Ruminations: Fingernails

People often compliment my fingernails. It isn’t why I get my nails done, but it is a pleasant side effect. Last week, though, someone asked, “How do you keep your nails looking so nice?”

I thought for a moment about the things I do to care for my nails. The most significant thing is probably that I get a mani-pedi about every three weeks as a part of my personal care.

We could diverge here into a conversation about how having one’s feet washed by another person is incredibly connecting and humanizing. It’s one of the ways folks like Resmaa Menakem recommend metabolizing the trauma we carry around in our bodies.

But we’ll save foot washing for another time. Because I also take a biotin supplement every day for my hair and nails. And I use moisturizer daily. And I apply cuticle oil before bed. And I do my best not to use my nails as tools. My manicurist’s mantra is that they are “treasures, not tools.”

When I itemized this nail care regimen, the person who had originally asked how I kept my nails looking so nice replied, “Oh, so you’re really invested in the health of your nails!”

I suppose there are a lot of things in life that I complain about without really investing much in a different outcome. Maybe I can’t really take meaningful action about some things that disappoint me. But if I care about something, it makes sense to invest something in it.

And maybe it’s little things done consistently that truly bring us closer to what we want. “A little a lot is better than a lot a little,” as my spiritual director says. Mindfully including the things we care about in our daily routine might make the difference between wishing for something and creating it.

Now, I know there are some differences between beloved community and fingernails. But maybe the quality of our community also relies on how we express care for what we create.

We can hope for beloved community and do nothing, the same way I could just hope for beautiful, healthy nails. Or we can invest something of our time and resources toward a meaningful vision. A much more meaningful vision than the aesthetics of fingernails.

I also know that some people are just born with genetically weak nails. I’m privileged or blessed or fortunate in that arena. Maybe some of us also have a little bit of a head start in creating meaningful, authentic community. The good news is that we can move toward a vision of beloved community no matter where we’re starting. And if we are wise, we will recognize that investing in beloved community means investing in one another.