Since I was a teen, I had beautiful long nails. I was genetically blessed with fingernails that were thick and strong. With a bit of care, they would grow to enviable lengths. I enjoyed painting them every imaginable hue. I nurtured them and loved hearing the compliments as well as the question, "Are they real?"
During those adolescent years, they were a sign of beauty I could honestly claim when my hair, my face and my body were not as I wished. My nails were also a creative outlet as I could use them as assessories, color coordinating with my makeup and clothes. I embraced a rainbow of possibilities . I loved rotating 10 or more shades preferring a bold and attention getting palate. I even hand modeled for a brief period, including on a jewelry cable show.
As college and searching for my path in life challenged me, I saw my nails as a symbol of how I wished the world would see me: beautiful, strong and unique. When I became a mom, maintaining my nails became a luxury of my previous life that was just too difficult to maintain. My nails immediately showed if they were not given consistent, proper care. They peeled, chipped, and broke. I gave in to the message they sent me. With the limited investment I could make as a new mother, I needed to settle for short, natural nails. I also felt deep down perhaps manicures were now a bit of a frivolous use of energy when there were so many important obligations calling to me
However, as my firstborn grew into a more independent toddler, I again found the time as well as the joy of length and polish. My approach was more practical at this stage; I stuck with muted colors where chips would not easily show. I no longer wanted to garner attention. But rather, I was content to just enjoy their beauty -- more appreciated because of the hiatus.
Over two more kids and lots of health and work challenges, I noticed a pattern. If my life was in balance, my nails were long, healthy and meticulously polished. When I took on too much or struggled to find a peaceful place in the storm of three kids and two careers, my nails became ragged and broken; a reflection of where I was.
I maintain them now but don’t take it too seriously. I garden, play piano and do many things that involve using my fingers as tools. However, looking down at my well-manicured hands still gives me satisfaction. Now it is for different reasons. I have nothing to prove to the world. But I do know I need to take care of myself to be a success at home or at work; and my fingers let me know how well I am doing.