“You’re ill at ease. Adventurous people are always a little ill at ease. They’re shy. They aren’t bold the way people think they are. They go stumbling around breaking things, being scolded, always looking for a place where they feel they belong, they have that crooked look… of not really matching anything.”
Lilith (from the 1964 film, “Lilith”)
I haven’t been blogging much lately, to tell the truth, it started feeling rather pointless. Yeah, sure, guys come in droves to look at my pics, but I’ve realized how utterly hollow that is. Stared at and lonely, it’s not an inspiring state of affairs. But, all the same, each year I have marked the anniversary of my dedication to hardcore barefoot living, but this year, the anniversary (January 14th–my birthday) slipped past me, it’s nearly the end of February now. All the same, this blog entry has become something of a tradition with me, so I thought I oughta muster up the enthusiasm to keep it up, after all, I’m a believer in tradition.
“You can be barefoot and still have worries.”
Yep, a tradition is a tradition, but these exhibitionistic blog entries have begun to seem more and more like a spotlight on each lonely weekend. Men! Perhaps I’m too picky, but it seems every man I meet is prowling around looking for a plaything to shoehorn in around their more important activities. Guys, here’s a tip, maybe you should wait to ask a girl how she feels about anal sex until AFTER the first date. So where’s the enthusiasm, where’s that patented Barefoot Justine smile? Well, group, its in there, but it takes a while sometimes for it to grace my face, and part of coaxing up that smile is hard work, the hard personal work of celebrating the good things, of which there are plenty. The hard work I persist in doing. That’s what this blog entry really is, an attempt to purge the bile and look on the sunny side, to remind myself how good things are even when I am at my loneliest and most detached.
There are two wolves at my door, the one snarls and bares its teeth, it is loneliness, fear and sometimes even jealousy. There is a second wolf, and that one is the source of my strength, my passion, and my joy and inspiration. You know the old saying, and it is true… the wolf that wins is the one you feed. Here I am, forever remembering to feed the right wolf, but often forgetting and fattening up the horrid one.
So what has 3 years barefoot meant, anyways?
Well, it’s meant a lot. For one, it means that it can be done. What do I mean by that? Well, what I mean is that it is possible to live wholly without shoes, socks, slippers, sandals, anything! Yep, even in the winter. And, nope, there’s not a single thing in my home that would cover, warm or protect my feet. It’s been skin on the ground for 3 solid years now (and pretty much the same for years before that as well, I just hadn’t had the courage to burn my shoes once and for all up until 3 years ago). It can all be done barefoot, every aspect of my life, from doctor visits, to shopping, from work to visits to the courthouse, and from restaurants to business meetings. What it really means, 3 years barefoot, is that a person can live the life they want to live… so long as they have the courage and determination to make it so.
So long as they are willing to make the sacrifices… and more importantly, capable of reminding themselves of of how grand it is to live a self-actualized life even in the muggy air of a culture that works very hard to strangle that free spirit out of us.
“‘Reality’ is neither the subject nor the object of true art which creaties its own special reality having nothing to do with the average ‘reality’ perceived by the communal eye.”
Kinbote (Pale Fire)
We can make lots of things so, but sadly many of us never figure out that we have that power. More to the point, most of us are not up to the challenges of conjuring our daydreams into realities, whatever “reality” is. “Reality,” as any good Hindu knows, is a construct, most usually kept in place by the average man, and it takes extraordinary people to step outside of that reality, extraordinary people who can turn their backs on the petty expectations of a world of people who aggressively believe in the big shared construct… but that’s all it is, a construct. Living barefoot for 3 years is essentially a rejection of that construct. And boy does it rub some people the wrong way. Those people will work to stop you, to brainwash you, to force you back into line with the accepted construct they all have silently and unwittingly agreed to call “reality.” You know, that ever so “real” world in which sports actually seem important, that world in which people actually watch all the crap that’s on TV, that world in which Americans actually believe that the solution to gun violence is more guns (like say in schools, for example). It’s madness, folks, look around you, it’s madness! Yes, Virginia, the lunatics have taken over the asylum, but there’s no need to stay in the asylum with them, it is, after all, only a house of cards.
“‘Reality,’ (one of the few words which mean nothing without quotes)…”
And I am seen as mad for being barefoot? Madness and sanity are not democratic states of being, whole societies can be mad, and their constructs are created to make those of us who see the madness for what it is seem like the mad ones. One thing history, myth and religion teaches us is that “they” crucify those “madmen” and burn those “madwomen” who challenge the constructs, the collective notions, of “reality.” Sometimes I think “reality” is nothing more than the sneakiest and most subtle and insidious of propagandas.
