The skin on my left hand is in tatters and has been for a few months now. I struggle with eczema — just on my hands for some reason — and it can be seriously painful, not to mention embarrassing and ugly. It popped up a few years ago and I can’t quite get it under control. I’ll get one hand sorted out and then the dreaded itch and redness will start on the other. Emotional stress doesn’t help the situation (some suggest stress is the actual cause), nor does constantly having my hands in water (I have an eight-year-old with special needs, so do the math on that one). I lotion, I oil, I massage, I look for remedy after remedy, and I still cringe at the way the split open places feel — my skin literally comes apart — as I try to function through it. I’ll button my son’s pants and discover my finger is bleeding a minute later. I should buy stock in bandaids. Okay, enough description ’cause I know it’s gross. The cycle of disintegration and healing is frustrating for me, but I’ve sort of gotten used to it and try to be patient with my body’s vulnerability, trusting that it will eventually heal itself if I give it as much outside help as possible and that I’ll get a respite before the next episode. We can get used to almost anything, can’t we?
Words related to healing fly around freely these days. You know them — self-care, restore, rejuvenate, cleanse, detox — they’re part of an industry. And I’m all for that, save for the wear and tear on my ears from the overuse of such terms and the resulting emptiness that can sometimes inhabit them from that careless employment. Sacred acts such as taking care of ourselves deserve more than pop culture faddishness, but I am heartened by the turn of attention toward the need for slowing down, taking a minute, and nurturing ourselves so that we have something to give others and understanding that if we don’t do that we have zero to offer, or at least only a stockpile of resentment for our own over-extension.
If you’re bleeding, put the bandaid on before you ruin everything.
For me, I have to remember to make time to pick up a needle and thread to work on whatever project I’ve got going (the accompanying photo for this post is one of my headboard — specifically chosen so that I can embroider words on it. I went so far as to put those good ones from the genius Louise Bourgeois there to remind me). To spend some time reading and being quiet and not paying attention to the chirp of a device. To take ten minutes for a cup of tea and truly engaged conversation. To good god almighty go to bed and get some sleep.
I wrote this down this morning: “My heart is always in a state of repair.” And it struck me as quite possibly the most factual sentence that has ever come out of me. Aren’t we all always healing something? We arrive home from having been out in the world and we need a minute — we sit down, exhale, and begin the process from recovering from whatever assault we experienced outside of our nests so we can go do it again. We lick our wounds from an argument or unsuccessful interaction with our mates, we get over it, so we can do it again. We say a prayer when we watch other kids stare at ours when they notice he acts differently from the way that they do, wipe our tears before he sees, and tell ourselves we are strong enough to get not only him but our own souls through it meanwhile hoping that his heart won’t need as much mending as ours does. We’re constantly returning to our corners so we can get back in the ring.
Sometimes it feels like everything requires a deep breath.
And it might. But that realization brings a smile to my face. Writing down that my heart is always repairing itself gives me a lot of hope, because I’m incredibly grateful that it can do such a thing and that it knows how to do its own work given the opportunity. Human beings are incredible. We try, and we try, and we keep trying. It’s a beautiful thing to watch even in, and sometimes mostly in, the smallest gestures. We get up each day, if we’re lucky, and we try. We repair what is broken. We lotion, we oil, we massage, we look for remedy after remedy and sometimes yes we still get broken open in our vulnerable spots. But because we can repair, we can hope. And hope is the single most important resource our oh so resilient souls give us.
Happy Monday, Y’all.