Sunday, April 10, 2011
I was getting ready, fresh out of the shower, legs just shaved, thinking about doing what I could to make the massage I was scheduled for that day a more pleasant experience for Julie. It's one of life's greatest opportunities for humility that in order to take care of my body, I have to make it available in all its lumpy, knobby imperfection to the caring healing hands of others. Since Julie often starts her therapeutic massage at my feet, I considered what she sees.
My feet have never been pretty. Not even when I was a child and my parts were fresh and new and smooth. Wide and short, hard to find shoes to fit, most of the year so calloused (and dirty) they often looked moccasin clad even when bare. Bare was always my chosen state for those feet, because until adolescence and an awareness of peer-defined beauty, I enjoyed them and all they allowed.
Almost all of my best childhood memories involve those bare feet and summertime. The tickle of soft wild grass. The soothing wash of the creek current. Even the squish and warmth of cow pies. I knew a friendly world through my feet, one that offered endless variations of sensation and pleasure.
I learned early that without my feet, life was much more limited. Stepping on a nail. A bee sting between toes. The weight of a cow. All slowed me down, and made me long for lost freedoms. But none were enough to convince me shoes were a good option.
During the vanity years, aware I didn't meet the standard for foot beauty (long and thin and white and smooth) I covered mine with shoes that were fashionable. I ignored their cries for mercy, only allowing freedom in the privacy of home or at the beach where I saw other feet perhaps uglier than mine.
Then there were the years when I ignored them altogether, acknowledging neither pleasure nor pain, just expecting them to carry me where I wanted to go as they always had. Even then, however, bare was my preference, and bare feet on summer grass always had the power to make me feel connected to life in ways that nothing else could.
The feet that Julie so gently manipulates have not grown magically beautiful over the years. They spread like river deltas, creating a whole new definition for wide. Bunions moved into the big toe joints. Heels are a cracked desert landscape. Toe nails are odd sizes and shapes, and even the occasional attempt at decoration with color does little to disguise their quirkiness.
And yet I present them to her in all their gnarled glory. And something she does wakes them to a former sensitivity I didn't even know I'd lost. They loosen under her touch, and release, and respond to her understanding and non-judging attention. So when I ask them to hold me again at the end of my time with Julie, I feel the ground under my feet in ways I haven't since childhood. The contact feels alive, humming with energy that reaches up through my soles to the center of me.
Finally, I am at that place where I wouldn't trade my beloved and hard-working feet for even the most beautiful. After a lifetime of wishing for so many things to be different, including much about the body I was given, I'm content and grateful - glad - for the parts that connect me with home.