I walk barefoot for a number of reasons, and one reason is that I have renounced the madness, that construct, to create a life, construct and reality that is highly personal. I know, many may find all this hard to accept, but trust me, it can be accepted. Some of us have to experience real trauma to be able to find ourselves and make that painful break from the construct the average man mistakes for reality.
Yeah, I know, I show a picture of my dirty leathery soles and then get all existential on y’all. But that’s what it’s all about, this journey. You can choose which wolf to feed, but you can also choose between getting in line, boarding the bus and going where everyone else is going, or you can take off and explore your own life from the driver’s seat. Face it, most of the people out there have taken the passenger seat in their own lives. Simply put, you can either be who they want and tell you to be, or you can be who you want to be. Frankly, it’s easier to board the bus and sit in the passenger seats with everyone else.
“Campbell: …A dream is a personal experience of that deep dark ground that is the support of our conscious lives, and a myth is the society’s dream. The myth is the public dream and the dream is the private myth. If your private myth, your dream, happens to coincide with that of the society, you are in good accord with your group. If it isn’t, you’ve got an adventure in the dark forest ahead of you.
Moyers: So if my private dreams are in accord with the public mythology, I’m more likely to live healthily in that society. But if my private dreams are out of step with the public–
Campbell: –you’ll be in trouble. If you’re forced to live in that system, you’ll be a neurotic.
Moyers: But aren’t many visionaries and even leaders and heroes close to the edge of neuroticism?
Campbell: Yes, they are.
Moyers: How do you explain that?
Campbell: They’ve moved out of the society that would have protected them, and into the dark forest, into the world of fire, of original experience. Original experience has not been interpreted for you, and you’ve got to work out your life for yourself. Either you can take it, or you can’t. You don’t have to go far off the interpreted path to find yourself in very difficult situations. The courage to face the trials and bring a whole new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experience for other people to experience–that’s the hero’s deed.”
Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, (The Power Of Myth)
Either you can take it, or you can’t, honestly, sometimes I can take it, and sometimes I can’t.
“I will not conform and I will not submit,” that’s my motto regardless. I thought it always had been, but it wasn’t, not until after I’d faced my own mortality twice, after I had lost my home and gone bankrupt, not until I realized I had nothing to lose. It was then that I really had the courage to find out what it really means to not conform and to not submit. But here’s the funny part, group, back when I played the game and rode on that bus, I got nothing back in return for my forfeit, whereas now, when I have accepted my path and have individuated, now that I am stubbornly barefoot, living as an artist, and following my bliss, I am finding that things are working out a lot better. People give me more work, they respond better to me than they did before. I see no reason to get back on that bus. Actually, I’m rather superstitious about it all. Things are so much better for me now that I am afraid of any compromise when it comes to my vision of who I am, and I am barefoot. No, I won’t put shoes on just for this one thing… that, my friends, is a slippery slope.
Yep, another year barefoot, and I have done it all, gone shopping, gone out to eat, gone to the doctor, travelled, you know, I’ve done all those things barefoot that everyone thinks is impossible. How many times I have heard people lament that they’d go barefoot all the time if only they could get into restaurants and grocery stores… well… you can get into restaurants and grocery stores barefoot, the catch is, you actually have to want it enough to see it through. Oh yes, there are excuses, cop-outs, but that’s all they are. I wanted it, I won’t cop-out, and here’s how I do it:
Smile, look people in the eye, wear bell bottoms or a skirt, be discreet, and go about your business as if it’s the most natural thing in the world for you to be barefoot. Sure, there will always be busy-bodies who think it’s their job (which it isn’t) to make sure all the rules of their fragile little construct are obeyed… but those boneheads are surprisingly few and far between. Wanna go barefoot all the time?… be charming! Charm them, they’ll leave you alone… except for the real bitches and assholes… some people you just can’t work with, they are too far gone, too deep in the tar of the average man’s construct. Some of them you can defeat, but many of them have rooted their concrete so deep into the illusion that they just won’t budge. I should feel sorry for those people, but I don’t, fuck ’em! Fuck ’em!
Let me say this, if you don’t go barefoot, and you wish you could, it’s not THEM, it’s not the stores, the restaurants or the social pressures that are stopping you… it is YOU that is stopping you. If you want something, you have to get off that damn bus.
Yep, 3 years uncompromisingly barefoot, and my feet are fine! I’m fine! My soles are leathery, I have no callouses (those just crack and hurt–sorry foot-community, callouses are NOT good, buff ’em off!) My feet are no longer deformed by those little bacteria incubators everyone calls shoes. My toes have a healthy spread, they’re not all cramped together like the lotus feet of some victim of Chinese foot-binding. Shoes are a cultural aberration.
