Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tiny Things Matter

A little over three weeks ago, I broke the pinkie toe on my right foot. I did it in the usual way (if there is a usual way to do such things):  I clumsily walked into a chair leg while barefoot.

Incidentally, I typically don't walk around barefoot because I've done this sort of thing before. So I, at a minimum, wear socks. But often I'm wearing house shoes or Crocs around the house so I do not, e.g., catch my toe on a chair leg.  I actually feel nervous with bare feet, worried that I will once again break a toe in a moment of carelessness.  And, well . . . so I'm not wrong to worry, it turns out.

Often, it's the littlest things that make the difference. You barely think of them, but little things matter.  The missed moment three and a half weeks ago when I did not slip my feet into the Crocs at my bedside mattered.  It was, probably, the moment that meant I would hobble around in Bass Oxfords for six to eighth weeks instead of, you know, not doing that. Tiny moment. A tiny slip of the mind, a tiny distraction, set the series of events in motion that led to a careless swing of my leg as I walked, which led to a popping sound as toe hit chair leg, and, finally, which led to a me flowing to my seat on the floor in pain saying, "Ow, ow, ow, ow" (or possibly some slightly stronger vocabulary), tears welling into my eyes.

By the next morning, my foot had turned blue across the top from beneath the little toe to just beneath the middle toe.  This seemed worse bruising than in prior years when I'd broken a toe. (Indeed, it looked worse than my husband's foot looked a few months ago when he broke his toe.)  And I was in considerable pain. It nearly made me sick to put weight on it, most shoes were intolerable, and walking was a farcical series of limps and hops. 

Nevertheless, that Monday, that morning, was my son's first day of kindergarten. I couldn't miss that. So I painfully slipped an Oxford onto my foot, took the maximum amount of Advil advisable, and hobbled the two-tenths of a mile from our house to the school while he rode his bike up ahead with his dad walking next to him.  Little thing, the first day of school, maybe, but a milestone, and I wasn't going to miss escorting my boy in for his first big day.

Later that morning, I went to the doctor to get the foot checked out. No physician could see me, but the PA could. She examined my foot and X-rayed it. Initially, she didn't see a fracture, told me it was probably a weird sprain or strain -- hence, the weird bruising. Two to three weeks to heal, she said.  Take Advil and stay off of it for a couple of weeks.

A few days later, however, she called and left me a voice message to call her back.  So I did:  my internist had read the X-Ray and saw a tiny hairline fracture in the second phalange in my pinkie toe.  The tiny break would take 6 to 8 weeks to heal. And meanwhile, I should treat it with care -- tape it to the next toe, if I wanted -- and take Advil for the pain, or they could prescribe something stronger.

So here I am three weeks from the minuscule break and, still, the only shoes I can really tolerate are the Oxfords, a pair of Keen hiking shoes, and a pair of running shoes.  For someone who likes crazy (if sensible) shoes, this is not an ideal set of circumstances.  You can imagine, then, how I have tired of working variations on the theme of this look . . . .

 Starting the fourth week of my broken toe-ness, I thought I'd try some block heeled Mary Janes.  They have a fairly ample toe box, and aren't THAT, high.  They're sensible shoes!  These should be fine, I thought.  I could ditch the Oxfords.

I felt fine in them until about half way between my parking garage and the office. That's when my not-yet-healed toe started to throb a bit.  By the end of the day I was discreetly hobbling, and cursing my shoe maven vanity.  So it was back to the Oxfords for the rest of my recovery.  Small thing, maybe, the choice of shoe, except when it's not. 

And that brings me to yoga.  The broken toe had kept me from attending yoga class for two weeks.  Too painful for a down dog!  But this past weekend, I thought I'd give it a go.  I missed going to yoga:  good for the body, good for the mind, good for the spirit.  I missed the stretch and the strength and the balance.

It was great to be back.  I felt refreshed.  I could painlessly do almost every pose and move I was asked to do, except I couldn't balance on my right side.  The first time I tried to balance on the right, pain shot up the right side of my leg from my pinkie toe to my knee.

See?  You use your pinkie toe to balance.  Even in your shoes, you grip down with that toe (and the other toes too) to give you a more secure balancing surface.  This is why in yoga you sometimes hear the instructor tell you to lift your toes up and spread them back down before you attempt a balancing pose.  It's meant to really activate those toes to help you balance.  And when I did that very thing this past Saturday, I learned that I could not grip the floor with my broken toe.  So, without the participation of that one small part of my body, I could not keep the rest of my body from tipping to one side or the other.  Balancing on the left, I was all grace and zen.  Balancing on the right, I was a little like Jerry Lewis doing a pratfall.

The tiniest things matter.  Tiny mistakes, tiny decisions, tiny moments, tiny bones.  It's hard to remember sometimes that, as the trite old saying goes, "The little things mean a lot."  But they do.  Sometimes the littlest things mean the difference between standing tall and gracefully, or falling flat on your face.

I'll be glad when I can balance on the right side again.

But, for now, as my toe continues to heal, I will appreciate the small consolation that I can at least balance on the left.  And I will draw what good I can from a painful and annoying bone break that has limited my sartorial choices:  This broken toe has taught me to be a little more mindful of all of the small things in my world and, I hope, made me a better person by hobbling me first.