My Big Red Divorce Boots

My divorce day was finally here. After a two year painful separation, our divorce was finally a reality. A reality I could hardly believe. My young kids were in mother’s day out at my church and I was alone, lost and directionless.

Shame and embarrassment at being the first amongst my friends to get a divorce had led me to create a wall of silence and loneliness. I had shared my situation with very few people and even when I did, I presented a façade; a lie that told people I was handling things well. My inability to admit weakness and what I perceived as failure left me alone on my divorce day.

What is the protocol for how you spend the day of your divorce? I should have had a posse of friends to take me out to a margarita-drinking lunch to cheer me up, but lacking that option, I headed to the mall.

I was not normally a shopper, but the need to be amongst people, people that didn’t know me and wouldn’t ask me questions, drew me to the big, cement structure.  As I walked around the mall I was obsessed with regrets about my marriage, consumed with worry about the future. The stores and the people I passed by were just the background for my personal movie of sadness.

Through my fog of self- pity, a vision of bright, red and black cowboy boots appeared! As if they were on a pedestal, surrounded by an unearthly glow, the boots beckoned me. I had never in my life even considered wearing cowboy boots, yet I heard a strange voice coming from my mouth asking the salesclerk for a size ten please.

As I coaxed my long, skinny foot into the unfamiliar feel of the boots, I reasoned that it was time to try new things and have new experiences. These buttery soft leather, brightly colored boots were the symbol of a new beginning. As I walked around the shoe room floor I began envisioning a future that involved stepping outside my comfort zone and swing dancing in the arms of a tall, dark cowboy, dressing in clothes that didn’t involve elastic waists and experiencing the world in a way that my previously insulated way of life had shielded me from.

As absurd as it sounds, those boots were the catalyst for a transition from the life of a suburban, married mother of two to a single mother ready to take on new challenges and life experiences. I felt empowered, my mopey shuffling turned to strutting in those boots, my 5’10” height elevated to a 6 foot level of strength. Floating out of the store with a big box of boots in my arms, I was a little poorer financially but rich with feelings of renewal and possibility.

I wore those boots almost constantly for the next year, designing outfits around them and yes, even dancing the country two step with a tall, dark cowboy. Fondly referring to it as my “Western Mommy” stage, my daughters remember hearing me walk down the hall of their pre-school, knowing it was their Mommy approaching by the “stomping” noise of the boots. Before long, I was able to put my magical boots of power further back in the closet and soon, stopped wearing them all together. I was healing, finding my courage within, and bravely moving forward.

Over 20 years and many closet purges later, those red cowboy boots still hold a place in my closet. They represent strength and independence, the decision to not be a victim of sadness and bitterness but to take charge and move forward, to be brave and face new obstacles independently. All that from a pair of boots?! The red boots were my touchstone, my talisman.  Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I had the power all along, I just needed my own version of the shiny red shoes to discover it.

Categories: Single Stepping