Months ago I caught my thumb. At first it looked like only a scratch diagonally across the nail; but then the scratch turned aqua-blue, and then a purplish-black spread out from it. For a few days it was excruciating as the nail separated, except in a few spots, from the nail bed. I got used to the pain. The colors continued to change but a black line remained across it.
It was two months before I realized that what I thought was a dried scab under my nail was actually a piece of wood that had been shoved under my nail back when I injured it. It pulled out easily, and the pain decreased immediately. In a few days, the colors of my nail faded into yellows and the base of the nail seemed to be growing out in a fringing arch.
A few days ago I caught my nail, or rather knocked it squarely on the leading edge. The top, dead nail separated almost completely, except for the left edge which remained firmly and painfully attached. I wrapped it up and wondered if I’d be able to keep it like that until the top detached, but the pain told me I needed to do something. So I waited to get up my courage (and for the nausea of the idea to pass) and as quickly as possible trimmed the top nail back to where only the attached edge was left. The pain is much better now. It’s wrapped back up to prevent the remaining bit from snagging and I’m mentally preparing myself for the fact that at some point, if that bit refuses to grow out as the nail beneath it grows, I may have to grab some pliers and pull it out. The nausea of that idea has not yet passed and for now, since it’s not painful, I’m willing to put up with the band-aids.
How the nail looks is another story. The new under-nail is, well, ugly. The bottom half at least looks mostly normal, but instead of being smooth it is ridged and dull. The top part is crumbly and does not yet extend to the top edge of my thumb. I wonder if it ever will.
There are a lot of painful things in life we don’t ask for, yet we are forced to deal with them. They are ugly, sometimes excruciating, sometimes nauseating; but they are ours to deal with. We can choose to hide them and pretend like they aren’t there, or we can pluck up our courage to do something about them.
This nail may always be ugly, always stick out from the rest as damaged; but I still have a choice. I can leave it, or I can do something to make it better, something to replace the ugly with beauty.
We all have this choice, daily, to deal with the ugly. Choose beauty.