You would think that after all these years of going barefooted, I’d no longer have concerns about whether to go barefoot and that worries would be behind me.
But there is still a niggling in the back of the brain.
The thing is, I suspect most of us spend much of our lives in familiar territory. We know which stores won’t give us problems so we tend to keep giving them our business. And we don’t worry too much about getting rejected.
But what if you are going to a new, important place with something you really need?
I spent yesterday in Detroit, at the U.S. Customs service port at the base of the Ambassador bridge to Windsor, Canada. It’s a pretty big complex and handles a lot of functions.
I was getting a special identification card that required a personal interview and fingerprints taken. And before heading there I got into this debate with myself over whether I should wear shoes for it (or at least flip-flops).
This keeps happening.
While general customs prescribe the wearing of shoes, the question in my mind was whether Customs would do so also. And my mind kept trying to defeat (defeet?) me.
It’s easy to allow ourselves to make excuses, and worry our way into footwear.
Before leaving the house I managed to decide to do it barefoot. But I did bring a pair of emergency flip-flops (which I normally don’t carry—I wasn’t going to Detroit just to be completely turned away).
But even on the trip up there, my brain worked on sabotage. At a couple of rest areas, I caught people looking at me. It wasn’t the temperatures that bothered me (it was comfortable with temperatures around freezing and a light lake effect snow coming off of Lake Michigan). It was (still!) worrying about what people think.
And then I got there. Hey, what’s the big deal? Why not just put on the pair of flip-flops? This isn’t some grand contest with the devil for my sole.
Niggling. Sitting in the parking lot. Niggling.
I did go in barefoot.
The thing is, they were all behind a counter. They couldn’t see my feet if they wanted to. All that worry for nothing.
And that’s the way it turns out over 95% of the time. I work myself up only to find it’s for nothing. And if I had put on the flip-flops I would really be kicking myself, because then I wouldn’t have known whether I would have succeeded in my preferred state (but I would have my suspicions).
On my way out, one of the women who had greeted me when I entered was outside on her break. Then she saw my barefoot and did a bit of a double take. But that was all.
And I saw I’d left a few bare footprints on the ground on my way in.
This sort of mental gymnastics can happen a lot of ways. I’ve mentioned before that I have a pair of barefoot sandals, and a lot of other people have them too. But they can be used as a crutch—if you wear them you don’t know if you would have succeeded without them. All they do is temporarily relieve some anxiety but preclude the feeling of success that comes from just doing it. (And you also have to deal with putting them on and taking them off when you really shouldn’t need them at all.)
It does get easier over the years, and I find I worry less and less about what other people think. But even that always isn’t enough.
But at least I can still (sometimes, at least) conquer the inner demons of customs.