Ever had your weakness turn into your strength? It’s a bizarre twist to me. Sometimes odd things happen in moments of ….panic….or grief even. To me, anyway. I tend to let go of the script about how things should look in society and just…..go. Sometimes that is good and sometimes is turns out to bite me in the hindparts.
Look at this, for instance:
I used to hate feet. HATE them. I used to fixate on how ugly my toes were, how yucky other peoples feet looked, and even wondered what sorts of oddness lived in between the 2nd and 3rd toes of the grumpy cat neighbor 2 doors down the street. So imagine my surprise when, years later, i embraced and loved on some feet at a nursing home.
Hmmm. Some explanation may be necessary. Several years ago, I was in a nursing home hallway, getting ready to visit my grandpa. He had just had a stroke, and some of the family were gathering around. Clearly, it was a somber occasion. As i geared up for this I thought, “The same man that used to call me ‘kiddledid’ and sneak me out for ice cream was not the same anymore”, and i knew i’d be crying soon.
So this was the mood as I walked in, and saw the “RESPECTFUL” society space that people gave him. Then I got a look at my Grandpa, and all I could think of was this: “Sheesh. He needs his toenails clipped!”, because he did. Here was this dignified, strong, amazing man, and the toenails, well, they were just hanging out on his bare feet, getting long and unattractive. Grandpa wouldn’t want that at all! While people were shaking their heads, tut-tutting or wringing their hands, his toenails had been overlooked, and they looked like they must hurt. I just assumed he hated nasty feet as much as i did, and being the unwilling occupant of such was not ok with me.
What I did then was something that crossed the line. The TABOO don’t-touch-him-he’s-dying line. I grabbed some clippers. They were conveniently at a shelf by his legs, and maybe this is what gave me the motivation.
Now he couldn’t talk very well, if at all, and people basically talked at him, or around him, so when i walked up to him and just started speaking with him a bit, touching him, and rubbing his legs and feet, people hushed up in a hurry. I didn’t notice them till later, in fact. I just did the natural thing. I didn’t worry that there was some shocked looks on faces as i joked with Grandpa, the patriarch of the family. I just gave him a quick touch up with the clippers. I just assumed he was ok with me touching his feet. His legs. His TOENAILS. I took that risk without asking.
The unmitigated gall, eh? Seriously, if I would have been conscious of the looks I’m now pretty sure I was getting in the beginning, I probably would have stepped away and apologized. After all, who was this young whippersnapper, coming in and being so assumptive?
A few years later, my mom let me know I was very tender with him and had a way with people. None of the perceived taboo backlash ever did happen, but I thought it was because my mom did damage control or something. Later I realized that it worked out well because it felt right to me. I didn’t ask permission, I just went with it. Life lesson learned. wahooo!
It is still odd to me that no one had thought of dealing with my grandpa’s toes, and maybe they were icked out about feet too, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to get over myself by doing some service. He still passed away. I’m still sad, and I wish he were around, but I loved serving him. Strangely, that was a good memory for me. It goes against the ick factor directly, and yet, feels natural and right for me.
OK…. it isn’t like it was some heroic thing. I’m not saying it to be about Grandpa at all, really. I’m just saying that sometimes the things that we ick out about can be turned around and used as a growing point. I know now that I have no problem getting into people’s space when others will back away. In fact, while some people bake brownies and funeral potatoes for life’s tragedies, and to be of service, I am more at ease giving a back rub, or holding the hand, or listening to the heartache. I would not know that about me if I hadn’t grabbed those clippers in the first place. I just had known, up to the clippers point, that I was uncomfortable in “old people” places, and hated feet. 2 very shallow ways of being, looking back.
Now when life gives me an uncomfortable situation, maybe something that I would automatically discount with, “um I don’t do…that”, (cooking, for instance…), I can choose to take it on and looking for the good that comes in growing up. After all, who am I to say I don’t cook well? My dog likes my cooking. Sometimes. Now if I can just clip the DOG’s nasty nails…Hmmmm another opportunity. For later.