Do you have a pair of “happy shoes?” Maybe you need one.
I am blessed to have a son who is one of the world’s happiest people. If left to his own sense of how the world works, he always manages to see something good to focus on. He clued me in to the idea of happy shoes. He’s a tall guy and wears size 13′s. When you see him in a pair of bright yellow vinyl sneakers with happy faces on them, you can bet something wonderful has happened in his life. He recently wore them for his daughter’s birthday party. But the real reason for the shoes was adversity that dogged him for five years.
He was the nice guy in the wrong place when the financial markets turned to goo. He’s financially conservative but the company he’d been working for had gone in a bad direction and ended up imploding. Prior to that event, he’d been able to find another job in a matter of days if not hours. But with gazillions of financial professionals out of work, most of the jobs drying up, and the blot of “that company name” on his resume, the months turned into years.
His financial conservatism meant they’d been saving for this potential disaster. Plus his wife still had a well-paying job. The hit was ugly for the family wallet, but it pegged to downright grotesque in terms of its potential for destroying his self esteem. He was a professional with good credentials. In the aftermath of the finance sector’s meltdown, that probably worked against him even more–the “overqualified” issue.
But he didn’t sit on his hands while he waited for the right job to come along. He did all the things they advise doing. (You will never find a guy more effective at networking.) And when things didn’t turn around quickly, he didn’t head for the bar in frustration. He just kept on believing it was going to work out while he did everything he could think of as the process dragged on and on.
He started studying for the CFA–an arduous credentialing process that some say is more demanding than an MBA. He also remodeled their entire downstairs and rebuilt a rock wall in the backyard. He was in the middle of remodeling the kitchen when “the right job” finally materialized.
At some point in all that, he found these shoes–for when he would begin to celebrate the wins again. He believed things were going to go right eventually. And they have. When he passed the CFA’s (which really does take years), he sent a photo of his foot–in a happy shoe. The image filled me with joy–and I wasn’t even the one who’d gone through the massive work effort to make the achievement happen.
I have a pair of silly shoes–pink suede, slide-on, sneaker style, 3″ platform shoes. I got them for a costume party and they make me laugh. (I am 5 foot 8.) So I keep them. But are they my happy shoes–or just my silly shoes? What would it take to make them my happy shoes?
That’s beside the point. The question here is how do you–and I–celebrate our wins? And are our loved ones in on that?
Early in my writing career, I would treat my husband to dinner out when I finished a book manuscript–simply because I wanted to celebrate that. (Let’s not quibble about who’s “supposed” to buy in such circumstances. Reality is often less romantic than we’d prefer.)
Going out to eat (at least if you don’t do it all the time) is a nice way to acknowledge completing a big job. But you’re done with the celebrating in an hour or two and the loved ones who are a thousand miles away don’t get to feel your joy. Happy shoes send the message all day long and over the internet if you snap a photo.
I think I need some happy shoes. I think you do, too. Life is good–and when it’s even better for the moment because something good happened, it’s nice to mark that well.
Please note: When I become adept at getting photos off my phone camera and into blog posts, I will include the images of these shoes as well as one of me wearing whatever my happy shoes are at that point–to celebrate the fact that I finally got that figured out.
Mary Lloyd is a writer and speaker and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love. For more, please see her website.