Comparing Tennis Shoes

Off and on this past year, I start to feel anxious over the amount of stuff I have in storage (in about 3 different places, and that’s down from 5!); stuff of Tony’s, stuff of mine, stuff of our lives together.  Stuff.  Suffocating stuff.  No one ever teaches you in school what a daunting task it is to figure out what to do with all that stuff left behind.

I honestly don’t know all the stuff I even own.  A few months back, I finally cleaned out an extra large storage unit I moved most of our belongings into a few months after Tony died. As I sorted through box after box, bag after bag, memories flooded my mind. I fought most back; I was in “clean out” mode, not reminisce mode. But there was one item that I just couldn’t let go.

It stuck out like a sore thumb.

It was Tony’s all-white K-Swiss tennis shoes.

Yep, I said K-Swiss, like straight out of the 90s. And these shoes, they were so uncool, so out of style. I recall wrinkling my nose at them when he would wear them when we were dating; I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so I kept my thoughts to myself. I was honestly thinking that one day, when we were married, those tennis shoes would be on their way to Goodwill. I would make it my mission to update his tennis shoes.

And, as his wife, I tried. He stood his ground that they were perfectly fine, they were expensive shoes, and they did not need to be replaced. I bargained, I begged, I attempted many a deal, and I failed. The truth is, Tony just didn’t care what people or culture or popularity dictated when it came to those shoes, and really when it came to most things. He was his own unique, sometimes quirky self; he didn’t need anyone else influencing him otherwise.

He wasn’t much for comparing his life with others; he didn’t succumb to the comparison trap.

Those shoes describe so well how I feel walking around in my new “normal” life without Tony. This week I was chatting with another 30-something widow and I just had to proclaim that there was nothing “normal” about our “new normal.” Widows who are in their 30s make up less than 1% of all widows. What’s “normal” about that?

Still, I long to feel “normal” again. I’m getting there in some ways. Folks who know my story don’t so much feel sorry for me, anymore. Yet, when I’m around folks who don’t know Tony or our story, I feel as if I just don’t quite fit in. And when the unavoidable opportunity arrises to share what has happened in the last 2 years, I mostly get puzzled looks like I must be some sorta crazy for telling of such tragedy without tears. I almost always leave out the way Tony left this earth; that’s like giving an unexpected sucker punch to the gut.

Best I can explain it…I’m feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. I’m uncomfortable with this in between stage of life I find myself in. I’m over the intensity of grief, but I’m not done grieving. I’m technically single but don’t want much to do with being single. I’m a widow but I don’t want my identity wrapped up in it.

I want God to continue to use my story, but I’m struggling with wanting to control my circumstances, my outcomes. I’m wrestling with the “what if’s,” with the “how’s it gonna turn outs.”

It’s like I’ve got these K Swiss tennis shoes on, while everyone else has on the latest Chucks.  I’m trying to find my place, my next part of my story, but I’ve got these things on my feet that make me feel so uncomfortable, awkward. When do I get to upgrade my shoes?

And as my counselor so gently led me onto the other day, I’m finding myself comparing my K Swiss circumstances to all those who are living up life in Chucks, to others whose lives seem so “normal” and desirable and less painful, to others who get to wake up to their husbands every morning, to others who get to walk through life with their spouse regardless of what’s on their feet.

Comparison. I know better. I know it’s dangers.

And I KNOW the plans, the unique plans God has for me are more than I could have ever asked for or dreamed, if not in this life, then most definitely in the life to come. So a song that is played almost on repeat on the radio right now is so perfectly on repeat in my mind. It’s “Whatever You’re Doing” by Sanctus Real (lyrics and song can be found here).

Oh, and I should confess that I did give Tony’s shoes away to Goodwill a few months back. They sure would come in handy right now as I seek to step out of the comparison trap. I pray whoever is wearing them is not worried about what others think of him. I certainly won’t be the judge again!

Dearly loved,

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