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Hanging out in the itchy-scratchy place.

Thursday, September 15, 2011 by Marianne Elliott

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Uncertainty is itchy.

Change is scratchy.

Today Pema Chodron told me (at least, her Twitter-bot @PemaQuotes did):

Discomfort of any kind also becomes the basis for practice. We breathe in knowing that our pain is shared.

I’ve been in plenty of discomfort lately. I’m going to tell you a bit more about that because I suspect you’ve been in this kind of place before, and you might end up here again, and because I’m learning here.

I’m learning how to hang out in the itchy-scratchy place. Which brings me back to Pema. Because the first thing I’m learning about this place is that it connects me to you.

This place is a poignant reminder that I’m human. That I share this discomfort with you. Maybe not right now. Maybe you are sailing on one of life’s smooth seas right now. But you know what the choppy feels like, right?

You’ve felt the discomfort. We share that.

And that helps me feel a little bit closer to you. And it helps me to love you a little bit more. And it even helps me soften my attitude to myself a little bit more too.

So there’s one thing to be grateful for, in this itchy-scratchy uncomfortable place.

The other things I’m learning is that the itchy-scratchy-ness is a sign of change. It’s a sign of transition. It’s a sign that I’m leaving one (comfortable-but-no-longer-right-for-me) thing behind and stepping into something new. Something mostly unknown. Which accounts for much of the discomfort.

It also accounts for all the excitement.

So my can’t-quite-find-a-comfortable-position unease is a sign of change. Which is actually a good thing. I’m ready for a change. I’m always ready for a change, as it happens.

That doesn’t mean I always like how that change feels. Oh. No. I do not. But I do get that everything changes. So, itchy or not, I am ready for this change.

Actually. I’d like the change to happen now. Because although change can be scary, it’s less uncomfortable than sitting here in the itchy-scratchy, can’t-get-comfortable inbetween place. This place where I can’t quite see the path ahead just yet.

I’d quite like to know how all this is going to turn out. In case you know the ending, and were just keeping it from me because you thought I was enjoying the suspense.

I’d quite like to know.

I’d like to know whether I really have closed the door on the career that motivated, fulfilled and – quite frankly – defined me for more than a decade. I’d quite like to know if I’ll ever again have a job with a title including the words “human rights” or “lawyer”.

I’d like to know what this book means for me. Whether it means I’ll never work in this ‘town’ again, assuming we can refer to the entire humanitarian sector as a town for the purpose of this metaphor. Whether it means I’ll suddenly have bigger audience, more people to serve.

I’d like to know if this is really how I now serve, by teaching other people the practices that may have saved my life while I was in Afghanistan. By creating online yoga classes that actually change and possibly even save people’s lives (as I learned in a email I got from a long-time subscriber today).

I’d like to know whether, if this is my new way of serving the world, I’m going to be able to support myself financially. Whether there will always be people who can afford to pay to learn these simple practices, practices I’d love to give away for free (although my own yoga teacher tells me that’s a terrible idea).

I’d like to know whether I have any more good books in me. Or even any more good stories. I’d like to know whether the stories that kept nudging me while I was in Taos are really worth telling, and whether I’m really the person to tell them.

So, yes. In short. If you know the ending to this story, I’d love to know it.

But for now, I’m hanging out in the itchy-scratchy place.

And here’s the third thing I’ve been learning about hanging out here, you’ve got to take even better care of yourself while you are here.

More on that, soon.

(I’d like to tip my hat to Tara Mohr and Jen Louden for their insightful conversation on “callings” as part of Tara’s Playing Big course, which helped me see more clearly the source of my itchiness. And to the truly wonderful Tink Stephenson who walks and talks with me until even the discomfort feels like home.)

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9 Responses to "Hanging out in the itchy-scratchy place."

  1. Emmanuelle says:

    “the itchy-scratchy-ness is a sign of change” -> YES!
    I can so relate to this post Marianne. I know, I can feel even, that transitioning can be a painful process, a struggle at times. I would love to know how everything will unfold, and then I can’t.
    So I choose to embrace the discomfort and breathe in where I am right now too.

    We indeed do share that.

  2. You just put words on my feelings right now. I have loved my job so much, I have loved being a legal officer for the UN. I am still doing so, being a dedicated little “soldier” for peace but something broke a few months back and I feel like I am in a corridor between two rooms which doors are open. I am getting closer to the second room. I like the journey though it is scary and often not comfortable. I know I am getting closer to choose to enter the second room and close the door… or live in the two rooms… But I like the discomfort as it makes me do a lot of work on myself, I am stronger, I voice my choices instead of having dreams just in my mind. But I’d like to know so I can live fully whatever life is going to be mine.

  3. Sara says:

    Oh Marianne, you read my itchy-scratchy mind today. Thanks for this post. It was just what I needed. It is always heartening and life-affirming to know that on these days/weeks/months I am not alone. And now I’m going to wipe away my tears and go do some yoga you taught me. xoxo

  4. Roxanne says:

    This itchy-scratchy place is getting crowded, my friend, because I, too, am inhabiting it right now. Much love to you.

  5. Marcela says:

    I just wanted to say that I am hanging in the same place as you, right now. As Roxanne said, it must be getting crowded, but let’s keep each other’s company.
    I’ve been here before and I know that it generally is the waiting-lounge for great things. I am hanging here waiting for signs of what to do next, and it is nerve-wrecking but I also know it is worth it.

  6. Melissa says:

    Marianne, you put words to my feelings so eloquently. Thankyou for this mindful post. X

  7. […] it turns out I’m in good company. There are quite a few of us hanging out in the itchy-scratchy place. Which means it was worth telling the truth about how I’ve been feeling and it is certainly […]

  8. Lubna says:

    I love how you term it as an itchy-scratchy place. Looks like we are all able to identify with it. Thanks for the reminder that we need to take better care of ourselves while in transit at this place/phase. Wish you well for the future.

  9. […] of the things I’m realising, through the discomfort of this uncertain place I’m hanging out in at the moment, is that teaching is a big part of how I now serve. And a very big part of what has […]

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