Raising awareness and bringing joy with a pair of sparkly, red shoes

As soon as I saw the ruby red, satin and sequin, kitten-heeled sandals in the store I knew I HAD to have them.  They were perfect for my year 12 formal and I had desperately wanted a pair of sparkly ruby shoes for as long as I could remember after seeing them over and over again on my favourite childhood movie; The Wizard of Oz.  That movie never failed to bring me toe-tapping, heel-clicking, fuzzy-warm-feeling joy and my desire to have my own pair of dorothy shoes never went away even as my movie collection expanded.  That movie is special to me in so many ways.  The song, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ was my favourite song growing up.  For years my grandmother would play it on the piano and I would sing.  Even when her fingers were too painfully arthritic to play anything else she would still play that song for me and now, whenever I hear it, it never fails to bring back those memories.  For a long time after she passed away I couldn’t listen to it and it still makes me cry, it was our special song and while I can never sing it with her again I still have the memories.

The Wizard of Oz (and that song in particular) made me believe as a child that there actually was another world over the rainbow full of magic, music and mystery.  That good will always triumph over evil, that tin men and scarecrows can come to life and sing and dance, that courage, love and intelligence are in all of us even if it doesn’t appear that way at first, and that there will never, ever be any place like home and all we have to do to get there is believe and click our heels together 3 times (that part still gives me goosebumps!).  That pair of shoes is the embodiment of all those messages.  They are love, joy, laughter and carefree innocence and I have a sneaking suspicion that this movie may be the origin of my shoe obsession – well really, everyone wants them and they’re just too darn cute!

So my pretty red shoes didn’t last forever – they were satin, somewhere along the way something got spilled on them and eventually the sequins started to fall off.  They also weren’t the most comfortable or practical shoes in the world but that was really beside the point.  The point is how they made me feel and that is where the joy and awareness part of this post comes in.  A fellow dysautonomia sufferer (and owner of a fabulous, home-made pair of dorothy shoes) had an insomnia-fuelled brainwave.  In her muddled, sleep-deprived state very early one morning she thought to herself, ‘what is missing from the lives of most dysautonomia sufferers?’ AND (even more impressively for 3am), found the answer to that question was; Joy!  And the obvious vessel is dorothy shoes.  She then took it a little bit further and thought about how dorothy shoes could be used to bring joy AND promote awareness of dysautonomia and came up with; The Dorothy Shoe Project.  Which is a stroke of genius really, for any time of the day!

So, what does the Dorothy Shoe Project involve? you ask.  Well, the idea is to post a few pairs of Dorothy shoes to Dysautonomia sufferers around the world – so far she has had expressions of interest from Australia, the UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand (I believe) and take photos wearing them.  Wearing them anywhere doing anything (well, you know what I mean, let’s keep it PG please people!) particularly anything silly that involves copious amounts of joy and laughter AND the person wearing them has to have dysautonomia of any type.  I am so excited about this project, it gives me another chance to wear sparkly red shoes and, lets face it, there can never be too many chances for that!

If you or anyone you know might be interested in participating in the Dorothy Shoe Project, raising awareness about the project or even sponsoring the project, check out ‘Living With Bob (Dysautonomia)‘.

I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain… Part 2

Sorry for the delay, the silly season got the better of my organisational skills!  So here are the final 5 steps for improving confidence including one bonus one for lateness!

6.  Treat yourself.  A bit like number 5 but also a little different.  You need to feel loved and special and if that means treating yourself to a massage, spa treatment, shopping trip, day off, holiday, puppy cuddles, sleeping in or something else you’ve been wanting to do for ages but didn’t have the time or didn’t think it was important enough – just do it!  Yep, we’re using the Nike slogan but that’s because it’s good!

7.  Learn to say NO!  This one is a pretty big undertaking and rather important.  If you have been pushed around and taken advantage of for years it can be hard to change the trend.  If you need a bit of help the issue has been addressed in many movies – ‘27 dresses’ is one of my favourites for this!  It may not sound difficult to a lot of people but it can be, think back to number 5 and remember to put yourself up there on your list of priorities.  Start with something small and simple and work your way up from there.

