Yesterday morning as I reached to grab a bag of frozen strawberries out of the freezer while prepping The Juice Truck for the beginning of the day, I felt that all too familiar, split second pain that comes when a fingernail buckles backwards below the quick. I felt the dread wash over me, afraid to look at the damage, thinking nothing but a string of curse words at my misfortune. When I finally brought myself to lower my gaze I was relieved to see that the nail was still intact, a small bruise forming beneath the nail bed but no blood. The worst was over. I went about my day.
We returned to our commissary to hose down the truck and prepare it for the next day of service. My finger hadn’t been a noticeable nuisance and—since I wear gloves during my shifts—it had stayed clean and out of my mind. My first order of business was peeling a huge carton of bananas to set up in the freezer, which involved creating a station for peeling the bananas with a compost bin to my side into which I could toss the empty peels. While pulling the compost bin towards me, a monstrous carton on wheels already heavy and lumbering with juice pulp and discarded fruit, that quick second of white hot pain stung me again as I suffered a horrible stubbed toe. I cursed my luck as my whole body tensed, terrified as to what I might find beneath my sneaker and sock which offered little to no protection to the poor, pulsating toe beneath. I gingerly pried off my shoe and peeled back my shoe to reveal—a huge horizontal crack through the center of my big toenail. It was still firmly attached and again no blood, but it was pretty irreparably damaged.
Later that night, the pain began. I could feel my heartbeat in my injured fingernail, pulsing little signals of pain with each beat. It made it very hard to get to bed last night, and kept me sufficiently distracted while trying to relax my way through a hatha flow class this morning. Whenever something like this happens to me, whether it’s a very sore muscle, a small injury, or a bad sore throat, I think about how strange a sensation it is to spend my entire day with such focused attention on the needs of one specific body part. It introduces a neurotic level of awareness which—when I feel healthy and fine—doesn’t exist. Feeling forced to pay so much attention to how I use my dominant hand in everyday tasks like opening doorknobs and brushing my teeth seems like a curse; however, the silver lining is recognizing what it feels like to be truly present and attentive to your body’s needs. It means not taking your body for granted, dragging it along to do whatever you might want to do while not considering the implications for this vessel of activity, this body which has feelings and aches which are irrevocably tied to your brain and mind. We abuse our bodies all the time, from standing for long periods of time without supportive shoes to look good to gorging ourselves on a delicious meal just to leave our digestive system with a task impossible to accomplish. What would happen if we considered our bodies more when living our day to day lives, making our decisions not solely based on our human greed but instead treated our body like a friend in from out of town, one whose happiness and interests factored in to every decision we made as went carved out a plan for the day? I’d like to think we could lead much happier, healthier lives.
And just like that, almost on cue, my finger doesn’t hurt so much anymore. It’s almost as if the pain was just a reminder that there was still a lesson to be learned, that the discomfort was not simply a frustration but a signal that there was a big takeaway which I was missing. Alright, body. Consider me intrigued. I’m listening.