Under my Skin

5 Mar

Last night I scratched my ankle till it bled.  Long and sharp as my fingernails were, I couldn’t seem to reach the itch.  Funny thing, I have had this itch ever since my sojourn in Cyprus—over 5 years ago.  If you’d been with us in Cyprus, you would have known how plagued we newcomers were by the sand fleas or flies or whatever they were (no one seemed to know).  Indoors, outdoors, sunlight or shadow—no where was uninhabited by the unseen but certainly felt sting of the swarming pests.   Not long after arrival at the Girne American University in North Cyprus, every one of us professors new to the island were pocked as if with measles with the angry red evidence of our victim-ness.  We tried sprays, we tried creams, we tried electric shock (seriously, in small, hand-held applicators)—nothing protected us.  Soon our conversations were filled with complaints and comparisons of scars and scabs.   At one point in the middle of yet another discussion degenerating into our moaning about this debilitating dilemma, one of us commented, “You’d think PhDs would have deeper conversations!”—and we all admitted we’d prefer to talk about literature or art, but our skin condition was too immediately compelling. 

Apparently the microbes lie dormant for a while in tiny but traceable Braille-like bumps beneath the skin, only to awaken who knows when or why to the bouts of frantic itching described above.  Whenever they do raise their ugly heads, in between scratching, I think about Cyprus—and other things I have allowed to burrow under my skin. 

Fortunately those other things are few.  I have learned to let go of a lot of previous hurts and resentments, if not so much from the knowledge it does more harm than good to hang onto them than from the consequence of diminished memory.  I might like to nurse an old insult or worry a worn scar—if I could remember it, but since I often can’t, I might as well chalk it up as a blessing instead of a blight.

There are a few, though.  Not that I dwell on the past obsessively, but every now and then a less-than-sweet reminiscence taps me on the shoulder, and I turn and gaze at its unsightly form.  Injustice is the more frequent visitor and anything mixed with remorse or shame.  I am more inclined to recall unpleasantness I have caused than that which has been heaped upon me which is not my fault.  I’m not Catholic, but I’d put good ol’ church of Christ guilt up against it any day.  It was only when I really took to heart what Jesus meant when he said for us to forgive as we would like to be forgiven ourselves that I finally learned to forgive myself as well as my “brother.” 

So, I’ll try not to let anything under my skin, if I can help it; and if I can’t help it, I’ll try not to scratch it if possible. 

I don’t think this is what Cole Porter meant when he wrote, “I’ve got you under my skin.”  At least I hope not.  That’s a whole ‘nother kind of itch for which there are few remedies. 

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2 Responses to “Under my Skin”

  1. berttrey March 5, 2013 at 1:56 am #

    My favorite part of your blog is how you take something mundane and average and make it into a lesson. I think that’s really cool how you can connect everything to everything else.

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