So. My mountain toe. It looks terrible – they both do. But! There’s a new nail coming in under there. You know I’m about to take a lesson from this, right?
I didn’t realise it until I came to Indonesia, but I’ve always been foot proud. My foot pride wasn’t a conscious thing for me; it was just a part of how I lived my life. Not only do I not like my feet to be dirty, I also like my feet to look nice. In my western life, my toes are usually nicely pedicured (even if I’m not wearing polish) and my feet are always looking good. This is because I have long, narrow feet and long toes. In fact, I usually have really nice toes, if I do say so myself.
Then came my descent down Mount Kilimanjaro. Between the cold at the summit, the fact that I didn’t tie my boots tight enough going down, and my stupid decision to wear Keds instead of sandals right after that for my 2 day journey from Tanzania to Indonesia, I damaged my big toes. They hurt me for weeks before they settled down. They’ve been discoloured and weird ever since and the left one seemed to have become a bonafide ingrown toenail.
That left one has actually been a real pain…literally. There would be weeks in which 4 out of the 7 days, it was swollen and achy all day and I would be limping around like an old lady. For the other 3 days it was just swollen and tender and I could walk mostly normally. Then there were other weeks when it didn’t hurt at all unless I accidentally knocked it against something. I used ointment and prayed numerous prayers over my toes but the pain and ugliness persisted. My plan was to wait until I got back to the west to get it medically sorted out but the constant pain became so much and so concerning to me that I got the names of 2 doctors from The Jamaican, with every intention of visiting the 1 with the English name. The morning I was going to call to make an appointment, I mentioned it to 1 of the “children” who live here (the 20 year old) because I was checking with her first to see if it was OK for me to use the phone. Instead, she very kindly walked with me to the toko pojok (translation: corner shop; it’s literally a shed at the corner of the street where we live) to get something that she tells me Indonesians use when they have similar toe issues. The thing worked like a charm – my toe stopped throbbing within 1 day and stopped hurting altogether within 3 days. I used it for a couple more days, just for insurance. By day 6, I wasn’t using it anymore and feeling no pain. And the left one isn’t ingrown anymore! Hallelujah!
I was looking at both of my big toes the other week and I noticed something. As ugly as they look right now, there are new nails coming in. I can see them. They are clear and pink like they’re supposed to be. I’m really happy that new nails are coming because it means I won’t be stuck with ugly big toenails for the rest of my life. Even so, the process seems interminably slow; now that I’ve noticed the metamorphosis, it seems like it’s taking forever. I’m really tired of looking at the ugly old nails and I want them to just drop off, already! Still, I know that this process of change has to take place at its own pace in order to give the new nails time to come in properly. (I’m sure the lack of a healthy diet is helping to slow the process down – insert side eye here).
So, what are the lessons for me here?
First, there are many times when all I feel is the pain of change but I don’t see the newness that is coming. My toes hurt for a long time, especially the left one, before I even knew that new nails were there. However, the fact that I didn’t know they were under there all that time didn’t negate the fact that they were still under there. I sit here in my classroom in Jakarta writing this and thinking about the discomforts that I am experiencing here – the lack of privacy, the above-the-floor dirty conditions, the cockroaches and the rats, the general discomfort – and I know that underneath it all, something new is coming.
Second, change almost always hurts in some way. I cannot remember a time in my life when change wasn’t painful. Even when I am going towards something that I really want, leaving something else behind is not always easy. But the pain is necessary for new growth to take place. I just have to pray and power through.
Third, sometimes I make my way through difficulties by just waiting and enduring. Other times, I make my way through with help from others. I’m the solve-it-yourself type of person. I rarely ask for anyone’s help for no good reason other than the fact that I think I can do it all myself and it just doesn’t occur to me to ask for help. Although I wasn’t asking for help when I did it, I’m happy that I mentioned my problem to the girl who lives here because I got relief – she helped me to endure the growth process by helping me find relief from the pain. Even if that relief is temporary, it is enough to keep me going forward through the change process until the new nail comes or until I require professional treatment. Similarly, sometimes God sends people or things to help me make it through the pain until it’s time for the pain to end and the newness to be revealed. Right now He has me focussed on a new project (more on that in a few weeks), which distracts me from my less-than-ideal living situation. My monthly 4-day trips and my occasional visits with The Jamaican do the same.
Who knew I could learn all that from my mountain toe?