Patrick and I are talking before sleep. He leans against the wall with a pillow behind his head. My hair is all splayed out on the comforter. I say, “I need to do more.”
He frowns when he hears me say ‘need.’ To him, this word gets me too close to trouble. He believes I overestimate how much I need to do, how much stuff needs doing on my day off. He says, “Maybe this is why you’re stressed?”
Needing to do more doesn’t really make me feel stress. Does it? Surely Patrick gets how peaceful I am right now, so good at listening? “I’m fine.”
He stares at me.
I explain--using more words than I need to-- how I’ve totally got it. Patrick waits, then shares an alternate theory.
About the time the air in the bedroom gets static-y, I vote we take a break. We smile at each other, and hop from the bed in search for our bedtime story-books.
On the yoga mat the next morning, near the rustle of eucalyptus tree leaves, I begin to see Patrick’s concerns in the itchy pink circle on my leg. Teensy ants tickle around my ankle. I wince, wondering which path they’ll cross next. These ants are in collaboration with my body right now. And my skin isn’t just holding me together these days; it’s a billboard saying, How’re we doing?
This is not the first time my skin has talked to me. I endured many other months one year, where for most of my waking hours, I battled with the question: Scratch this itch or breathe?
The stress of three transitions—second marriage, life-sharing and moving house-- sparked my skin to go rosy all over with rashes. I could only wear billowy clothes. I craved sweets and restaurant-grade ice. Angry with myself that I may have caused this condition, I scratched and growled and gritted my teeth a lot, as though I might soon metamorphose into some animal.
But Patrick treated me with the greatest patience and kindness. Journaling seemed to diffuse my feelings some. The sugary stuff, even “healthy” junk food, had to go on vacation. My diet became raw vegetables and nuts, and though extreme, I calmed down. The world looked less foggy, with more clear days. Earthy supplements and gobs of gentleness s-l-o-w-l-y gave me back my skin.
In yoga-time, my skin shows me I’m not alright. That story-telling is easier than admitting my imperfect-ness, my humanity. Somehow I gather the strength to not scratch this time and take a different route.
I check out this book on what a good night’s sleep really means. I see my naturopath for a checkup. I begin to absorb how vital it is—if I want to be around Earth for a while – that I stop more often, wiggle, hug trees, leave my desk at 5pm—even though I’m not done with work or self-improvement or being the best ____________. Even though I will ne-ver have it all done or perfectly solved.
I start to touch the stuff that freaks me out, like MONey and FACEbook. I drop each day’s thoughts/worries/wonderments into a journal before I go to sleep. Eating breakfast for the first time in ages makes me feel grounded. I help my son sort out his first college apartment so he can shift out of not-at-home-life. I inch closer to Patrick and tell him more often what’s going on in my wackadoodle head. I realize, that in addition to being a teacher and writing helper, I’m also an artisty-writer who wants to share her stuff, but who’s kinda scared to do that.
Most of these new stages don’t feel comfy. And my skin is… how it wants to be, day by day: sometimes easy-going, sometimes aggravated, like me. But I’m realizing s-l-o-w-l-y that these itchy pink spots might know what they’re doing. They’re on their own darn schedule, and won’t change just because I’m be-fuddled, or I’ve been the fairy princess of the healthiest choices in the world! So.
My challenge from here on out:
Breathe. And listen.
Little note: This post evolved from a special free-writing exercise like those we use in my Listen & Flow classes. If you're curious about this ultra-honest writing process, check out my next Listen & Flow series.