The Damn Shoe

Photo by Taryn Elliott on

Well folks, the other shoe dropped. A few days after I posted my last essay, things went downhill. The night before, Ethan had said to me, “Mom, you’re so happy going out with Greg. I think it’s really good for you.” It’s true. I was glowing. The future felt bright. 

The next day, this man who made me so happy wouldn’t muster the courage to say what he needed to say to my face, for reasons that are his own. 

So I had to talk to my children about how sometimes, even when we move slow, it might still not be measured enough. I had to talk to my kids about how we can be so happy with a person, and that might still not be enough. I had to talk to my kids about how nothing in life is guaranteed or expected, and also, we’re not always going to get it right.

I spent the first night restless, my heart feeling like a giant boulder pressed against my lungs, finding it difficult to breathe. I slept for a total of four scattered hours before I got up, made a cup of coffee, and then wrote a letter of rec for a teacher while Ludacris’ “Move B–ch” blasted from my earbuds. 

This wallowing can’t go on. I have shit to do.

I’m a debriefer. I need to analyze. Pour over words, search for signs, ponder the red flags I missed, find answers even when there are none. Nobody wants to feel like they weren’t good enough, or they didn’t try hard enough, or they didn’t see clear enough.  

The thing is, human relationships often feel like a game of Jenga. You never know which block is going to knock the tower down. Even when 95% of something feels wonderful, it just takes that one block. 

I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t disappointed. But I’m not devastated. 

A week ago, I had posted a quote on Instagram by Rupi Kaur that said, “The way you speak of yourself, the way you degrade yourself into smallness, is abuse.” So I’m trying really hard not to fall into the spiral of wondering if this has something to do with my inferiority, or if I deserved it, or if, or if, or if.

Instead, I’m making a conscious effort to tell myself the stories of what is going right in my life.  I have a lot of great things going on. I’m working on writing projects and entering a stage in my work that is beyond my wildest dreams. I went to my first minister’s assistant meeting today in probably five months, finding the extra space in my life to reach for the things that bring me joy. I had some great, undistracted time with my kids, who I realize are absolutely amazing. I’ve given them great childhoods. I’m going to pat myself on the back for that. When Kenneth died, giving them idyllic childhoods despite suddenly being raised by a single mother was my number one priority, and seeing how well-adjusted they are makes me so proud. If it’s my only accomplishment in life, I will die a satisfied woman.

Also, we have a kick-ass summer planned. 

I believe in the Epictetus quote, “Devote the rest of your life to making progress.” I know this is going to make me better. Happier. Stronger. 

But you can know these things and still not want to start from scratch. That’s the disappointing part. The vanquished dreams. The swirling potential lost down the drain of no answers. Yet, it is incumbent upon us to push past those feelings and stay focused on the paths in front of us.

This year I was also reminded about the merits of companionship, something I had started to forget about as I found myself more entrenched in the predictability and safeness of just being on my own with my kids. Hafez wrote in a poem, “Out of a great need we are all holding hands and climbing. Not loving is letting go. Listen, the terrain around here is far too dangerous for that.” Taking the chance was worth it. Human connection is important. I enjoyed someone caring about me, and caring for someone else. It’s what I miss the most about Kenneth. Knowing that you always have an ally. That best friend who has your back, and you have theirs. But the key point is that the person needs to be your ally. That requires a commitment that transcends the ego. 

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “Don’t run away from things that are unpleasant in order to embrace things that are pleasant. Put your hands in the earth. Face the difficulties and grow new happiness.” 

And that’s the plan. Get up and make it happen.

But first, a little sun in my favorite body of water in the world. Life is good.



  1. Reading both essays, back to back, I’d say you were very prescient. You kind of already knew the truth, but tamped it down.

    I just read Perfection, by Julie Metz, a memoir of middle-aged widowhood. Her points about eventually dating while raising children really hit home for me. Books are so personal, but perhaps you might enjoy it, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Putting yourself back out there always requires some level of risk. I applaud you for taking that risk, and writing about it as well, as that is always helpful with the healing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Teresa, Sorry for the late reply as I just read your essay The Damn Shoe.  My heart goes out to you and thank you for sharing the news.  I previously shared my feelings about dating as a single mother following my husband’s passing. Its been twenty years (May 2002) since he passed!  Please let me know if you and your family plan to visit the San Francisco Bay Area this summer as I would love to take you out for a meal and meet you.  

    Warmest regards, Donna Yoshida Castromember of the Buddhist Church of Oakland(925) 330-3292 mobile

    The information contained in this message is confidential and intended only for the individual recipient named above. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, or copying of this message is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please destroy all electronic and paper copies and notify the sender immediately.


    1. Hi Donna, thank you for your comment! I think the farthest north we are getting this year is near Santa Cruz. I usually love spending time up there, but we are in the middle of a 3-week Mediterranean trip.


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