The west coast winters are rainy and damp as opposed to icy and snowy – but in recent years, we’ve had random episodes of snowfall, small in comparison to the rest of the country but significant enough that our little harbor city becomes a little more challenging to navigate. The snow we get is wet and heavy as opposed to light and fluffy. The temperature may dip slightly below zero or hover just above it, but the air is damp and clammy, and most people with arthritis say they notice a heightened increase in symptoms during this time of year.
A couple of years ago I was gifted a fine pair of boots from a young lady who had outgrown them, and they were well used by me for two years of rainy winters. About a week after another random blast of snow (which morphed into puddles and slush), some cracks began to appear, and the water began to seep in. It was time for a new pair of boots.
It always surprises me in a city where it rains six months out of the year how challenging it is to find a good pair of waterproof boots. Fashion? We’ve got you covered. Kitten heels and stilettos? You betcha. Flip-flops? Oh yes – it’s actually astounding how many people wear these all season long – but trying to find a pair of waterproof boots that are both comfortable and practical, is like searching for Blackbeard’s treasure.
Shopping for boots or shoes with arthritis is challenging at the best of times, because not only do they have to be suitable for the weather, they must be comfortable and easy to wear. I picked out a couple of pairs I thought would suit me, although they were labelled “water resistant”, not waterproof. Two of them did not come in my size and the third pair was uncomfortable and difficult to manage. The salesgirl then suggested a pair that were waterproof. I was a bit a skeptical. I was looking for that unattainable combination of chic and functional, and I was worried she was going to suggest a pair of gum boots. She brought them out and I sighed with relief when I saw them. I left the store with what I thought was the perfect pair of boots. Good quality, stylish, warm, waterproof, and above all, comfortable – but nobody told me I might have to practice putting them on.
On the first day of predicted rain, I was empowered and ready to tackle any conditions the weather gods were going to dish out. However, it turned out I was not ready to put on my new pair of boots. It didn’t occur to me when I purchased them that I would have to face an arthritis nightmare – shoelaces. Along with zippers, buttons, keys, coins, and any other things that require the dexterity and strength of our fingers, shoelaces often fall into that desolate category of avoidance. It had been a long time since I had to deal with shoelaces.
I was getting ready to leave for work the first time I put on my new boots. The salesgirl had made it look so easy, but I felt like a three-year-old learning how to tie shoelaces for the first time. What has happening? Was I tightening them, loosening them, I didn’t know, I only knew I couldn’t get my foot into the boot. It was tight and uncomfortable, and I was spending a lot of time fighting with the web of laces, trying to slacken them enough to get my foot in. I cursed, I cried, I mumbled and yelled, and after struggling for almost half an hour, I finally got those boots on. I wore them all day in the office, afraid to take them off and change into the comfy flats I’d brought in case I couldn’t get them back on again. I was starting to lament my latest (and somewhat costly) purchase. Was I going to have to fight those layers of shoelaces every time I put them on? My hands wouldn’t survive it.
The next day, I pulled out those boots again, giving myself time to find an easier way to put them on, and that’s when I saw it – the broad zipper down the side that allowed me to slide my foot in with ease. How had I missed that? How had I not remembered the zipper down the side with the nice big slider that is easy to grip? My answer was simple: I was in a rush and allowed myself to get frustrated.
I concluded that these boots were meant to give me a message. A reminder of the power of slowing down, of taking one moment at a time. It takes perseverance to actively slow down, especially in today’s world where everything is urgent and instant gratification is expected.
When I put those boots on now, it reminds me that patience is a powerful tool for living with arthritis, and with a little bit of time, I can do anything.