Itchy Sweater

Life has been a bit hazy, unclear and has had very few concretes. 

I’ve been struggling hard to find those constant, concrete pillars to build my life around for a few years now. 

For a long time (i.e. my whole life), my idea of God and Jesus filled that spot. It kept me centered and kept me going. It served as a direction I could grow in. A corner stone which my life could be built upon. It was the place of all answers; the place of reason. It was my confidence and the reassurance that my life was meaningful and impactful. It was a place of deep emotional fulfillment and complete satisfaction. My drive for science. My motivation to study and know life and its designer. The end-all to expression and art. 

Slowly and very consistently, resistance started to build up against it. Life became very weighed down with guilt, shuffling through endless depressive and self-deprecating thoughts, and one by one, I began losing the people whose love I cherished the most. 

My life was very far from the fulfilling, purpose-filled, easy yoke that the Bible promised me. 

At some point among the months of feeling hurt and confused about the things happening around me, I realized that I kept clutching on to little nuggets of hope. Hope that didn’t end up happening and left me disappointed.

So I started to question that hope. What was the source of it? Why did I expect things to turn out in the specific ways I thought? What validity did this source of eternal hope have that kept me going back to the same thing over and over looking for happiness and healing and never finding it?

I wrestled for a long time to keep going, keep believing even when it felt foolish.

But eventually, I decided to take a different approach. I realized that the little pocket of doubt somewhere inside me had grown quite a bit, and telling it that it was wrong without giving it satisfactory reasons was only going to let it keep growing. 

My new approach is this: to stop telling it that it’s wrong.  It’s to step back and breathe. Take in life. Let go of all the expectation and notions I had about how life works and rebuild new ones. 

It’s kind of like wearing a warm, cozy sweater. A warm, cozy, and sometimes itchy, sweater. A warm cozy, and incrementally more itchy every minute that I wear it, sweater. 

It’s that sweater you want to wear. It looks good. It feels good most of the time. But every so often you feel that itch. That irresistible itch. And you try to find what’s causing it. You try to look for a missed tag. A loose feather that’s scratching you. A tiny piece of plastic poking at that one spot. But as the day passes you can’t help but notice it more and more. It keeps itching. It keeps itching more the more you think about it and look for it. Until finally you have to make the tough choice–to take off the sweater even though you really liked it and it was really warm. 

This way you can have an outside view of the sweater. You can examine it fully and try to find what has been bugging you all this time. And you might find it–that little piece of plastic you didn’t pull out when you ripped out the tag. Or you might not find it. You might realize that you’re just allergic to that fabric. 

You don’t really know what you’ll find, you just know that the last thing you want to do is keep feeling itchy. Because it’s really annoying and uncomfortable and ruins any comfort the sweater might have been providing you. 

My worldview was like that sweater for a long time. It was itchy but I insisted on wearing it. It made me cry, but then made me feel so secure and safe through my crying. It was my comfort and it was my pain. 

So I took it off. I stopped insisting that the world around me fit into the patterns my brain thought it should. Because real life wasn’t fitting those patterns and it was really getting to me. Now, I get to look at my world view from the outside. I get to shop around for new sweaters. 

Was everything that I believed wrong? Probably not. But I just can’t tell which piece it was that was wrong. I can’t tell what part of the whole was the one causing me pain. I just know that it was something in my sweater. 

It’s nice not holding myself to that anymore.

Lydia Benitez is a biology teacher, writer, and adventurer. She loves reading good books, writing poetry, and going on walks her adorable dog Oliver. Follow along with her adventures on Instagram @thelydiacatalog.

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