Before my daughters were born my feet were a size 9 1/2, a very easy size to find and fit. After my first was born, my feet stretched to a 10 -- still easy. But with the second pregnancy they grew to a 10 1/2, and most manufacturers don't bother with half sizes after 10.
Add to that the fact that my feet are extremely flat, so any shoe must either have arch support or accomodate orthotics, and you have the ideal Zappos customer.
Ah, Zappos. I love Zappos, because going to a shoe store was always so difficult: to find one pair of shoes I would have to try on so many, and (people-pleaser that I am) I would feel guilty about the number of times the poor salesperson would have to go in the back and retrieve another stack of shoe boxes.
Sometimes I would even give up and take whatever had seemed to be the most reasonable pair, hoping they'd grow more comfortable with time, and buy them, just to reward the salesperson for all their labors on my behalf.
But of course those shoes never did improve with time, and there I'd be, stuck with a pair of shoes that didn't fit, still longing for a pair that did -- and would look good on my huge feet. An impossible equation.
And then, along came Zappos, and suddenly I could browse and try on at my leisure, order several boxes at a time and send them all back without feeling guilty. With the luxury to explore and experiment, I began to discover which shapes and brands work for me; to read the customer reviews and learn which key words might mean the difference between an adequate fit and a good fit.
And then, this morning, I was reading Anne Lamott's account of an assisted death. And when she and the cancer patient were wondering together what death might be like, she remarks that she once heard an eastern mystic say that he thought death might be "like slipping out of a pair of shoes that never fit very well."
Such a graphic description! And I found myself tearing up a bit. Because the sad thing is that, although we all find ways to make it work, it seems to me that for lots of us life is a bit like a pair of shoes that don't fit. There's always a little twinge somewhere, and on the hard days, it's like you've been on your feet for hours and it would be lovely to kick off the shoes, to stretch out your feet and luxuriate in cool air, or warm water, or fuzzy socks...
How often are we really comfortable? And where are we; what are we doing when we step beyond comfort into ENERGIZED -- that feeling you get with a brand new pair of running shoes, when you feel you could go for hours, buoyed up by all that support?
And then I thought -- the times when life doesn't fit are SO much like the times when I find myself walking away from the shoe store with a pair of SHOES that don't fit: it usually means I've gotten out of balance. I haven't respected my own needs and rights enough (my need for a pair of shoes, my right to keep trying on until I get a good fit, my right to only spend money if I DO find a pair that fits) and I've constructed a fable in my mind about someone else and then tried to be the hero in that tale. (He or she works on commission, they deserve to sell a pair of shoes, they shouldn't have to work so hard, etc. etc. etc.)
The fact is that the shoe salesperson is PAID to keep retrieving shoes that interest me, to help me find a shoe that fits me and my lifestyle. They have their role, and I have mine, and the whole process is thrown off when I don't stick to my lines. Because when I walk out of the store with a pair of shoes that don't fit, BOTH of us have failed.
Yes, Zappos is easier -- kind of like it's easier now for so many of us to interact via email than it is to deal in person. But part of getting better at life is to keep walking back into the shoe store. Because for some of us, learning that it is okay to say no -- that it is okay NOT to be the hero that rescues someone else -- may be the most difficult lesson we have to learn.
... and here's a thought that occurred to me later, after writing this post: Isn't this yet another case where it's the polite lie that's getting us into trouble? (See my last March post, "Liar, liar, pants on fire")