It was a sunny, warm winter afternoon and the idea of getting on my bicycle and pedaling to the local nail salon for a pedicure seemed suddenly irresistible. In fact, the spontaneity of the idea made it even more thrilling.
The lovely Korean gentleman who owns the shop allowed me to wheel my bicycle into the lobby. He is a kind, somewhat sad and haggard man, hard working and committed but tired to the bone. He directed me to the fourth in a long row of big leather chairs and began running the water into the foot bowl, checking the temperature and adding the harsh blue powder dye. Even after years of running his business in this location, he still speaks very limited English, just enough to ask you which service you want and if you have picked out your polish color.
After turning on the rumbling massage feature of the chair, I settled in to the utterly decadent feeling of having a pedicure at one in the afternoon on a weekday, consciously deciding that since I had already arrived, I may as well give up the experience killing feeling of guilt that was trying to have its way with me. It was best to just surrender and enjoy to the fullest.
Listening to the sound of my classical playlist on earbuds, I watched as he worked diligently at each step of the pedicure, head down, no emotion registering on his face. It was hard to imagine how many times he had repeated those steps on how many pairs of feet. I wondered at this stage of life if he would consider this business, this daily ritual, his realization of the American dream.
I looked down at my bare, clean feet resting on the basin as he stepped away for a moment and suddenly became overwhelmed by a deep connection to those familiar and odd looking appendages. Thinking of the years of service my feet had provided, with virtually no maintenance for most of those years, the memories of all we had been through together became a very fast montage, or highlight reel, of the many stages and major events of my life. They supported a long dance career and rebelled only when I experimented with toe shoes. Many of those years were spent dancing barefoot in modern dance studios on floors covered in splinters. They endured the additional weight of two pregnancies with virtually no swelling and moved quickly to keep up with two small boys for many years that followed. They got a break when I was laid up with cancer and a bone marrow transplant for eight months but literally supported me as I got back on my feet, as they say, now 18 years and counting. The dance gradually transitioned into daily yoga practice as time went by and there was more focus on balance on one of those feet at a time, planted firmly on a smooth wood floor. I first put on a pair of hiking shoes later in life but me and my feet have explored the beautiful trails and red rocks of northern Arizona and will for as many years as we are blessed to have together. These amazing feet of mine have never complained, just kept on giving day after day, decade after decade.
After putting on my socks and shoes, I headed for the lobby to pay. There on the faux leather bench just inside the door was my pedicurist's wife, a small, sweet woman, quick to greet you with a smile as she did on that day. She was curled up on the bench, one leg tucked under the other, wistfully looking out the window, taking a load off her own feet. I wondered when she last had a pedicure and what her feet might reveal to her about her own life. She held the door open for me as I wheeled my bike out onto the sidewalk.
I left my illicit weekday trip to the nail salon feeling full of gratitude for not only my hard working, reliable feet, but for my unexpectedly illuminated life experiences as well. Gratitude is a necessary component to an emotionally and spiritually satisfying life. Where it came from on this day was surprising. Its spontaneity made it all the more thrilling.