82: 100 Pairs of Shoes

82: 100 Pairs of Shoes

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

100 Pairs of Shoes

All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.

~Henry Miller

The 100 pairs of shoes were the first things to go. Next were the 200 pieces of clothing, many with designer labels and some never worn. Soon after were the thousands of photos, the twelve cases of books and an entire filing cabinet of personal papers. Reams of coloured paper and pencils were put aside for the local primary school. I then piled up tens of thousands of dollars worth of personal development material that had taken me on a thousand journeys over thirty years, but no longer seemed relevant. My entire office and twenty-six years as a business-woman were reduced to one cardboard box.

Significantly, I decided to trash every diary and journal I had written since the age of twelve. While they were a record of my deep emotional life, I felt the person they would go to after my demise, my only son, shouldn’t have the emotional or physical burden of storing them. In the end, they were the easiest to dispatch.

Sitting on my garage floor sorting through this stuff made me reflect on the past forty years of my life. There were beautiful times and innocent times and I contemplated why I needed to leave Melbourne and Australia. I think the innocence left when I got my divorce. So as I threw out things I’d once held dear, mementos of my life, it felt strangely distant. Not sad, not melancholic, no feelings of “I wish it was still like that” as I sifted through twenty-one years of marriage, motherhood and almost three decades of business. Instead, it felt truly exciting to go through my past selecting what should go and what should stay.

In the end I took 100 large black garbage bags to the tip and have never looked back.

My decision to leave home came all of a sudden. I’d just finished a television interview: It was Valentine’s Day and I was talking about Internet dating following the success of my recently published book. I knew then I didn’t want to be known as the “Dating Queen,” and I knew I was over living in Australia.

My twenty-year-old son had just headed overseas and it was the first time in twenty-five years I was free from cooking nightly dinners. I’d left my husband five years earlier over his infidelity.

But that was the past and now my thoughts were of me. I had no more responsibilities and I could either stay where I was, learn to play bridge and golf, and enter God’s waiting room or do what truly made me feel alive: travel.

I rented my house, put eighteen dozen bottles of wine in storage, along with my convertible Mercedes. My beloved cat Polyester went to my ex-husband’s first ex-wife, my art and possessions went into a storage container, and at sixty-four I took off for the unknown with nothing more than a suitcase, a laptop and a one-way ticket.

The amazing thing was I didn’t care where I landed. I didn’t need to know where I would live — it could be London, Paris, Rome or somewhere else. I didn’t need to know in advance. I needed to feel where was right.

This was a time to move out of my head and into my heart. This was a time to indulge all my senses; no longer needing to hold a life together that had truly passed its use-by date.

I began to really thrive and be excited by living in a state of uncertainty that came with a promise of so much more. It felt freeing and liberating not having a plan. There was only my daily decision to live in joy.

And that was easy. I love culture, art, history, and architecture. I was in London with its 250 galleries and museums. I adopted the hashtag #galleriesandlunch and life took off!

No longer being a businesswoman, a wife, a whatever I’d said about myself in the past when meeting new people, I decided to adopt the identity of “The Invitation.”

All of a sudden I was being invited to functions at embassies and gorgeous homes. I forged friendships and relationships with an amazing assortment of new people and enjoyed spending time with friends I had known for years.

There were films, dinners, lunches, art, museums, music, and culture of all sorts. There were tempting projects on offer, but the minute I realised I was evaluating them with my head I said no. When they pulled at my heartstrings, I said yes and threw myself into them.

Life was good. Life was actually outstanding. When people asked whether I missed my possessions, my books, my art, my car, my whatever, I can honestly say I replied, “No, not in the slightest.” I had three things to do most days, starting from morning and ending at midnight. I was totally in love, with London and my life in it.

The only thing that was missing was in fact love. But since I’d been in a loveless marriage for so long and that ended now seven and a half years ago, I guess I’d learned to live without that too and still be happy.

So what do they say happens when you’re not looking but simply enjoying your life? Suddenly the partner of your dreams crosses your path. And yes, he did. A gorgeous, caring, kind, passionate man just dropped in two days after I sent the message to the universe that I wanted him.

I was sixty-seven-and-a-half years old; I was living in a rented flat 12,000 miles from “home;” I had none of my possessions with me, no car to drive, no longer a business to occupy my time and no daily, weekly or monthly schedule. I’d chosen to launch into the void, and here I was in wonderful London living in total joy.

I’d always loved Rod Stewart’s rendition of “Never Give Up On A Dream,” and now I was living it. Taking that risk, leaving certainty and boredom behind, leaving Australia with just a suitcase and a laptop gave me the ultimate prize of love and happiness.

And I never once missed those 100 pairs of shoes!

~Dr. Buzz McCarthy

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