hevria soul shoes

Disconnecting Our Actions From Our Souls

When I was a tiny, nothing kid, my mother taught me how to tie my shoes. I wrapped my tiny, nothing, kid hands around the laces and twisted them into little bunches. With thick, uncoordinated fingers, I fumbled.

Strings are used for packaging and hanging, not for kid feet and hands.

I couldn’t make knots. I followed my own fingers around a twisting maze. I walked closely behind my mother as she carved a deep and intricate path. I tried my best to follow, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that this wasn’t going to be easy. I needed her to slow down and explain how these two strings belonged together, neatly laced and attached, following some strange, convoluted pattern. I needed her to be patient with me. I needed her to slow down. But instead, she got frustrated. She threw her hands up in the air, and as they came down along her sides, so did the laces from my fingers. Tying shoes was mission impossible and I would never, ever be able to.  

I stood there and cried my little kid face off. I was a stupid, nothing kid who couldn’t do anything right. I needed to take a break and stop and walk away. So instead of asking questions and looking for answers, I gave up.

Sometimes, I become that kid. Frustrated with myself and my abilities, and with the one who created me. Sometimes I feel myself freeze up as the words echo in my head;

I can’t do this. I’ll never do this. I am incapable. I do not possess the skills I need and I am unable to acquire them.

The doubts pour in viciously, the anxiety rising – like a half-empty glass on the upswing.

I can’t speak, for I fear I’ll say the wrong thing. I know nothing. I’ll never learn anything new. These are the abilities I have and that will never change. I’ll just stay here quietly – shoes untied, paralyzed by a problem I’ve created myself. A home-made problem, all of my own. No one ever told me, “You can’t.” Other than myself, that is.

So what am I so scared of? Other people, myself? Does it really matter if we make mistakes, will anyone truly think less of us? No, probably not. No one’s watching. No one’s hear to psych me out. Other than myself, that is.

Perhaps on some unconscious level, I walk around with the thought that maybe,

Somewhere, someone will hear me,

See me,

And return to my door every day,

Banging and banging, announcing their arrival, as they have returned to tell me,

That maybe I should just give it up.

I sit in a small classroom with fifteen or so other students, discussing an elegy we all read and understood. “Opinions? Anyone?” Yet the room is silent, and the professor prods and pokes and just short of begs for responses from his class. When forced to create an opinion, someone will, they have no choice. They’ll direct their gaze upwards and make a brief request to the ceiling gods for some sort of intelligent comment. But where’s the faith, the act of trusting the self – why are we so terrified to be wrong?

And so I lift one shoe lace and cross it shyly over the other, as if it doesn’t belong there at all – as if no one ever crossed two shoe laces before without shattering and melting into the flowing brook. Cross and uncross.

Cross and uncross,

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I look up at my mother’s crinkled expression, she takes me apart and I avert my gaze. I break the connection, as my little, nothing, kid heart can’t take it. I think how difficult this is, how stupid I am.

Cross and uncross.

“Your rhythm could be better, your singing is fine but your songs all sound the same, maybe it’s time you learn something new?”

“If you practice more often, it’ll come more naturally, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You of all people know nothing comes easily.”

Echoing and ebbing, these utterances climb up on to my shore.

Cross and uncross.

“You’re a smart girl, you have so much potential, you’re so internally motivated.”

Cross and uncross.

What if I’m not doing enough? Like an angry flood, rising from the earth, every hope and aspiration is swallowed. I’ll never set a goal and accomplish it, I’ll never start and finish anything.

Then a little voice in my head chimes in. She tells me to take a breath. Calm down, and just stop for a minute.

Take out a pen, let’s be rational and figure out what exactly the problem is.

Cross and uncross.

And don’t panic.

Remember that first and foremost, you are only a soul.

A pure soul, a piece of G-d himself – the ultimate creator.

We learn that no matter what acts we do – the soul remains unscathed and white.

From this we must infer that we are not our actions. We are not our abilities, our strengths, or our weaknesses. We are our souls. If we attribute our fears and our flaws to our entire beings, we feel overwhelmed and exposed. We give into our challenges and our doubts. We blame ourselves for feeling inferior but even worse, we cause ourselves to.

But if we uncross the laces and see them as two parts of a whole, we may understand ourselves better. Yes, we may twist them together – our souls and our actions, but by one gentle pull, we just as easily should be able to separate them.