Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What's making you itch?

My friend Jacob likes to call me while he's on long road trips to keep him company. In fact, that's about the only time he ever calls me (:-|) but still, like the better friend that I am, I listen. The last time he called he told me about some rash that he had developed on his arms, legs, and tummy. It itched like crazy and the doctors said it was some sort of contact dermatitis resulting from an allergy. They couldn't tell him what kind of allergy, but a cortisone shot seemed to help. The rash came back, however, and Jacob was tired of itching and feeling self-conscious about his blotchy appearance. I was appalled that the doctors hadn't suggested that Jacob look closer into what he's coming into contact with on his arms, legs, and tummy. If it's contact dermatitis, his arms, legs, and tummy are all coming into contact with something that he's allergic to.

"Jacob," I said, "What are you using on your clothes?"

Sorry Bounce, but it's time to bounce!

We recently gave away a pretty full box of Bounce fabric softener. Not because we're especially generous or because we didn't particularly like the scent - This stuff made me itch like a mutha!

At first I had no idea what was going on. I was minimally itchy on my arms, back, and tummy. I was INCREDIBLY itchy in the crooks of my arms, the back of my neck, and along my waist and bra lines. It wasn't until I was folding three loads of laundry piled up on the bed that I figured it out-

I was organizing, separating towels from jeans and such, when I just started sneezing uncontrollably and my arms started to itch. And then I saw it. That single seemingly innocent sheet of biodegradable cationic fabric softener.

I eyed it for a few seconds before picking it up with the very tips of my fingers. I brought it to my nose and took the smallest of whiffs. An involuntary wrinkle of the nose and squinting of the eyes led to one massive, head-splitting sneeze. Ding, ding, DING!!! Enlightened, I dropped the dryer sheet and joyously exclaimed, "John! I think I'm allergic to the fabric softener!!!"

John actually wasn't surprised. We were really happy to figure out the source of the abominable itch but as it turns out, some of John's family have had similar reactions to this very fabric softener. But it shouldn't have taken me so long (weeks!) to figure out why I was itching. It should have been obvious that the itch was coming from my clothing. The obvious course of action should have been to examine what was on my clothing!

It's so easy to ignore what's right in front of you when you let yourself get bogged down with what you have to do, when you have to do it, how much time you have, how much it will cost, etc. The lesson here is that sometimes the priority should be to just stop for a second and pay attention to what your body is telling you, whether the message be in the form of an itch or a pang or even drier skin and hair. If I hadn't been so focused on "getting shit done" and if I had been more focused on solving the problem that was making everything I did more of a chore, I might have been able to perform my duties much more efficiently and comfortably- and I might have been a much happier person throughout the process.

John and I have had a very stressful summer. There's so much to do in so little time and with too few resources. Just thinking about it all is exhausting and much too counter-productive. From now on, our resolution is to think not about how much there is to do, but what we need to do to get it done and how we're going to do it, one step at a time. We'll keep you posted on how we bounce back!


  1. So Jacob's still calling you from the road, huh? It's funny, but I actually kind of miss those calls! ;)

    You're definitely right about taking things one at a time. It's the best way to get things done for sure. Sorry you guys are so busy these days. I hope things slow down for you in the future!

    By the way, I love this blog. It's so nice to hear about the things going on in your life. Please don't stop writing! :)

  2. I no longer use dryer sheets / fabric softener, instead I bought dryer balls! They hypo-allergenic and don't contain chemicals. They are simply these rubbery/plastic balls spike balls you toss in the dryer, and they bounce around as the dryer spins and it fluffs the clothes that way. They are also cheap and last forever, because they are completely re-usable.