Even a Purple Pinky Toe Can Teach You a Life Lesson

Don’t underestimate the power of the human body

I broke my toe doing Pilates.

I know. I’m asking that question, too.

How do you break your toe doing Pilates?

I was there — and I’m still not sure how I managed it. I wasn’t trying to “keep up with the Joneses”; I was trying to keep up with the instructor on the Pilates reformer exercise YouTube video. He couldn’t see me. He wouldn’t have known if I had paused the workout to get the machine set.

And somehow, in my rush to keep his pace, the changing of the springs, the foot bar, and the toe strap, I caught my toe on something and felt ouch. Or said it. Both, probably.

Now I understand why some Pilates instructors say, “You don’t need any equipment for today’s workout” when they clearly intend to use the reformer. Which is equipment.

(The Pilates reformer is a bed-like frame with a flat platform that rolls back and forth on wheels. It includes tension springs, ropes, and pulleys that can help you isolate your core and lengthen and strengthen your muscles — and do the exercises correctly. Fun fact: Joseph Pilates started his exercises using hospital beds, springs, and pulleys to help strengthen bedridden patients during World War I.)

This morning, I needed equipment in addition to the reformer. The instructor added the reformer extender, a pole, the long box, the short box, and the toe strap. And he did the old switcheroo between those apparatuses with commands regarding the springs.

“Two heavy springs for this exercise,” he would say.

“Just a light spring.”

“A heavy spring — but use the one on the side of the carriage on which you are kneeling.”

“OK. Switch.”

I aim to please. I aim to follow instructions. I aim to do my best.

So I tried to keep up with him. And somehow in the transitioning from one exercise to another, I broke my toe.

Steel-toed boots and service

I completed the workout anyway. Then I donned my garden boots — ouch — and stomped my way under and around and through the jungle of azaleas we call our front yard. As I pruned dead branches, I also pulled the invasive Coral Ardisia sprouts and jasmine vines that pretend to help the bushes by winding around their branches and posing as azalea leaves.

I crawled. I stooped. I considered how I might jump high enough to hop from bush to bush but didn’t. I snipped and cropped and piled branches here and there. Then I wove my way out of the bushes, either carrying the piles or flinging them over the exterior 8-foot-high bushes into the driveway where I would later collect and trash them.

Because I aim to please. I am to follow instructions. I aim to do my best.

And because the discomfort of crawling and crouching (and imagining what else was crawling near me)… And the challenge of reaching and removing and weaving my way into and out of the insides of the bushes took more attention than the little purple toe I would see when I removed my boots three hours later.

Commercial break

YouTube has started interrupting videos with commercial streams — much as I’ve interrupted this blog post with this short critique of the free platform. In the 40-minute Pilates video I was playing, the instructor was interrupted five different times by commercials. Five! Mid-exercise!

Sure, I could have used the remote to skip the advertisement after some seconds of it had played. But I was on my hands and knees or flat on my back with my feet in straps! And I’d already broken a toe just getting into the position! I wasn’t about to get out of position, find and use the remote to skip the commercial because then I’d be out of position when the instructor instantly resumed teaching.

And who knows what else I might break trying?

Two thoughts on my purple pinky

Of course, my purple toe reminds me that we need all our body parts healthy and whole and working. Even our pinky toes. This little toe of mine — usually covered in a sock and protected by close-toed shoes — hurts. This injured toe makes me limp a bit. It makes me feel more tired. More fragile.

And more aware. This itty bitty, mostly ignored toe has gotten my attention. My body is a picture of the body of Christ — the Church. We all have our part to play and play well — however small and hidden from the world. And when one part hurts, we all should hurt. (And not get busy doing good things to try to ignore it.)

Second, twice in this piece I wrote this:

I aim to please. I aim to follow instructions. I aim to do my best.

This morning’s Scripture reading included these verses from Luke 6 reminding me to follow more important instructions. God’s instructions:

“’Why are you so polite with me, always saying “Yes, sir,” and “That’s right, sir,” but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.'”

Luke 6:46-47, MSG

God’s Word to me is not intended for decoration. It is intended to be a foundation. Words on which I should build my life.

May I aim to please Him, follow His directions, and do my best for Him.

And, at least for a few days while my toe heals, skip the Pilates reformer workouts.

2 thoughts on “Even a Purple Pinky Toe Can Teach You a Life Lesson

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