There was a click, like bending a toothpick, then a sting as sharp as a cut green apple. I sat on the kwoon’s mat floor to look at my foot, where my left little toe was proclaiming nine o’clock while the other toes insisted twelve.
Taking a shaky breath, I raised my hand. “’Scuse me, Si Fu,” I called out to my instructor, “I think I’ve dislocated my toe.”
I had. It hurt. It re-dislocated twice more before it was properly strapped and bloomed a gorgeous range of purples two days later. But I finished my two jujitsu classes right after it happened, limped my steel-toed-booted way around work for a day, and now – nearly a week later – am looking forward to tomorrow’s class. My toe is slightly pudgy and wonky, but otherwise recovered.
Recovered, and a reminder that the body is an astonishing phenomenon.
For the past thirty odd years I’ve been surprised and delighted by what my body is capable of. My body is the vehicle that has taken me through each minute of life, and carries some mementos of what I’ve done (the quiet scar on my face, the blush and moonlight coloured tidemarks on my belly) and also proclaims where I have come from (red hair from my grandmother) and what I do now (muscles from work and martial arts).
A year into my nursing degree, I’m constantly astonished at how complicated the body is. The interaction of the different systems and pieces, and how powerful the mind and spirit can be when it comes to health, life and death. That people in comas ‘hang on’ until their child arrives from across the country to say goodbye, and the heart’s cacophony of welcoming a new child into the world is evidence of something more than mere physical placement and happenstance. A body is what I – the ultimate definition and fullness of me – am wrapped in, and is a part of who I am.
Then there is emotion, feeling, sensation – all of which add further dimension, fullness, mystery and experience to life in a body. A shudder of pleasure, a wrenching cry, a flare of resentment and insolent shrug all are committed with a body, and are the more intense for the emotions behind them. I’m not sure that experiencing pleasure and pain intellectually or emotionally would be as intense if it wasn’t for my body’s own intrinsic understanding and experience of the same, kind of like someone who has never been heartbroken telling a dumped friend “It’s not that bad”.
Skin, joint, sinew, bone, heart, blood, squishy bits, home. While I hope to never see my toes at such perpendicular disagreement again, it’s been a surprising reminder of the sheer fragility and stunning majesty of the skin I’m in.
So, how’s the skin you’re in? What physical mementos have you got of where you’ve been, what you’ve done, where you’re from and what you’re doing? What do you like about having a body? Is there any poetry, prose, picture or personal event that to you captures our bodies’ fragility and majesty?