I bite my nails.
I don’t just bite my nails. I chew on my cuticles. I gnaw on the callous on the middle finger of my right hand. A callous earned by hours and hours spent with a pen in hand, trying to get the words out.
That callous is like my lucky stone. I rub it when I am nervous. I rub it when I am excited. I rub it while I am thinking.
That callous belongs to the finger I broke in the seventh grade. We were learning self-defense in gym class and the girl I was paired with flipped me over her back. The finger broke at the knuckle and still has a funny angle to the right. Every now and then it aches.
That finger belongs to my right hand. My dominant hand. For a time, while that finger was healing, my left hand became my dominant hand. I learned how to write with it (if not prettily, at least legibly). I practiced piano with it. I learned there was something to ambidextrous repetition thanks to that injury, and incorporated it into the next few years of intensive striving to improve at my instrument. But eventually the right middle finger healed and I quit writing with my left hand. I can barely scrawl my name with it now.
My right hand belongs to my right arm. The arm I carried my babies in. The arm I use to haul the laundry basket upstairs. The arm I curl under my pillow at night.
That arm belongs to my right shoulder. A shoulder that carries half the weight of my breasts. A shoulder that in public is thrown back in proud, confident posture. A shoulder that, right now as I write, is slumped in uncertainty. The task of writing does that to me—it burdens me, makes me question my convictions, my abilities, my worthiness. But the after-glow of having written and shared is freeing. When my words are sent into the ether of the world wide web and I don’t die from whatever criticism they might garner (or bloat up from occasional praise), it’s freeing. Because that’s what happens when you’re brave—even if it is just in small ways. It frees you from the invisible doubts and fears and worries that act like chains in your life. One small act of courage might not free a person from all their chains, but it’s a start that gives one the strength to try again.
And so, today,
after I’ve shut off my computer,
and strode confidently through the grocery (I need bananas),
and curled my arm under my pillow,
I will sleep.
And then, tomorrow,
I will sit here in my black chair,
and I will look at words as they appear on the screen,
and I will bite my nails.