After our mother died the job of clearing out her closet fell to my sister and me. I remember looking at her rows of shoes and rack of clothes, overwhelmed by all the memories of seeing – and hearing – her in them. She had a particular way of walking that seemed to place slightly more pressure on one foot that the other. The effect was that she sort of clip-clopped when she walked. I could always recognize the sound of her footfall, as could the dogs, who would go racing out to meet her whenever she got home. In front of me now lay her sandals and her pumps – her ordinary, everyday mom-shoes. She used to say she loved shoes, and would often go into boutiques and peruse their shelves. However, she would invariably walk out empty-handed. The rows of shoes lying in front of me reflected her restraint. Nothing too fancy.
We had almost cleared the closet when we spotted an unopened box stashed away in the back corner. Imagine our shock when we discovered within it a pair of the most gorgeous, expensive, high-heeled, Italian designer shoes! They were fabulous! And, unworn. Dad hadn’t even seen them before.
Later we learned that one of mom’s friend’s, with whom she often had lunch, had persuaded her to indulge herself, to give herself permission to have something she coveted. Her friend told us how much fun those lunches with mom had been, and how much mom had reveled in the purchase of those pumps. Those high-heeled Italian stilettos were an expression of a part of mom that she kept hidden from us. When she got home, they went into their box and got pushed to the back of her closet.
It broke my heart to realize that there had been a sassy, glamorous, stiletto-wearing woman in my mother that she felt she had to hide at home. It broke my heart again to see my dad’s confused, sad reaction when he realized she’d been afraid to show him her shoes – that she’d hidden parts of herself from him.
My mother deserved to be, to express and to love all of herself! She deserved to have a life that reflected and honored all of who she delighted in being! Dad deserved to have a wife who loved and honored and was all of herself! And we, my sister and I, would have loved to have known the woman who had reveled in those red shoes!
Disowning, or hiding, parts of yourself not only denies you the opportunity to live a full, authentic, sassy high-heeled life, but it robs the people around you of the opportunity to really know and love you for who you are. If you refuse to be completely, unapologetically ALL of yourself, no-one can have a full, authentic relationship with you. How can they? They don’t even know you! Refusing to love all of yourself imprisons those around you in a role-play with a small, limited version of you. And, as you are a reflection of them, refusing to love yourself locks them into a drama that prevents them from loving the part of themselves that you represent. The best thing you can do for yourself, and for the world around you, is love yourself. Completely. Unconditionally. Gracefully.