Tiny Problem, No Big Deal

What happens when we let our egos decide how significant a problem is? Here is the story of my toe.

I was born with an oddly shaped toe—the middle toe on both feet is the longest toe. The right foot has been more problematic. That foot is also a bit longer, and there is even less space in a shoe for it. If you look at the photo of the “perfect” foot, you will see perfectly conforming toes with the big toe being the largest and the subsequent toes gradually getting smaller. What happens when one of your toes do not fit such perfection?

When Someone Finds a Flaw in You

My teenage boyfriend was the first to point out the middle toe. He said I had square feet in a mocking tone. Bye-bye, first boyfriend. But now that I knew about this “problem,” I wondered how many other people might mock me for having an oddly shaped toe. “Square feet,” however, became a background feeling to describe my relationship with my toes.

As I aged, however, I understood that I could not wear “stylish” shoes because shoe sellers predicate their designs on everyone having a “perfectly shaped” toes and two same size feet. We all know from watching many police shows that shoes give away who you are. If you can’t wear stylish shoes, then forget stylish clothes. This tiny problem also impacted how I dressed, mostly in slacks with shoes that had square “toe boxes.”

I began spending exorbitant amounts of money, not on designer shoes, but orthopedic shoes that never really were comfortable. My middle toe would never have enough space to be itself, and the nail would send painful shock waves up my leg. I decide to get professional help from a podiatrist who happily cut away the nail. Two years of nerve pain later, the nail just grew back. So what’s a gal to do with a non-compliant toe?

I wear Crocs as much as possible because Crocs designed their shoes to give one’s foot support and space. Three months of lock down made me forget my toe. I only wore Crocs. But now, because I can leave the house occasionally, I began wearing shoes again, and the pain came back.

How Merchandise Controls Our Perceptions

I decided to hold space for my toe with love and compassion. The first thing I noticed was how central this toe is to my well-being. There is nothing in being longer than average that makes it a defective toe—it performs all the tasks one expects a toe to do. Because it is different from what our society acknowledges as a middle toe, few produce shoes to accommodate it. The basis of shoe design is the supply and demand economic model. This model impacted how attractive I felt, the people I dated, and the shoes and the clothes that I wore. Somehow even though the boyfriend is long gone, his harsh words hang in the air as an acknowledgment of the limitations of not having a “classic” foot form.

Getting to Know my Toe

When I hold space for the toe, what comes is how it has been my reliable bellwether. If Diana Foot.jpgthe boyfriend didn’t like my toe, he needed to go. He was a nascent domestic abuser. When I felt pressure to dress in the hyper-sexualized clothing that society promotes, I thought, “what’s the use, I can’t wear the shoes to make the style work.” If I do not regularly care for my toe when I have to wear outdoor shoes, the unbearable pain makes me stop everything else and care for it. I’ve learned to be proactive in caring for my toe so that I can move, walk, dance, and play without pain. Maybe when I stop my ritual care for my toe, it is the same time that I am not taking care of other parts of me. So my question is, what does my toe need now?

The first word that comes is “constant.” When I have outdoor shoes on, there is never enough space for this toe. My toe develops more hard callus right at the point where the regrown nail is as a way to protect itself. The coming together of the callus with the nail’s edge is what alerts me something is wrong. My toe wants me to know that it constantly suffers from this constriction and works hard to protect my toe by reinforcing the callus already there. Then, I work carefully to remove the callus because that is what relieves my perceived pain.

I have more compassion for my toe and its lifelong journey to live under conditions that do not support it. I also hold an appreciation for the role it has played in my life to give me a reason to leave unhealthy people and activities behind. I hold space for the “not knowing” how to support my toe so that it is not under constant pressure to protect itself only to have me undo that protection. How many other ways do I undo my body’s natural activity to heal because it doesn’t fit my perception of what is right? By holding space for my toe, I trust my body to inform me of what it needs.

Perfect Toes: Photo by Lisandra Medonça
Diana’s Toes: Diana Scalera

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Una lettera dal nord Italia–Letter from Northern Italy

See English Translation at the end of Italian version.

Oggi qualcosa in me è profondamente scosso e triste. Sto facendo colazione e piango …piango per tutte quelle persone che non ce l’hanno fatta, che sono morte sole, anziane e non, isolate in ospedale perché nessuno poteva avvicinarsi alle zone dei contagiati.

Mi ha molto colpito la vicenda di una nonnina di più di 90 anni , che già era in ospedale, a cui il Covid-19 ha dato il colpo di grazia. Voleva tanto salutare la famiglia per un ultima volta, prima di andarsene , ma non le è stato concesso…una voce in me dice : “No!!!Non è possibile….sarà vero?”

E poi piango per la paura, che come un’ombra scura, si è insinuata nella vita di tanti e anche per l’incoscienza di chi invece non ha esitato a fuggire portando un possibile contagio dal Nord al Sud , dove le strutture ospedaliere sono ancora più bisognose che al Nord.

E infine piango per l mia piccola Confort Zone che, nello spazio di pochi giorni, è stata spazzata via. Qualcuno ieri, alla televisione, ha detto che noi qui in Europa siamo una generazione con la vita tutta “in discesa”. In parte è certamente vero se ci paragoniamo alle generazioni precedenti che hanno dovuto affrontare la guerra e l’Olocausto. E’ vero anche che si tratta di una generalizzazione perché ognuno deve affrontare i propri dolori e le difficoltà della vita anche in un periodo di pace…

Devo andare indietro fino agli anni’70 e all’Austerity per ricordare un paesaggio così “desertico”. Io faccio colazione davanti ad una grande finestra e, in lontananza, c’è una strada che unisce la mia città a Torino…questa mattina posso contare le auto che passano ad una ad una e sento diffondersi un silenzio irreale.

