"My" poison ivy and The Power of Vulnerability

Where I live, there are two CVS pharmacies within three blocks. I doubt that is unusual in this land where we numb ourselves to all that is or might be even slightly unpleasant. It’s not a store that I frequent, except now, when I shelled out for some Benedryl gel.

Note photo: first case of poison ivy this year. (And least offensive picture, not the one of my face, or butt. . .)

Time to keep the cat outside for four months.

Time to take stock of my relation with my own body. Again.

Oddly enough, this time when I got it (and I never know for 24 hours, so am not able to counteract with special soaps or jewelweed), I felt oddly elated. Aha! At last! Everybody I know has something major that they’re dealing with concerning their body. So here’s mine. This is what I deal with. Year by year. An increasing allergy to poison ivy.

It was on my early morning walk with dog Emma that a feeling of gratitude, for this affliction, for this feeling of vulnerability, this refusal of my body to remain impervious to an outside agent, stole in. Walking along, I closed my eyes, allowed the crawly, itchy feeling to bloom into full awareness. Interesting. It’s my skin I’m feeling, my so-called boundary conditions. What separates “inside” from “outside.” I feel myself as inside this skin. Dug down deep within, floating in a pool of loving kindness. And I feel “myself” as a diaphanous 360° cloud of awareness, extending way beyond the skin.

Oddly, the itchy crawly sensation feels both very strong and very far away.

Gratitude. For being able to feel my own so-called “boundary.” This is something that I have not been all that aware of in the last few years. Tai Chi practice has shifted awareness from objects in space to streaming currents of energy.

Gratitude again. For not identifying with “my” so-called boundary conditions. For not even needing to stop myself from succumbing to a feeling of being driven crazy by itchiness. Simply, itchiness is there, in the field of awareness; and it’s very strong, yet very far away — in the illusory 3-D world, not really me. I might have been able to say this intellectually earlier, that I don’t identify with the illusion we are collectively igniting, moment by moment; but now I am really, truly experiencing this reality of non-attachment.

So. I’m both in and not in my yearly Earth-to-Ann moment, where I honor my body’s adversarial relationship to a a pretty little plant.

And, oddly enough, though this is the worst case I’ve ever had, I not only feel a very different relationship to the experience than ever before, but I’m more willing to “go out in public,” despite how ugly and swollen my left cheek, neck and eyelid. At one and the same time I feel both more vulnerable, and yet, at the same time, there is a great joy, almost exultation. Astonishing.

As I’m ruminating on these discoveries, I get a call from my daughter-in-law Sue. She tells me about a video about vulnerability — and joy!

Watch it. The video just gets better and better.

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