Friday, August 21, 2015

A Shoeulogy

Lest you think that this has all been about perspective and growth and strength, I feel the need to share with you one of the most devastating (and, frankly, shallow) aspects in our journey to health through loss. I reached a point several years ago where I was utterly pleased with my wardrobe. I had cultivated and curated pieces that I loved and could intermingle with each other to wear again and again. It made me feel good and it gave me confidence.

More than my wardrobe, though, was my shoe collection. I can only say, with a tear in my eye and not an ounce of irony, that my shoes were my babies. I had boots: suede, leather, snakeskin; red, black, brown, camel; high heel, low heel, mid heel; knee high, calf high, ankle booties. I had heels: patent, suede, fabric, leather; gold, black, brown, burgundy, red, nude; stiletto, wedge, chunky. I had sandals: strappy, flat, walking; leather, rope, cork, plastic. I even had a couple of pairs of sneakers and three or four pair of flats. Did I mention the boots?

Learning, as we did, that we would have to lose everything in order to gain health was hard enough to bear, but when it became clear that "everything" included my shoes, it was just too much. I would dissolve into a puddle just thinking about it. And with that, let me provide you with a eulogy for my shoes, a shoeulogy, if you will.

Goodbye, red snakeskin Manolo Blahniks. From the first moment I saw you on the rack in Filene's, I knew we were soulmates. From your $250 pricetag (which I talked the checkout lady down to $150) to your perfect stiletto heel to your absolutely uncomfortable leather sole, I loved you. You were with me at my rehearsal dinner, on a trip to Prague where I nearly broke your heel off (sorry about that...nobody told me there'd be cobblestones), and on days at work when I really needed to be sassy. You were the queen of my closet.

Goodbye, nude pumps. You served dutifully for several years, smartly blending in with browns, blues, oranges, and even, on one occasion, sequins. You were up to whatever task I chose to draft you into: a business lunch; a summer wedding; dinner out on a Saturday night; brunch with the Girls. You were the pearl necklace of shoes -- elegant and suitable for nearly every occasion.

Goodbye, black riding boots. From September through March, you were the go-to choice for comfort and ease. Whether it was a denim skirt or skinny cords, you knew just how to make any outfit look as if it had just emerged from a Town & Country Magazine shoot in the English countryside. Cheerio, old friend.

Goodbye, red satin peeptoes. You carried me down the aisle on my wedding day, and danced the best night of my life away with me. You gave me a blister on my little toe, but I forgave you for it. And even if you didn't get out much after that night, your place on my shelf was one of honor.

Goodbye, black leather high heel Prada booties. Like your cousin Manolos, we met in that aisle in Filene's, your name on the box issuing a siren call that could not be ignored. Though you probably didn't appreciate it, I told anyone who would listen that you only cost $150 (marked down from $795) because I knew your real worth. What I would give to stroke your Italian leather one last time . . .

Goodbye, Stuart Weiztman lanyard cork wedges. You were without a doubt the most comfortable, sky-high shoes I've ever owned. You went with everthing: jeans, dresses, slacks. I could put you on in the morning, walk a couple of miles, and keep wearing you into the evening. A dutiful and practical shoe, you gave me height and confidence and comfort. I'm glad you're now living with some girl in Australia who totally gets you.

Goodbye, J. Crew red snakeskin mid-calf almond toe heeled boots that were half a size too small, but fit if I wore stockings instead of socks and ignored that I couldn't feel my little toe. You were the best $35 bargain a gal could ask for. For more than 10 years, you marched yourself out when I really needed a kick (and had forgotten about that pesky little toe thing).

Goodbye, Aquatalia knee-high suede high heeled dress boots, I think I'll miss you most of all. I coveted, nay stalked, you online for three years before I finally made you mine. You went with everything, kept me warm, and felt like you were made from the skin of a newborn. I loved everything about you and would've slept wearing you if I could. You made my life better just being in it, and it's a little darker out there now that you're gone.

To all the other boots, flats, sneakers, heels, and sandals, you may not have been my favorites, but you served me well and loyally every step I took. May every step you take be one toward heaven.

For more information about environmental illness, mold, and mycotoxin poisoning, read here, here, and here, and watch video here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

On the Way to Better

I checked into the hotel with just the clothes on my back, my phone, and my wallet. Minutes earlier, I had walked out of our now-empty home for the last time, having purged the remaining bits of our life into the garbage. Just before I left, I snapped one last picture of our beautiful view of Thomas Circle and tweeted, "I don't live here anymore." It took my breath away how much it hurt. 

The woman at the hotel desk handed me a package with the clothes I would wear and a purse I was borrowing from my mother. They were the only possessions I had. I swallowed the lump in my throat and went to my room.

As I stripped off my clothes and put them into a garbage bag, I thought to myself, "How did I get here? How had I survived the past year? Would I survive what was coming next? What was coming next?" There I was, in nothing, with nothing, and I couldn't fathom how I was going to put my life back together. I didn't know if WH was ever going to get better. If we were ever going to be better.

Standing in the shower, as I washed my hair (three times, with antifungal shampoo), I felt resolute. I was literally and metaphorically washing off all that had come before: the mold that had upended our lives; losing our home, our things; the months of searching for answers and doctors and treatments; the gutwrenching heartbreak of not living together, of not being able to comfort each other with even a hug, of suffering separately; the time we could never get back; the loss, so much loss. It all went down the drain as I stood there washing it away.


I went downstairs to the hotel's restaurant and ordered a glass of wine. I don't remember what it tasted like, or the two glasses that followed, but it was more sacramental than any communion wine I'd ever drunk. This was my rebirth. This was my new reality. This was my new normal. Starting over with nothing. Except that I didn't have nothing. I simply didn't have stuff. And in that moment, even as I sat there alone with nothing to my name besides the clothes on my back, I knew that I would never truly have nothing. I had WH -- who was on his way to recovery. I had my parents who were giving me a home again. I had our family who were holding us up in whatever way they could. I had our wonderful, loving, and supportive friends who had been there through all of the hell and helped us keep going, who gave us strength we didn't know we had. I had what I needed, what really mattered.

The hell wasn't quite over yet -- that kind of lingering burn doesn't go away in an instant and you bear the scars forever -- but eventually the burning stops and the scars fade, and you come out of it. And there we were, on our way out of it, on our way to better. . .

For more information about environmental illness, mold, and mycotoxin poisoning, read here, here, and here, and watch video here.