Thursday, April 24, 2014

Things that Make Me Itch

"Troubles are urgent. They ask for direct action. … By contrast, worries often say more about the worrier than about the world." --James Gilkey (1934)
I was bitten by bedbugs once, in a hotel in New Jersey. I was sharing a room with my siblings, and to my annoyance, none of them got bitten, so they thought I made it up. The bites didn't show up until a few days later, and they were itchy for weeks, and the whole thing was gross. I made my husband bear witness to each newly discovered bite.

Bedbugs are terrible for people with anxiety issues. All hotels become suspect. Every minor itch is a bedbug bite. Suitcases are now vessels that usher the plague into your home.

To my great sadness, bugs love me. There is a mosquito convention every time I step outside in the summer. This problem is compounded by the fact that I am exceedingly reactive to bug bites. And this problem, in turn, is compounded by the fact that I am extremely neurotic about itchiness. After a dreamy but bug-filled college summer at Cedar Creek Natural History area, my bosses handed out flimsy certificates to the assembled ecology nerds with superlatives like "Best at Plant Identification" and "Most Cheerful Early In the Morning." My award: "Most Obsessed with Things That Make You Itch." I was embarrassed and slightly incensed, but they were right.

Just writing this is making me itch.
Writer and graphic artist Andrew Kuo shares my concern about bedbugs, according to his "Wheel of Worry" piece shown below. Here's what I would like to say to him about this: "Andrew, as shown by this diagram, we are the same inside our brains, except you are a super great artist. I too worry about bedbugs and money and loneliness, either directly or indirectly, when falling asleep. I also worry about how much I worry. Can't say that I worry about the Knicks, however, since I am missing the gene that makes you care about sports." 

I have learned that, in order to be tolerable friends and companions, neurotic folks like myself must develop self-awareness and a sense of humor. As James Gilkey rightly observed (see quote at top), our worries, obsessions and quirks are an (often unflattering) mirror into our inner lives. If we take them too seriously, we become self-absorbed, boring, and other ugly things.

Are bedbugs and mosquitoes really taking over the world? Maybe, depending on your news source, but mostly not. Instead, is Katherine obsessed with Things That Make You Itch? Ummmm, yes.

As explained in my mental health debut post, I have few real troubles. People observing my life might observe: "There's one lucky lady." And they would be right, of course. I am terribly lucky, and am trying to appreciate and pass along some of this good fortune. As I do my inner work some of the anxiety falls away, and I have longer periods of inner quiet, and rest, and joy. Everything is awesome...until I get another bug bite.

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