The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains. – Paul Simon
My blood is alive with many voices telling me that I am made of longing. – Rainer Maria Rilke
Last night my husband and I went out for Indian food at our local favorite place. I was super, very, extremely hungry and knew immediately that a samosa and a big plate of korma were the perfect fixes. My husband, who likes to take his time with every decision, very much took his time with his ordering. After the waitress left for the third time so he could continue to contemplate the merits and deficits of various naan varieties, and the hefty choice that is aloo gobi versus matar paneer, I felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin. “Just pick a thing. Seriously. No one is going to die here,” I said in a measured, clenchy-teeth sort of way. I mean, except maybe him. By way of me. And my impatience.
Of course, I am well aware that this has little to do with him, and his ordering and decision-making style. This is about me, and the impulse that arises periodically in me do all of the things and pick all of the choices and change all of the rules. It’s the Part that says that if he (or whomever) could just get on board, we could go make a big and wonderful adventure (or have a big and wonderful dinner, as the case may be). It’s Itch time.
I think it’s safe to say that the itch comes up in all of us at one time or another. Or at very specific times, like when, for instance, the summer is ending and the New England cold is looming like the biting life-ruiner it is. How do we soothe this Part of us that says that there’s something better, and that we should immediately make the changes to get to that better thing?
Be Aware of the Itch, and Name It.
I remember a time in my early twenties in which I was very convinced that all of my emotions and feelings were very much me, and that it was exceedingly important that I follow each one as far as it would lead me in order to know and be true to myself. This was a Very Bad idea (though admittedly, a great learning experience). At the end of that ride, I concluded that our feelings and emotions are not us. They are Parts of us. Our core Self is not wrenched all over the place by changing emotional states. It is steady and unwavering and constant.
When we get to know our Itchy Part, we can recognize it for what it is when it comes up. We can hear it out and listen to it (and we should do so – it might have something super important to tell us), but we can also separate it from our Selves. This distinction is crucial in order to stay centered when things get itchy.
Treat It Like a Part (Because That’s All It Is).
The longing, the insistence on change, the impulse to do something new – They are all Parts of us. And really fantastic Parts! My own Itchy Part keeps my life juicy and delicious and interesting, and doesn’t allow for me to be bored for very long with anything. It sends me on weekend adventures and it compels me to learn new things. But it isn’t me, and it shouldn’t be treated like an oracle that knows how to run my life better than my Self does.
When this Part (or any Part) comes up, here’s my advice: Listen to it, acknowledge it, respect it, and sit with what it tells you for a good long time (the long time is super important, especially for those of us with impulsive tendencies). Then, (once you’ve sat for the good long time), allow your centered, calm, confident, and creative Self to make a decision to make a change, or not.
Just because a Part of us tells us to do something does not mean that we must do it. It’s just a Part, after all.
Know that you have everything you need inside of you.
A particularly sticky element to getting Itchy is that the answer often seems like it’s outside of us. If we could just x (move to this city, get this new job, get this degree, be with this partner, etc.), our lives would be infinitely better. And sometimes that’s true, and changing our circumstances is a great idea, in which case, the Itchy Part has been incredibly useful! But I think that it’s important to recognize that all of that stuff that we are looking for external solutions to already resides inside of us. We are our own best resource, and often a very good strategy to improving our lives is to look inside us and around us and be very grateful for who we already are and what we already have.
To conclude – the Indian food was delicious, and even though it took ten minutes longer than I would have liked to arrive; it still got there. I imagine the same is true for me, and the life I’m having the privilege to build and experience, day by itchy day.