8.  Express yourself.  A lot of us often find that in the heat of the moment we have trouble saying exactly what we want to say to people who have upset us – this is completely normal!  It’s hard to say exactly what you want to say when emotion is involved, it’s way too easy to get caught up and forget your words!  So take a step back, think about it for a while and then come back and say what you have to say.  There is nothing wrong with re-addressing an issue later down the track once the heat has gone out of it.  Think clearly and concisely about exactly what it is that you want to say; exactly what you are upset about and why or what you want to talk about and why.  Try to separate the person from the action, it is very important so they do not feel like they are being unfairly targeted and respond in kind which can result in a bit of a kick to your confidence.  Emotive statements are great for getting across how you feel without sounding like you’re attacking the other person – for example; I feel sad/angry/hurt/offended when … happens/when you… so I feel offended when I believe there is racial prejudice going on at work.  And use specific examples.  It is important for people to understand how their actions impact on you – they may be completely unaware they are having any effect on you whatsoever if you never say they are.

9.  Practice, practice, practice.  Who hasn’t heard that one before!  Well it is important, the more you work at something the easier it becomes and the better you get at it.  You don’t have to suddenly throw yourself in the deep end, build up to it slowly and instead of avoiding situations of conflict, public speaking or other situations that make you nervous expose yourself to them slowly and make sure you’re prepared – not over prepared because then it is just as likely that you’ll keep getting prepared, be convinced you’re never prepared enough and then not do it!  Whenever I have to perform or speak in public, or even answer a question in a meeting or class I still feel a flutter of nerves but the more often I do it the easier it becomes.  12 months ago I went on a cruise with friends and there was a karaoke competition.  The first song I performed I couldn’t feel my legs – that used to happen to me a lot and I realised that I was just out of practice.  By the final round several days later I was dancing on stage during a musical interlude in my song (and I didn’t even know the song).  Practice, practice, practice!!

10.  Don’t sweat the small stuff!  Kinda along the same lines as ‘stop second-guessing yourself, point 4).  Lets face it, confidence goes hand in hand with stress and that little voice in the back of your head that worries about everything; what people think, what they say, whether you made the right choice, whether you are going to make the right choice and so on.  The saying ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ is very appropriate but I prefer ‘don’t stress about the things you can’t change and focus on what you can’.  You can’t change the weather, you can’t make your tram run on time, once you submit that completed application you can’t make them pick you.  AND if you paint something the wrong colour you can always change it later, if you take a wrong turn you can always retrace your steps.

11.  (A bonus one!)  No one can do it for you!  No one is going to make your decisions for you, if someone stands up to someone else for you it’s not really going to solve your problem and make you feel better and when you do you’ll feel great in the long run (admittedly the first couple of times you might feel a little ill from the nerves and adrenaline but after that passes you can congratulate yourself!).

There are many situations out there that can affect your confidence and courage and many types of situations that can do the same.  Bullies range in severity from those who physically bail people up for money etc to those friends who unknowingly wax lyrical about a particular issue they feel very strongly about ad nauseum without realising they are making others uncomfortable or upset or just plain annoyed.  Taking this on, sticking up for yourself, questioning unfair treatment by others and making yourself heard can be difficult; particularly if it is not something you are accustomed to doing for whatever reason.

For me, many of the experiences I had growing up that shaped the person I am today were also completely confidence shattering and it took a long time to recover.  To put it briefly – a lot of shit happened and I learned from it because I was able to, because that is the person I am and the view I have but not everyone is the same.  I hate the saying ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’; it’s ridiculous.  Tell that to a victim of abuse, someone who has had to flee their country to avoid persecution and left their family behind, a mother who has had to bury her child or someone suffering from PTSD.  It’s not helpful in the moment so just don’t say it.  Some things that are hard we can learn from, we can become resilient.  But sometimes, some people just break and they’re allowed to, sometimes shit just happens and there is no sense in it and nothing good to learn. Humans are resilient but most of us can’t do it on our own, I couldn’t and there is no shame in asking for help.  The most important thing to do, the very fist step to becoming confident and happy is to be brave and say ‘I CAN’.

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