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Sometimes a Mani-Pedi is the “Cure” You Need

I swish my feet around in the mossy waters of the Penobscot Bay in Rockland, Maine. My toes are carefully navigating rough, moss-coated rocks. As I slosh about in the bay, a photographer clicks away at the shutter. Yes, I am taking pictures of my feet. You may be thinking that I have some weird foot fetish— I don’t.

I am very serious about my feet and my toenails in particular. I have painted them in a multitude of colors and although I have not yet had the inclination to paint them blue or purple, who knows what the future will bring? I have buried my toes in the sandy beaches of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Mexico, Costa Rica, St. Martin, Greece and Israel. At this very moment, they are dreaming of Bali.

I have felt earth and grass beneath my feet. I have danced at my wedding and at the Bar Mitzvahs of my two sons. I have slid my feet under the covers and felt the silkiness of Egyptian cotton sheets. I have also dragged my despairing self and soul to the nail salon on days when it would have been far easier to pull the covers over my head and retreat for days. Over the years my toes have become my symbol of hope and light. I’m not sure why but it has felt incredibly helpful to me to see something pretty and colorful when I look down. In the worst and I mean the worst moments of my life, I have found the strength to seek and find just the right color.

I broke my toe last year, which caused a bit of dismay. I had nice feet until the fourth toe on my left foot broke (thank you dog toy that looked innocent until my toe slammed into it). I now have a crooked thing that used to be my perfectly formed toe. It aches when I’m on my feet too long. It yells “NO” when I try to squeeze it into narrow shoes with pointy toes. And when I stub it—again, I go into a full body grimace. My toe, I’ve been told will never really get completely better.

The day before my sister-in-law’s funeral I went and had a manicure and pedicure. It felt weird and disrespectful but I was compelled to do it. The last time I saw my sister-in-law she had lifted my hands and looked at my feet and in her brusque way stated, “No polish?” “You don’t do polish anymore?”  “You used to have such nice hands.”  At her funeral, I held up my hands as if they were a champagne glass and said, simply, “These are for you, I wanted you to be proud of me.”

There’s been a lot of research done on smiling. Researchers say that if you can muster up a smile, your mood changes. You feel more motivated, more optimistic and more productive. I think my pedicures perform for me in a similar vein. Don’t think for a minute that I am suggesting my pedicure ritual as a cure for depression—Mental health issues are in a completely different realm. There have been many times in my life when if smiling and a pedicure had been suggested as a cure I would have gone berserk. I’m thinking about the blues rather than the deep, dense black of sadness and depression. If you are feeling anything like that, reach out for a trained professional.

My toes remind me of weddings, parties, summers, vacations, depression and funerals. In the midst of long, hard days, I choose a color and stop moving. I place my hands and feet into the hands of a stranger. “Relax”, she says feeling the tension in my fingers. And sometimes it’s difficult, really, really difficult to just let go but eventually I do. So don’t be surprised if you see pictures of my toes on my website because my toes have been a lot of places and have their own stories (bent, crooked, aching and colorful) and if we are blessed— Well, we still have a whole lot more traveling to do.

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