“So, Justine, where’s the fun? This blog entry seems rather dark,” you might be thinking, well, the fun is coming. In the words of the Pythons… “Wait for it!”
What does 3 years barefoot really prove? For a start it means that I’ve proven I’m not fooling around. It proves not only that it can be done, but that it can be done well. Sure, it’s risky at times, but so is bicycling, playing soccer, and sitting around too long in front of a computer. Nope, what I am doing is no more dangerous than skiing, texting and driving, or bags of Cheetos, things most people don’t consider all that unthinkable. Ever notice how people will celebrate boxers but look at a barefoot person like they’re nuts? Ever notice how we celebrate skatboarding and mountain biking, but find going barefoot entirely too risky? See… y’all see what I mean by the construct and how fragile it is? For example, you can break your neck skiing… yet people are horrified at the possibility of getting a sliver of glass in their foot. My brother got a compound fracture in his leg from playing soccer, his bones punctured the skin of his leg… yet my parent’s forbade me from going barefoot because I might catch a cold! Crazy, right? And by the way, you can’t catch a cold by going barefoot.
What were the highlights of my barefoot adventures this year? Well, quite readily, my outing to the Cheap Trick concert (which I wrote about at length in this same blog) was spectacular. It was thrilling, and took me back to those wild-child days. I mean what could be more perfect than being stoned, barefoot, and clad skimpily in bleached cut-off shorts at a Cheap Trick concert? Not much. The grass was lush and moist as I danced and danced until the grass and dirt had compacted into a delicious green clay-soft pad under my soles. I had left the house lamenting that I was single and going alone, but as soon as the band took the stage, as soon as they started playing I was reduced to tears and trembles, and realized that this was a moment I needed to indulge in, a moment where my solitude was a blessing.
Of course there were my many adventures with my dear friend Joseph Blue Sky (see pic below taken by Joe during his last visit–no feet, but it’s a cute shot!). We have such fun together. And we have adventures, plenty of stumbling about laughing and, on my end, wishing we could live like that every day. He lives in Ohio, by far too far from my swampy home. But earlier this year I traversed (alone) from Florida to Ohio in a rental car to see him as well. And again encountered snow under my feet in West Virginia!
Of course I went to numerous meetings and met with clients barefoot, something that throws them off until they start working with me and realize just how dedicated and inspired an illustrator I am. Still, there’s something ticklishly subversive about standing around barefoot in a room full of people with ties and business casual clothing on. I mean, really, who goes to meetings barefoot? Yep, it is very possible to live a professional life barefoot. The trick is that you have to be damn good at what you do (in my case, illustrating and even animating), and you have to be committed without apology to the decision to live barefoot. If you mean it, they’ll go along with it, and usually with a genuinely interested smile, yep, I’m forever answering questions about my feet, especially in winter (which in North Central Florida can still be cold enough to be annoying).
Mostly, there’s the simply pleasure of living in a town where people are more open to eccentricity and individuality. There is support here, for my self actualization. They dig that here, where I live. Mostly there’s the rich life I lead at home, surrounded by growling alligators, soaring eagles, deer, armadillos, and even the occasional otter. I have forest land to explore in my savage state of half-nakedness.
Yep, that’s me up there in that pic, running around topless and barefoot in the woods. Fortunately I’ve never been busted for it, though I’ve had to turn tail a number of times. Being something of a hermit, it’s lovely to have all this land to play on. Getting back to nature, that’s one of the biggest pleasures of my life. The ground here is unfortunately challenging, we have ticks, chiggers, and horrid little spiny things and thorns everywhere, but that’s all just part of the fun, isn’t it? There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
Basically what 3 years barefoot mean is that I’ve done it! I made a decision, a challenging decision (to never wear shoes), and as afraid as I was that it wouldn’t work out… I’ve made it work! Of course I have had to live and accept a different life. Instead of enslaving myself to the American Delusion (or “American Dream” as it is generally known), I chose to leave that illusion to mom and dad. My ambition was to live barefoot, and as part of that to live a sustainable life. For years and years I dreamt of the day I would shed not only my shoes and socks, but my mortgage, cable bill, and all the expectations of “THEIR” reality. I wanted to live cheaply out in the woods, a smaller and simpler life with a view, and here I am 3 years later living in my little cottage-room in the woods, barefoot and low-budget. Sometimes all it takes to live the life you daydream about is a drastic change in expectations. Maybe, after all, some of our dreams may not be so unattainable, maybe it’s our expectations that are holding us back. Maybe before we even try living our dreams we have to let go of everyone else’s.
“Like every great religion of the past we seek to find the divinity within and to express this revelation in a life of glorification and the worship of God. These ancient goals we define in the metaphor of the present — turn on, tune in, drop out.”
Dr. Timothy Leary