Yesterday got off to a lovely start, wobbled a bit with a moment of consequence stemming, most likely, from a miscommunication or misunderstanding. I got past it, but the day built on that with small details, snatches of over-heard conversations that had nothing to do with me, and a few interactions with strangers, that amounted to a busy, fairly purposeful, intended to be very fun day that turned out to be just filled with anxiety, and triggers. Well, shit.

By the time I crossed town to spend time with a dear friend I hadn’t hung out with in while, catch up, and see his “new place” (he’s been there a year), my hands were… sort of torn up. Yeah. I pick at my cuticles when stressed, and don’t realize I’m doing it, generally. “Nervous habit” doesn’t cover it, and managing it is impaired by my fucking TBI. So, by the end of the afternoon, my finger tips were bleeding in places, from torn cuticles, tugged at hang nails, and I was feeling both uncomfortable and self-conscious, on top of the anxiety.

I was also early. Shit.

I was sitting in a parking lot, just a shopping center away from my friend’s address, in a neighborhood I once called home. Familiar territory. I strolled through a couple specialty shops with Giftmas on my mind. I kept catching myself still tearing at my poor suffering innocent cuticles. I finally had a “fuck this dumb shit” moment, when I spotted the cheery neon “Open” sign of a nail salon right there. I looked at the time. We’d been firm, in our plans, on “not earlier than”, and even so, I had plenty of time yet ahead of me – I’d been planning to grab a bite. I was not at all hungry, though, and every ounce of my being was yearning for actual self-care. So… Nails? Nails. I mean… if they turned out to have a walk in opening, at all. It’s the weekend before the weekend of Giftmas! (What was I thinking??)

It had been awhile since I’d been to this nail salon. Could I do a ten minute wait, the receptionist asks me politely, glancing at my hands with a frown. The place was packed. She called one of the manicurists over, who asked to also see my hands. She looked at me sternly, and spoke to the receptionist in Vietnamese, and briskly returned to the sea of manicurists’ stations. The receptionist said, firmly, “please take a seat, 10 minutes” and hands me a quantity of color samples, “choose color”. She returns to the phone. Two or three women were waiting ahead of me, another came in with a scheduled appointment. All the stations were entirely full. No way this is going to be 10 minutes, I thought, rather stoically. Still, I felt that I was in the place I needed to be in the moment, taking care of an important bit of self-care; the worse my fingers were chewed on, ragged, and picked at, the worse they were going to become; it’s the snags that grab my attention in the background, when I’m “not looking”. It was becoming actually painful at that point.

I sat quietly, breathing the fumes commonplace in nail salons and amused myself with thoughts of the Oracle of Delphi. Time passes.

A customer leaves. Then another. And another. 10 minutes passes quickly, and it really was all I had to wait. The next 45 minutes passed so gently, and I felt so cared for. Hell… I relaxed and allowed experiences – new experiences – I would not have known how to actually ask for, because I simply put myself (and my hands) in the care of someone expert.

On my way to be seated, I managed to actually break a nail – into the quick – but did not allow myself to tear it off. She fixed that. (I did not know that was a thing.) She put tiny tips on my chronically bitten to the quick pinky nails, making them appear utterly ordinary alongside the others. She looked carefully at where the worst damage was and as she trimmed and removed damaged bits, reminded me to moisturize my hands to limit snags and keep my cuticles supple. “More moisture.” She repeated it several times, over the course of the work she was doing, pointing out exactly where it matters most. Tense? She used a lavender massage lotion for the hand massage. I felt my stress melting away. I walked away with nearly indestructible (gel) nails for the holiday ahead, and feeling far more relaxed and comfortable with my body.

I had a great time hanging out with my friend. The day was, although busy, well-spent. I feel ready for the holiday ahead, and eager to spend that time with my Traveling Partner. Today, I’ve got a gentle day of housekeeping, and gift-wrapping, and a trip to the market planned. A nice Sunday. Laundry and cartoons? I think so. A good beginning on a new week.

I’ll go get started on that. 🙂 I won’t be changing the world in any noteworthy way, but maintaining the kindness, order, contentment, and sanity in my own wee corner at least serves to help, in some very small way. 🙂