A few days ago I was Skyping with a friend when I knocked over a glass of water. It shattered resentfully against the tile floor. After I muttered some equivalent of “shucks darn dang,” my friend asked me if I wanted to call her back so I could clean it up.
No, I was good, I said. I wanted to play her the song I’d just written on the piano, which I’d been about to do when I broke the glass. I mostly cleaned it up while we continued talking, then I played the song.
It wasn’t long after that I realized I had a piece of glass in my left foot.
On the scale of life tragedies, glass in your foot is slightly less traumatic than the death of a parent or a painful divorce. Still, I’m squeamish when it comes to pain and flesh-ripping, no matter how minor, especially when it involves my own body.
A friend helped me remove the shard after a couple of days of limping around avoiding the wounded spot. We marveled at how well a large chunk of glass had managed to lodge itself into my foot.
Her husband, another member of the house family, said something about how there were worse places for glass to be. I answered:
“Glass in my ass?”
Had that been the case, I would have had to remove it more quickly.
We can learn from everything that happens to us, even if it happens just once. Doing something stupid or painful usually makes us change our behavior quickly — if we’re smart and paying attention.
But this wasn’t the first time I’ve gotten glass in my feet. It wasn’t even the second this year. It was, in fact, the third.
Existing in a body is tough under normal circumstances. It’s even more difficult when you contend with the work, relationship, family, and health crises that accompany human life. And when those crises become chronic and daily, most of us find other ways of coping in order to survive.
For some, the coping mechanisms are alcohol, street drugs or painkillers. I dissociated from my body, with a heavy assist from antidepressants and a ninja-level mastery of emotional suppression. As the years went by, even as I seemed to function normally, I was becoming more and more “out of my body.”
That’s why it was so easy for me to get glass in my feet, and why it’s been so illuminating when I have. It’s reminded me that being grounded in my body is not only important for living a happy, balanced life — it’s required for me to fully heal.
I used to hate how my body would constantly send me pain signals. I resented how human I felt. While I can still get a little frustrated with pains, I’ve learned to appreciate them too. They’re amazing signals, reminders to be more present with my body and my environment — to be here now, fully human.
Gratitude aside, I’m also being more careful where I set my glass.