When Things Get Under My Skin


Yesterday, I took a deep breath and told Laura all the things that were on my mind.  

It took a while. 

I listed the disappointments and the complicated relationships. I told her how everything was changing and I didn’t know how to respond to this shifting landscape. I told her of anger that had started to fester in the pit of my stomach. New and surprising feelings for this habitual peace-makerWords falling over words, long-hidden emotions tumbling out. It wasn’t pretty and I knew it. 

I recited stories and half facts about tiny incidents that had happened over this past year and how they had got under my skin like a splinter.  

At the end of the summer I spent a week in Anglesey with my husband and our three kids. A beautiful, small island connected to the mainland of North Wales, and less than two hours from our home in Liverpool, it is a place we visit often.

On this sunny Thursday morning, we went for a walk through farmers’ fields, along the well-trodden coastal pathways. As we walked I absentmindedly plucked a wild flower here and a leaf there. I allowed my hands to brush through the waist high grasses and gaze at the horizon, the sun on my back, my children chasing ahead of me.

All this beauty.

And then my hand carelessly brushed across a thorny plant, a thistle.

I put my hand to my mouth to suck the tiny spikes from my skin.

But one small prickle was too deep. It had burrowed itself under the skin of my index finger, into the fleshy pad of my finger tip.

I didn’t overthink it, expecting it would eventually work its way out.

Ten days later I found myself typing, trying to avoid using this finger. Every time I mistakenly pressed it against a letter on the keyboard I felt a sharp dart of pain. I would be brushing my daughter’s hair, holding my finger out of the way, pointing into the middle distance, chopping vegetables awkwardly (and possibly dangerously) using digits not used to the job.

On my finger a covering of hard skin had formed, the splinter seemed deeper than ever.

From time to time I used my other fingers to squeeze the splinter, trying to remove it. To no avail; its position made it impossible to remove by myself.

Eventually, my sister came over. She set to work with tweezers and a pin, digging through the hardened flesh, finally exposing the tiny thorn that had become a part of me over those two weeks.

Sometimes I can talk myself into a better frame of mind. I can think or write myself to a healthier place.

But sometimes the wounds I have experienced are too difficult to expose on my own.Sometimes I forget all of us are walking wounded in this beautiful and broken world and there is no shame in admitting it. Sometimes I need someone else to work with me through the tough skin, through my excuses that “I know it is ridiculous but—” and “I’m sure this is all in my head but—, and “I’m sorry, I’m sure you don’t want to hear me bleat on about this but—” to get to the truth. To bring the thing that has hurt me into the fresh air.

The prickles of anger I had tried to hide have been uncovered. The situation has not changed. Nothing has changed, except this: I am not alone, and I’m not pretending anymore.

And that is not to say that I am hunky-dory, peace and love to all men, but now the fragments have been brought into the light, I don’t catch myself suddenly undone by the pain.

I find freedom when I’m honest. I find peace when I allow someone into the messy, undignified parts of my life, someone who can speak truth and grace to me.

I look at the offending thorns in the clear light of day and rejoice knowing that now, healing is possible.

Elli Johnson
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