Here’s a brief, abridged list of things that atrophy:
It’s usually when we’re knee deep in the “Hey, I’m just over here trying to make it” that the universe’s timer goes off and something makes us slow down long enough to notice the chipping paint. The forgotten name. The muscle strained.
My body’s alarm rang one morning a few days before Christmas. Out of bed I rolled.
One foot to the floor, then the other.
I collapsed to the floor like a bale of straw snapped loose from its sinewy twine.
The left side of my left foot was so tender I couldn’t walk. At least not like normal. I hobbled on its heel to the coffee pot (first things first) and stared at my appendage while the machine gurgled and hissed.
I haven’t looked at my foot, my left foot in particular, in a very long time. That feels weird to say but it’s probably not. When was the last time you held deep visual congress over one particular body part? I metaphorically navel gaze all damn day, but if you asked me to draw from memory the nail of my big toe (more hamburger than hot dog) or explain just how much of my pinky hides behind the toe beside it (like a child shyly peeking out from behind her mother), I wouldn’t know how.
When you have an injury like this–a mysterious malady that has presented itself in the confusion of the morning–you expect to see some kind of outward symbol of the transgression happening just beneath the skin. A hint at what might have happened. Did I sleep on it wrong? Did my gait at the gym the night before unfairly punish ol’ leftie? Do I need new running shoes? New walking shoes? New ways to hold myself up?
But my foot bore no bruise. No swollen bump. It just looked like a foot. A foot that refused to take my weight without buckling my body over in pain.
It felt like a muscle strain, but Google did what Google does and led me down a terrifying rabbit hole of possibility. Either I simply pulled the muscle and just needed a few days of ice and rest and then a tempered but quick push back to my regular galloping glory. Or I needed to not walk on it for a minimum of six months. I was left with an either/or (which is when you feel like you’re struggling to not slide off of that damn slash mark). Trying to get into the doctor before the holiday seemed as impossible as trying to walk like a real girl.
Here’s a brief, abridged list of things I have learned from Google:
- Penguins propose to their prospective lifelong mates with a pebble.
- Sylvia Plath’s son committed suicide, just like his mother.
- Squirrels are so good at hiding their nuts that they often forget where they put them.
Searching for the right answer is its own relief–like the first drip of a pain killer’s waterfall of comfort.
Searching makes us frantic. “Google it! Google it!” Not knowing is, well, unsettling when we have so much knowledge constantly at our fingertips.
My foot goes back to normal within a week, but not before I buy a ridiculously expensive pair of running shoes out of fear that I will unknowingly do this to myself again sometime. I still don’t know how I got hurt.
In my Google searching, I looked for the metaphysical meaning of foot pain. Here’s one result: “Symbolizing our connection with Mother Earth, painful feet represent our relationship to our Mother, specifically our separation from the one who gave birth to us.”
Maybe I just walked too much on high heels.
Or maybe my body is physically manifesting the soft grief in my world right now as my family closes down its farm; as my unique connection–long distance though it may be–to land and animals and nature and mystery sees a few more links break; as my relationship to my mother evolves, as does the one she has with her own, their relationship changed by the cruel finality of Alzheimer’s.
The farm kid in me says, “What? No. Get better shoes.”
The artist in me says, “What? Why not?”
The answer I’m searching for is probably somewhere in the middle. Like always. But it’s a relief to keep looking. To keep walking. To keep loving unconditional.
All I have to give you is this pebble.