Have you ever felt like you are wearing an itchy wool sweater? Wait - an itchy wool sweater that has been rubbed in static electricity after being dipped in old man bad breath and then forced upon your body without any hopes of removal in the near future? You know the feeling I am talking about, right? The one where if you could invent a way to unzip yourself from inside your own skin, you would. And then you would jump out and wave a flag of independence while throwing confetti eggs into the air and singing “The Hills are Alive.” That’s how good it would feel to shed that metaphorical itchy wool sweater, right?
It happened to me this morning. (I had another blog post written, but, alas). I woke up late with the computer still next to me, the lights still on from never being turned off last night, and the pitter patter of little toddler feet accompanied by the sound of “I wake up. Moat-meal, momma? Momma, moat-meal. Momma, hungry. Momma, you sleep? Momma, pants” on repeat. And then I run into the kitchen, pants not on, and start getting breakfasts ready and lunches made. While doing that, I discover that my workout from last night was not uploaded properly and so, um, now I’ve got my ass out in my business too.
So, with one hand on the computer, a finger texting important SOS messages, another hand making odd cream cheese quesadillas because I decided going to the grocery store with two kids in the arctic afternoon yesterday was more arduous than the task of “creative lunch making with empty pantry,” my brain starts to fastidiously *organize* itself into the to-dos that need to happen in 21 minutes in order to get the elder to school on time and avoid the downcast eyebrows of her teacher who already decided that I, her negligent mother, don’t even read to my child at night - a fact not at all true, but only appearing to be the case because the elder has made paper airplanes of every homework sheet doumenting said nightly reading since school started.
That was a long sentence without breathing. Which ought to be the title of my book. That Was a Long Sentence without Breathing.
Anyway, by the laws of scrappyland, I manage to get everything done in 21.5 minutes. I even have pants on at this point. I’m shuttling the girls out the door with a plethora of objects and things to carry and while the wee one decides that wearing a jacket is not actually an awesome idea and then begins a hostage level negotiation tactic, I realize it’s cold and raining. As in, dangerhoustonalertstopthepressesyoumightnotsurvive, which is also known as “School is closed.” So, I go to look at elder’s school website and, voila, school IS closed. Denial sets in as a flurry of meetings and to-dos and emails go laughing by, waving their mischievous smiles at me while saying, “You can’t catch me, neener neener!” I check the date over and over. March 4th. No. That was last month, I convince myself. They just haven’t updated their home page. I then scan my eyes back and forth between the red glaring “school is closed” words and the calendar app on my computer. Back and forth my eyes continue for a minute until I convince myself that, yes, the dates match. 4. March. Today.
This is when itchy wool sweater goes into high gear. I’m tempted to either dropkick the neighbor’s cat as it sits under my car looking quite dry and stationary or climb back inside the house and under the covers and let my experiment of Lord of the Flies begin that morning with unsupervised children.
Instead, I climb into the car and move forward into the day, irritation in full bloom. And that is what happens when itchy wool sweater takes its hold on you: That song on the radio sounds that much more annoying. The bill you just saw on the passenger seat car looks that much more overwhelming. The stupid driver ahead of you who actually stopped at a stop sign inside of rolling through it like every other properly busy parent is suddenly designated as world’s most dumb person. The how and whys coming from the backseat feel like marching orders off the pirate ship. Basically: Everyone else is annoying and everything is all f*cked up.
And after I solve the world’s problems and get my elder to show up at wee one’s school as a special “helper” for the next three hours, I have a shift. It becomes apparent rather quickly to me that not everyone or everything else could possibly be the problem. Which makes that arrow I had pointing out at the world swing back and point right back in my face. It’s me.
And in a moment of grace, I get swept along with the sort of realization that makes the world feel like it’s coated in yummy fresh raspberry jelly. The realization is this: I have grown. My life has expanded. My responsibilities more real. My purpose more purposeful. My presence more shown up. BUT. I have not adapted my own personal operating system to meet the new growth. I’m living in an old, outdated system that is no longer able to handle my capacity. Everything is actually awesome. I just have work to do to create a new system.
And that is it. The world and its demands are not so that I can’t handle. I just need to upgrade my system. I need to allow my growth to receive its new deserved level of support. It’s like Happy the Bearded Dragon shows me all the time: Just before he sheds his skin and grows another massive amount, he goes bananas. He starts scrambling around in his tank like his claws were suddenly able to scratch through glass. He’s hungry all the time. He can’t get comfortable. I start to think he might be rabid (google tells me it's impossible). And then he hunkers down into the man-made cave I’ve built him for three days without coming out for food or water or to shake his reptilian head at toddler-screaming, which makes me think he might be dying from rabies. But. When he emerges after those three days with his old more serene demeanor reinstated, I see layers of skin dripping off his edges, scaly sections on his neck and belly busted wide open and a new brighter skin waiting directly underneath.
Here's the catch, though: When you experience itchy-wool-sweateritis, you will need a tool kit. And this is the part that brings the grace. This is where you get to do the hard work that results in that fresh raspberry jelly shift.
Here’s what I do in the face of itchy-wool-sweateritis, followed by how I am going to start upgrading my system to meet the demands of amazing growth.
- Recognize and acknowledge that what you are feeling is itchy-wool-sweateritis - take notes of how it feels so that you can see it when it is coming next time (it will happen again)
- Figure out if you are PMSing or hormonal. I know, this sounds lame and antiquated, but women, be a step ahead of your animal self. Write that time down and have it set in your calendar with an alarm that goes off every few minutes that reminds you NOT to take yourself super seriously, that your experience in life is currently heightened, that this is temporary and perfectly ok.
- Accept the perspective change that what you are experiencing is a symptom of being human and that it is YOUR sensation (possibly) and not everyone out to get you.
- Take a moment to celebrate the growth. Be proud of what you have done to get you to the point where you need to give that new skin air to breathe. Gratitude. Self-appreciation.
TO UPGRADE YOUR SYSTEM:
- Where can you take better care of yourself? Sleep? Food? Water? Exercise? (do that)
- Hunker down and be alone, even just for a moment. Breathe. Be alone.
- What about your old system is not supporting your new growth? Laundry? Meal planning? Working after bedtime? Wasting daytime hours? Extra activities that you can walk away from?
- Ask for help and structure help into your day. (a toughie and one I am currently working on, but you can’t be the CEO of anything all by yourself. Figure out where you are falling short and accept that you can’t do it all and then practice asking for help)