“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” –Toni Morrison
A number of years ago I went through a patch of having very itchy legs. I didn’t have the dreaded poison ivy. I didn’t have an allergic reaction to anything I could pin down. I just had very itchy legs, shins, to be exact. It lasted a long time. Months. The itching would subside and then flare up again.
One night it kept me up. I scratched and put on cream and washed it off and put on different cream and then something clicked in my head, the whole room shifted, and my vision came into sharp focus.
And suddenly I knew:
There were bugs in me, teeny tiny bugs laying eggs and digging a trove of tunnels beneath the skin.
I knew this had been happening all along. That they were now so entrenched, so embedded, this bug colony, that there may be no way to stop them. Maybe they were now in my bloodstream! Maybe they on their way to my heart where they would attack it any second!
By the time I had convinced myself of this, it was the middle of the night. I dashed clumsily through the house in a wide-eyed panic to my then-husband (fast asleep in our bed) and practically leapt onto his chest.
WAKE UP WAKE UP I HAVE BUGS LIVING IN THE PORES OF MY LEGS WE HAVE TO GET THEM OUT WE HAVE TO KILL THEM SOMEHOW.
That’s the kind of mind I have. Everything’s fine until I’m being eaten alive by creatures burrows deep in my dermis.
It didn’t really make sense.
But my mind, it seems, has a mind of its own.
My then-husband turned on the lights, found a magnifying glass, reassured me that the things I saw were all parts of me and the debris from the scratching and the scabbing and the bleeding and the various creams. He talked me down and my mind finally released its talons and when I woke the next morning, I was fine. My legs are a little itchy! It will pass! My then-husband, however, was a bit shell-shocked having caught my mind-madness, staring into the dark for hours wondering if he could stay married to a double-amputee.
This mind-madness happens other times.
This person is mad at me, doesn’t like me, is talking about me behind my back.
I have nothing to say, nothing to offer, nothing to contribute.
I’m a complete loser. An embarrassment.
I’ve wasted my whole life.
I’m a liar, a phony, a fake.
Some people might say, there is a way to banish these thoughts, lock them out, put guards by the door. There are schedules you can make, regimes you can keep, affirmations you can say that will tone and strengthen your spiritual and mental and emotional muscles to ripple like washboard abs.
Some people might say our job here is to get happier, healthier, fitter, to heal, to recover, to become the bad-assiest version of ourselves! We can rise above fear, worry, envy, comparison, doubt, regret, insecurities!
I would say the only thing we need to give up is the notion that there is a way to insulate ourselves from, well, ourselves.
I mean, YES! Let’s all keep moving toward what calls us, toward the activities and people and experiences and environments that feel right and rich and real, that are the deep (or shallow) expressions of our true US-ness.
While dropping the idea that any of it will innocculate us from mess, moods, mistakes, misunderstandings, and the full range of emotions.
That’s how we fly.
Will it be easy?
I don’t know.
Is it worth it? AB-SO-FUCKING-LUTELY.
Now. Can I do this? No. Yes. Maybe. Sometimes?
Recently, I auditioned for a local on-line acting thingy. It did not go well. I’m not fishing for compliments here. I was self-conscious and tense, rushed my lines, moved my face so very close to the Zoom camera they may have all thought I was toppling over. What happened? I don’t know. That’s just the way it went.
When I was done, I walked around in a little shame puddle, damp with this mortification of having exposed my bad acting to not just the playwrights and casting director, but to all the other actors there on gallery mode.
I shared about it with my now-husband, did the self-talk, had a glass of iced red tea, watched something fun on the TV, brushed up and went to bed.
I still felt icky. I named it: This feels icky; something must be wrong. (There are bugs living in my pores.)
I remembered I am human. Sometimes humans feel icky. (I see with the magnifying glass that there are, in fact, no bugs.)
I spoke a teeny tiny prayer for myself, an inclination of the heart, if you will: May I be kind to myself in this moment.
What about you, Dear Reader? Is there something troubling you?
I’m not going to say that it’s happening for a reason or that you should accept it or let it go. Just this–can you be kind to yourself?
Because you deserve it, this kindness, this love, this tenderness. Not to make anything go away, not to fix, change, heal, or rise above. Simply because you are here.