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Sore toe



I was really grumpy for a week when my toe was sore. It was weird – or perhaps completely obvious – how out of sorts it made me feel. It had the strange effect, similar to when you’re wanting to be pregnant and it seems everyone has an egg belly, that everywhere I looked I could see limping people, people on crutches, people struggling to walk through pain. And I realised that I hadn’t really been noticing them before – it was my own pain that was making them apparent. I think that we all want to believe that we have great empathy, that we can imagine what it’s like for other people, but in fact we can’t, fully. There’s always some kind of membrane, a spider web nest between you and the other person’s experience. Which is probably why I like novels and personal essays so much – you can feel like you are seeing another’s life without the membrane, that this is the insight you were lacking.

Still, I think we’re fooling ourselves a little. Not that I think we can’t imagine another’s experience, but that there will always be that gap. That gap is important though – it keeps us curious, it keeps us reaching and reading and changing. I gorge myself on articles on the internet. I listen to podcasts* as I colour comics and do the housework. I fill myself to the brim with information and some of it sticks, most of it dissipates. I long for the clarity the podcasts bring, but mainly my thoughts jumble about, willy-nilly. My sore toe – it’s not so sore now. The joint aches when I walk but not when I’m sitting still. I know I will forget what it’s like to live with acute pain and I am pleased about that. It’s unbearable, but many people bear it.

(*Of course, if I wasn’t trying to find a decent podcast in the first place I never would’ve sprained my bloody toe!)

12 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/03/2017 12:17 pm

    Really good stuff, very creative!

  2. Jacqueline permalink
    08/03/2017 1:22 pm

    Love the coincidence. I’m hobbling around on crutches and finding sympathy for those people who have to walk slowly … especially on pedestrian crossings!

    • Sarah Laing permalink*
      11/03/2017 6:37 pm

      I hope you get better soon!

  3. 08/03/2017 1:50 pm

    Pain is overrated. Oct. 2013 I broke both shin bones, right leg, compound fractures each. I now have “bone on bone” arthritis in my ankle, and the foot lacks full flexion. In fact, sometimes that foot is so stiff that I’ve a pronounced hobble, and when I do it’s the tendency of people who know me to among other unhelpful (and false) observations wonder whether I’m not in acute pain. Either I have an amazingly high tolerance for pain, or it’s human nature to hope yet not in a sadistic way that others suffer. I’ve come to despise commiserations.

  4. The Thinking Penguin permalink
    08/03/2017 11:01 pm

    As a great person once said “What’s life without a little pain?”
    Nice post! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  5. 09/03/2017 11:29 am

    I agree with the others that it was a very good post. I’m replying though to make sure you are aware that a sore big toe is the classic first symptom of gout. I also started noticing all of the other people hobbling around when I started having gout flareups and wondered if they were suffering from gout, too. My gout was caused by medications for high blood pressure, and not by rich foods or alcohol as everyone says. I believe a lot of those other people also have painful joint problems caused by their medications. Low dose aspirin also gives me gout symptoms. I dropped the aspirin and changed by blood pressure meds and have not had a gout flareup for about 5 years. Members of my family have T1 diabetes and I do not think they have had gout symptoms from their medications, but you may want to discuss that with your doctor. It is a painful condition that gets progressively more serious if unaddressed.

  6. carolbrown215 permalink
    09/03/2017 7:31 pm

    Reminds me of flying into the room and driving my little toe with full force and all my weight behind it into the stout leg of my bed…. Oh, cripes! The agony! My only broken bone. Yet. Today, I have a close relationship with my podiatrist and I pumice, moisturise and treat them there feet with the greatest respect.

  7. carolbrown215 permalink
    09/03/2017 8:40 pm

    Actually, I am not sure what ‘pain is overrated’ means. Pain sucks. Apart from an ex-husband, pain is the last thing one wants to embrace. I hope you are not incapacitated for too long, Sarah.

    • Sarah Laing permalink*
      11/03/2017 6:37 pm

      I am much better, thanks!

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