The Twinge in My Left Foot, Or What is Your Body Telling You?

We only get two feet. When they’re this size, we don’t think about it.

When I was twenty two, I fell off a ladder and sprained my ankle. Or at least I thought I did. We were doing a production, the first production, of Sarah Ruhl’s translation of Three Sisters. Vershinin, who also happed to be suffering an ankle sprain, outfitted me with ice, a brace, and a smile. Over the six week run, the swelling went down, and life returned to normal (minus my new aversion to ladders).

Two weeks later, I was working on a production of Henry IV part 1, in an outdoor theatre. My cowboy boot took one wrong turn in a gopher hole, and boom. Ankle strained, again. It looked as though my foot and calf were joined by a grapefruit, and yet, the pain didn’t really stop me from moving. My boss, and fairy godmother of sorts, drove me to the doctor, knowing I’d rather work and play than wait for an X-ray. Again, it looked like a sprain. But this time I got a really fancy brace with plastic sheaths and gel inserts, for ice.

I went back to my life, as if nothing ever happened. Three weeks later, I was working on a show with Rita Moreno about what it really means to be Rita Moreno. I still wore the brace, because the pain was stronger. I went to the doctor again. Nothing. And again. Nothing. And finally to a podiatrist who took much more comprehensive X-rays and who spends her days studying the minute anomalies of metatarsals.

She found the needle in the haystack of tiny foot bones — a few hairline fractures, and nerve disorder from the repeated injury. Apparently, the foot was always broken, and if your body experiences the same injury twice, the nerves go haywire. So, I was given a pair of heated socks to calm the nerves, some painkillers, and a walking boot, which I wore proudly backstage during costume changes with Rita.

It took two or three years for the foot to recover. Without socks, the nerves would sense cold, and immediately cry, “broken!” Heels were out of the question. I was in my early twenties wearing really expensive orthotic sneakers with winter wool socks. It was senior chic.

I live as if the foot were never broken. But last week, the twinge came back.

I’ve gone years without thinking about my foot, except when I caution new interns and coworkers about the fateful ladder. I reserve socks for bedtime and cold weather, and prefer shoes that give me some height. I live as if the foot were never broken. But last week, the twinge came back. First, as a nudge, Hey, bozzo. Remember me. Your left foot? Later it blew into maximum pain. I may be smaller than righty, but I sure know how to slow your roll.

“Stress goes to the weakest part of our body,” my friend said, as tried not to cry.

“Stress goes to the weakest part of our body,” my friend said, as tried not to cry. Not so much about the foot, or the pain. I’m certainly no stranger to pain. Ten years of doctors poking, prodding, prescribing, and prouncing me as ‘chronically broken,’ conditioned me to weather the pain. But the stress of life — turning 30, turning my back on my disease, turning towards wellness, and uncovering my authentic self, is incredibly stressful.

So, maybe that’s why the twinge has returned?

Yesterday, it came to me. Almost like day dream. A clamation of disembodied feet with high pitched voices, dancing the Charleston. The twinge was a message. Rest. My body said. I must rest. And I thought back to the initial injury. Rest fit nowhere in my agenda, let alone my vocabulary at twenty two. But today, rest can become a priority. So, yesterday, I spent hours doing nothing. I mean, sure, I watched Netflix, but avoided particularly stimulating shows. And then I took a bath. An irresponsibly full bath for a Californian. As I slipped into water, I realized. Today was the first day in over two years that I did not hate how my body looked or felt. It was the biggest moment of relief I’ve ever experienced. Like peeing after a really long car ride in which mom and dad won’t take the time to stop and you’re afraid your bladder is going to burst, but it doesn’t, and then you make it to the bathroom, and the release is like magic. You’re a whole new person. Lighter, calmer, and free. Of urine, or of whatever it is you refuse to let go.

I’m lying in bed, where most of my great thinking, writing, relaxing, and existing occurs. The twinge is still there. Stronger even. Begging me to listen. Well twinge, I hear you. And I’m going to do my best. I mean, what does it look like I’m doing right now? Okay. Okay. Thank you for being you.

What is your twinge telling you?

poet. artist. theatre maker. JKS Naropa University MFA candidate. Founder of @WisdomBodyCollective, come join us.