I love boots.
Much to my relief, this Sunday it was finally cool enough for me to wear footwear that wasn't sandals. Saturday night, J and I went to Vanderbilt's season opening football game. Thankfully, it was an evening game. Even so, it was hot, humid and airless outside. I wore supportive flip-flops, but flip-flips are still flip-flops, so the support was minimal. My feet were killing me by the time we got home. Not from the walking, per se, but from how hot my feet were for the entire evening. As we went to bed, I was hopeful the promised rain would arrive, bringing the temps from the 100s to the 80s - and bringing boots back into my footwear repertoire.
The rain arrived as predicted and I wore a white skirt, grey shirt and my favorite blue suede cowboy boots to church. As J and I walked from the parking lot to the sanctuary, I remarked that I was so glad to be able to wear boots again. "Are they more comfortable for your feet and legs because they're more supportive?" he asked in an attempt to understand. "Yes, but it's more than that," I replied. "They make me feel more confident, more protected - both physically and psychologically." "Hmmm," he mumbled diplomatically.
I realize it may sound a bit crazy that boots make me feel more confident and more protected, but it's true. In my Enneagram study, I did this week's reading for our discussion, then jumped ahead several chapters to read about type nine. Several passages in this chapter have brought tears to my eyes. One such passage:
NINEs have none of the defense mechanisms at their disposal that the other eight types use to try to protect their inner self from the assaults of the world outside... This defenselessness means that almost everything that approaches NINEs from the outside world is exhausting and draining.
Maybe it was having recently read this passage that made me realize that boots aren't just a fashion preference for me - they're armor. I have to walk slower in most of the boots I own - either because they have heels or because they don't allow my ankle to bend the way other shoes do. This can be challenging for me since I generally like to be able to slip in and out of places, unnoticed if I wish. This side of me isn't compatible with wearing boots, but maybe my preference for them comes from a nearly hidden inner knowledge that even when I don't want to be noticed, everyone needs someone to pay attention to them.
Lots of people wear armor of some sort. Starched shirts, ties and suits? Armor. Make-up? War paint. Short skirts, tight shirts? A way to deflect people from knowing who you are by keeping them preoccupied with how you look. I don't think it's inherently wrong to wear clothing (or boots) that protect you from the world - literally or metaphorically. But I do think it's helpful to realize why we choose what we choose.
If I'm counting on boots to protect me from what people say about me, to give me defense against attacks on my inner self, to distract people from my face by making them look at my feet, I'm not really growing and maturing, am I? Because what I really need to do is acknowledge that I'm weak - that I don't have the inner resources I need to get through life. And then seek those resources through prayer instead of through a good pair of Ariats.
Not that I'm giving up the Ariats, mind you.