Aw C'Mon God Gimme a Break

This is a story of love, of a pedicure, of recovery from bad stuff and—for me–the power of painting the nails on my big toes…and, oh yes, jellyfish.

Toes Being Prepared for Painting

Toes Being Prepared for Painting

The lesson here is not that there is joy in them thar pink toenails (or in my case, dusky beige) or even that pedicures can give you superpowers. Rather, it is that after life deals you a bad hand, you can deliberately step out of your comfort zone and do something different, resulting in a speedier recovery. A little bit of shaking up goes a long way, as I discovered by first getting a pedicure at a spa, part of bonding with my daughter in the place of my late wife, and then having my big toes painted. But you only need to change a little bit: I resisted the urge, for example, to step out of my comfort zone and into a pair of peep toe pumps—it’s not something either of my daughters would appreciate, nor was it necessary. And pumps play heck with a guy’s potential for a social life.

The pedicure stemmed from a promise made to my late wife, Sharon who, during the months before she lost her battle with ALS, wanted to make sure that those she loved would “not just survive but thrive” after her passing. And I was to be the means by which she would enable those she loved to have a better chance at living a joy-filled life (“Not my first choice,” she chuckled, “but time’s running out and you’re all I have to work with.”)

“There will come a time, after I’m gone, that you’ll need to focus on love in your relationships, both with the girls and others,” she said. “But you have to allow yourself to love again, to do something different. We’re all going to be fine. So let’s break you out. Go get a pedicure with your daughter. And don’t focus on your embarrassment, your conviction that a guy getting his feet done is somehow not quite right. If it makes you feel better, then while they’re working on your feet do something manly like burping the Star – Spangled Banner. But just going with Brittany (our daughter) to a spa, concentrating on doing it for her and me, forgetting about you–you’ll see a different world.”

And then her go-to phrase for answering all my objections: “It’s a God thing, Stuart—it’s a God thing. Examine the patterns of your life after me and try to break out of the ones that don’t work for you—and let the Spirit change you” She smiled. “Just imagine me looking over your shoulder, whispering in your ear ‘Get a pedicure, get your toes painted.’”

And so I’m sitting in a resort spa, my daughter in the other room getting a massage, and a voice whispers in my ear just as the pedicurist finishes wrapping a hot towel around my feet. ‘You’re not done. Get out of your comfort zone—get at least one toe painted.” I looked at the pedicurist and relayed the message, but went bold:  “When you’re done, paint my big toes—both of’em.”

She looked at me, her brow furrowed. “Is this a bet?” she asked. “What team?”

I smiled. “In a way—I’m betting on a future. And those painted big toes are the first step.”

The pedicurist looked at me…and rolled her eyes.

And the next morning, when my daughter and I walked barefoot through the ocean at the edge of the beach, we talked…and talked and talked and talked, about life and happiness and what it takes to recover from bad ‘stuff.’ In my head, the jellyfish were crowding around, laughing at my big toes. But in real life, they were completely indifferent; in fact, being both male and female at the same time, they had seen it all—and my painted big toes were of no interest.

“Your biggest obstacle after I’m gone will be what’s going on in your mind,” Sharon had said. “Focus on love, focus on God, on doing life differently.” And now the jellyfish were agreeing: Whether male or female and all points between, doing something out of the ordinary can bring healing and peace after walking through the valley.

“Walking through the valley,” should you not recognize the phrase, is the way the Bible refers to the low points of your life, those moments when your mind is numb, your body weary, and you wonder how you can keep going. But a healthy dose of faith, a willingness to step out of your routine and into the world, and—for me–the power that flows from those painted big toenails has been…well, positively spiritual.

Now, hand me that nail polish remover.


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