Every time we tell people that we don’t own a car they say, “Oh, I could never give up my freedom like that.” Okay. So for most people having a car equals freedom. They probably have an image in their heads like driving down the highway in a convertible with flowing hair. In summer. Not another car in sight. Like a car commercial. They think of speed and agility and power and strength. Not of being stuck in traffic looking for a parking space when you’re late and everyone wants to go shopping at once.
(Before you think I’m all “holier-than-thou” I have to add that my mother-in-law owns a car. It is sitting in our garage and we share it. But when this one dies (and it’s an old car) there won’t be a new one. For the money it costs to just have it sitting in the garage you can take a taxi to the grocery store every time and buy a piano on top of that.)
But I didn’t want to write about cars though I could go on and on, I wanted to write about what gives me a feeling of freedom. First it’s this:
It’s not because they are red though it helps. These shoes are a symbol to me. A symbol that I value myself enough to buy myself real comfortable shoes. They tell me that I can walk everywhere. That I am strong and capable. And independent. I’m not dependent on a machine; I can just walk away whenever I choose to. And my feet could carry me to China and back again. It would take a little while, I know; that’s why I’m not walking everywhere. But for my everyday life I can shop, go to preschool and back, go for a walk in the woods and all I need are those shoes. They are special walking shoes. For nordic walking to be precise, though I don’t do this often (haven’t pulled my sticks out in half a year or so). My feet don’t hurt. When I was in my twenties and had moved to the city my feet always hurt. In cities you have to walk a lot more than in the country. Then I discovered walking sneakers. With expensive shock absorbing thingies in the heels. Ha! When I visited a friend in Berlin and we went sight-seeing one day from 9 to 3 we came home and she lay down on the floor with her feet up on a chair saying, “My feet are killing me.” And I stood next to her thinking, “Well, my feet do feel a little uncomfortable, come to think of it.” And that was all.
The next thing that gives me a feeling of freedom is this:
I had wanted a gore-tex jacket since 1990 when I first discovered that there was such a thing. What I love about this jacket is that I can wear it all year round. It has a fleece jacket inside that you can zip out when it gets warmer. It is light, it is rain-proof but you don’t feel like you’re wearing a plastic bag. When I’m out walking and it starts to rain I just pull the hood up and I’m comfy again.
Every day when I’m bringing my son to preschool I have to smile when I see the other parents struggling with finding parking space and fiddling with keys, car seats and safety belts. My son and I just walk there. Quite slowly because he’s only four. Then I say goodbye to him for the day and there’s this feeling of freedom rushing in. I zip my jacket and just go. Often I take a detour for the sheer joy of walking. I move, I can think, I feel the air on my face, the pavement under my cushioned shoes – bliss. It’s even better when I got for a walk in the woods. Unencumbered I just walk and look and think. It makes me happy.
There was a time when I felt guilty about this sudden feeling of bliss and freedom I have at the door of preschool every day but then I remembered the times before my son was away from home five days a week. I remembered the walks I took with him. They were the only form of exercise I did in those days. I put him in the stroller, donned my walking shoes and my trusty jacket and started walking. And I felt the same feeling of elation. Even if he spent most of the walk screaming, it was worth it. When he was a baby I often put him in the sling. Then I could even walk in the woods. Or go to the city. I could laugh at stairs and narrow doors. I would just keep on walking. Stepping over obstacles. Free. Strong. Independent.
So don’t tell me freedom is about convertibles or motorcycles. I’m really not one of those women to whom it’s all about shoes but in this case shoes are very important. Shoes one really can walk in. Free.