not yet experienced a bad day when the commentary helped me. Red shoes help. Facebook news feed does not (yeah, I know, I totally shared this blog on Facebook - guilty. Stuff's complicated). My point is this: Facebook interaction is not the same as actual human interaction . . . and it's calculated . . . it's a costume - a series of costumes, actually. And I'm not sure it's for our benefit.
I have gotten to wear several legitimate costumes during my singing career.
I was bad at opera. Well - I was bad at a big part of the whole opera thing. I was actually really good at learning my part - memorizing the music, singing it correctly, etc. I could even memorize my stage movement. I was alright at hitting a mark. I was bad at the whole acting part of the equation, though. At least . . . looking back, I feel that I was bad at it. I guess I didn't really feel like I knew any of my characters. They were very sad or very silly. They weren't standing up for stuff I wanted to stand up for. They weren't singing about love the way I felt about love. Etcetera. You get it.
But something I did enjoy was the whole costume bit.
I did experience a noticeable shift in energy when dress rehearsals rolled around. Everybody probably did. I can remember the very first time I did any real opera, standing up on the stage wearing some sort of "maid" costume we'd come up with for Suzannah. All the sudden I felt like I really could make the audience laugh. And I did. We did - the whole cast.
Costumes can be helpful when we don't expect any magic from them . . . when we're not trying to perform magic by wearing them.
I don't wear my red shoes to fool myself into thinking I'll actually finish everything on the list. I wear them to remind myself that the list doesn't make or break my spirit.
My counselor once asked me what I was expecting to get out of a conversation I'd been thinking I should have with someone. Her exact words were actually, "Sarah, what is your intention and your expectation going into this conversation? That will be important information."
(Heck yes, I go to a counselor when I need to! You should, too. Counselors are good for humanity and needing a counselor at some point in one's life is actually a normal thing.)
Anyway - she was trying to get me to clarify my reason for wanting to have this conversation because why we do something has a big impact on how we do it and what we do afterward. In other words: how we end up reacting has an awful lot to do with how we go into a situation.
There's an Episcopal rector I've gotten to know a little over the past several years and she once said something to me I'll never forget. I was thinking of purchasing a small rosary to use during my practice of some scriptural mantras (helps a whole lot with anxiety and so forth), and she said this of the rosaries they had at the church: "None of these are magic. They're just tools we can use when it's difficult for us to talk to God. Sometimes they can help us start that conversation again."
Red shoes, nature photographs, songwriting, praying with my rosary - these things are not magic. They're just tools I can use when it's hard for me to see God and blessedness in my daily life. What do your "red shoes" look like?
I'm still recovering from laryngitis and I don't have a whole lot to sing with. But I've got plenty to sing about. So the other night I found myself sitting at the piano (way too late to be sitting at the piano) . . . writing about grace, light, Eden, and lost things. Really, I wear the red shoes when I've lost track of something - my gumption, my impetus for working and striving and doing.
John 1:5 is my favorite verse. I love it so much. Last night as I was writing these two characters gave me a story I'd not considered before.
The Light shines in the Dark
And the Dark surrounds the Light.
Who could blame Him? He'll never overcome Her,
But she's just so bright . . .
I always wrote the Darkness off as an enemy. Something literal. Something to be fought off.
And I've known my share of worldly "enemies" - folks who have tested my resolve and my boundaries. Folks who've trespassed. Those folks have been looking for the same thing I have, many times - the Light.
Now, dear reader, I'll go the way of the Episcopal Church and say that I don't have all the answers, but I welcome the questions.
My red shoes aren't going to defeat demons and neither are yours. But they might help us see those good things . . . that Light . . . in the midst of the everyday struggle. Be the salt. Be the light. And don't be afraid of the Dark. God is with you.