I have a whopper of a blister on my second from tiniest toe on my left foot. I blame my father’s genes for the crumpled up toe that refuses to lie flat even when I’m wearing open-toed heels. Also, I blame my well-developed non-conformist attitude to the whole women and shoes thing. Mostly, I wear a pair of trainers (the kind you can just slip on your feet, you don’t even have to tie them up), or boots in winter. Comfortable. Practical. Efficient.
Not what you want when you’re going to a party. Which is where I was Saturday night. So, blisters. Which will eventually fade away, because I’m going back to wearing my trainers for out and about and slippers in the house, thank you very much.
Blisters. Painful. Awkward. The body’s response to a localised trauma – be it a sudden burn (done that) or the repeated friction of ill-fitting shoes. And if I carried on wearing the shoes, the blisters would eventually turn into calluses. And calluses are just plain ugly. Well they are, aren’t they?
Except here’s the thing. Right now, I have blisters on my feet and calluses on my hands, and both tell a story. Both are necessary. The blisters are raw, and new, and painful, and tell me to take care and be gentle. They speak of an injury that requires nurturing. The calluses on my hands are the result of years of writing in notebooks, and months of weaving yarn through my fingers as I crochet. Actions repeated over and over again, until they become part of my body, part of my identity. Calluses speak of repetition, and time invested in an activity – they speak of swellings that have healed over, and skin that has grown thick to protect what lies beneath. Without the calluses, long afternoons of crochet, and evenings of writing would just be too painful.
The blister protects the injured and raw skin below as it heals. The callus protects the body below so that it doesn’t get injured. The blister is sensitive and feels too much (which aids the protection). The callus is thick and heavy and blunts feelings (protection of a different sort). Sometimes in life, we are injured and everything is painful. Sometimes, we can be hurt so frequently that we become calloused and unfeeling. Sometimes a blister becomes a callus, but sometimes it heals back to normal skin.
Sometimes we need calluses. But we also need to be able to feel.