L’immagine dell’Austerity di 50 anni fa mi arriva come associazione ma sento anche quanto quel periodo, ed io con esso, fossimo diversi da adesso. Allora avevo 20 anni ed eravamo sì senz’auto , ma liberi di andare in bicicletta o a piedi e per noi ragazzi era un occasione per trovarci in grandi gruppi e fare gite. Questo ricordo mi aiuta di più a comprendere i giovani di ora che faticano ad accettare ciò che viene richiesto…stare chiusi in casa. .

Questo antico ricordo e come mi sentivo libera e allegra, felice di pedalare è qui, presente nella totalità del mio essere e stride con il presente.

So che una piccola, o grande, parte di me sta piangendo perché le sue abitudini, che sono anche sicurezze, sono state spazzate via e sento anche un qualcos’altro in me che vorrebbe giudicare, che mentalmente elenca tutte le Grandi Anime che hanno fatto fronte a situazioni molto dure e ne hanno fatto un’occasione di trasformazione per sé e spesso per gli altri, Faccio spazio anche a questa voce di sottofondo che elenca Assagioli, il mio primo”Maestro”, Mandela, Ghandi, Madre Teresa….ma molto di me in questo momento si sente una “piccola anima” di fronte ad una sfida grande e allora do spazio anche alle lacrime per quella parte di me che si sente persa e spaventata , che vorrebbe tanto fare una passeggiata con la sua migliore amica ma sa che è meglio lasciar perdere…

Non è facile, ci vuole veramente un grande spazio per contenere tutto e mettere tutto alla “giusta distanza” ma, lentamente sento che il mio dolore si sta calmando e mi affiorano i messaggi dei colleghi Focalizzatori , degli amici, dei gruppi di ascolto ed empatia che stiamo formando in Italia , unendoci localmente ma anche da zona a zona, fra il Nord e il Sud e vedo le risorse e anche la fiducia e mi sento meglio.

Il mio gatto ha sentito tutto questo tumulto interiore ed è venuto ad acciambellarsi accanto a me. Mi guarda e lo sento presente, discreto , qui con me , come avviene nel Focusing … ora posso affrontare questa nuova giornata.

A Letter from Northern Italy

Today something in me is deeply shaken and sad.

It’s breakfast time, and I am crying. I cry for all those people who didn’t survive, who died alone, old or not, isolated in the hospital because no one could enter the ward where contagious people are.

I have been very touched by the story of a 90-year-old grandmother who was already in the hospital, and to whom Covid-19 gave the final blow. She longed to say goodbye to her family before leaving, but it was not permitted. A voice inside me says.” No, it’s not possible. Are you sure it is true?”

Then I cry for Fear, which, like a dark shadow, has crept into the life of many people. I grieve the irresponsibility of those who ran south in the middle of the night from the northern infectious zones. They exhibited no hesitation that they might bring the contagion to areas where hospitals are very far from the excellent quality of Milan’s and where there are many old people–their grandmothers or grandfathers perhaps.

And finally, I cry for my small Comfort Zone swept away in a few days. Yesterday somebody said on TV that we are a generation whose life has been all “downhill.” Compared to the previous generation who had to face wars and The Holocaust, this is undoubtedly true. It is also true that everyone has to meet their difficulties and pains in life, even in times of peace.

I go back to the seventies and to the Austerity period to see such a “desert” landscape. I have my breakfast in front of a large window where, in the distance, I can see a road going from my town to Turin. This morning I can count the cars one by one, and I feel a creeping, unreal, and heavy silence all around.

The times and I were very different fifty years ago when Austerity came to visit us! I was twenty years old and, even if we could not go around by car anymore, we were free to walk or ride a bicycle, and we were happy to meet in large groups and organize trips to the countryside. This memory helps me to better understand young people who are now finding it hard to accept and respect the New Rule. Stay at home and don’t meet other people outside your own family.

I hold space for this old memory of how free and happy I was to ride my bike among my friends. I am here now, present to the whole of myself, and it crashes into the current reality.

I am aware that a little, or a large, part of me, is crying for its routines, and certainties swept away so suddenly. I also sense something else in me that is trying to judge this. Something that, mentally, is counting on all the Great Souls who lived through tough situations and transformed them into a path of light and growth for themselves and, often, for many other people. I make space for this voice in the background enumerating Assagioli, my first “Master,” Mandela, Mother Teresa, Gandhi. There is something in me; however, a lot of me, feeling a pure “Little Soul” facing a big challenge and so I give plenty of space to that part of me frightened and lost, a part longing for a walk in the countryside with her best friend but aware that it is better not to do it now.

It is not so easy. I need a lot of space to hold everything this morning and keep it at the “right distance” but, slowly. I feel my pain is melting away, and messages from my friends and fellow Focusers come to my mind. I know that Listening and Empathy Groups are gathering all around Italy. They link North to South awakening Resources and Trust.

Now I feel better.

My cat felt all this interior turmoil and came to curl up near me. He looks at me, and I feel he is present near me in an unobtrusive way, as we do in Focusing. Now I can go and live a new day.

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Heart Holding Space

Resting in the authority of your natural presence
allow yourself to come home,
emerge from this being you.

And yet still there’s that current
shunts you away from this –
a loping grey wolf
in the wilderness of your belonging.

Taking the time, allow a fresh momentum
to assault that crooked door
on rusted hinges,
crack its frozen joints,
charm its forgotten longings.
And let the discovery be enough.

Finding a heart holding space
for these abandoned places
of forest and caves,
the spell of your here & now blooms.
Let it be your home.

In the depth is the direction:
rising like spring waters,
welling up and filling out itself
in unexpected ways,

a new beginning.

 

This poem was a result of a session between barebody&soul and Addie van der Kooy.

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