Poison Ivy

I have poison ivy in places where it is difficult to scratch in a lady like manner.  It has become abundantly obvious to me that I am unskilled in the art of identifying and avoiding poison ivy, or poison oak, or whatever other poison plant is making me polka dotted. And itchy. And cranky. But that could be for other reasons, but I digress.

It is a truth universal that there is no motivation for clearing up seasonal neglect of the outdoor spaces of your home like party invitations being mailed.  As we head into the home stretch for all the graduation events, my to do list includes all the things we should have been doing over the past few months. I am nothing if not defined as externally motivated.  I may or may not have in the past planned a party just to have a clear deadline to get things done. Luckily, this year, since Macy has decided to graduate high school, I don’t have to make up a reason for a party, but a super exciting one landed in my lap.

There is close to 326 linear feet of landscaping in the front of my house. That is a whole lot of landscape maintenance. This weekend, we cleared out all the weeds and overgrown grass, pulled any plant that required an abundance of maintenance and planted boxwoods and coral belles. We have mulched and mulched and mulched some more. In this exercise of curb appeal and home ownership pride, I was trying to pay particular attention to what I was getting my hands into. Last week, I had found myself in the path of the poisonous plants and the effects have been uncomfortable, so I was pretty motivated to keep chanting, “Leaves of three, let it be.” The catchy tune and my eyes are somehow disconnected, because I did not see any leaves of three, but the rash that is all over me now, is an indication that I was in it and how.  I am heading to the walk-in clinic just after this is published to get a steroid shot to try and move past the itchiness. It likely won’t help with the crankiness. On the upside, I will have a reason for the aggressive bad attitude I seem to be unable to shake.  Silver linings.

My experiences with poison ivy and the subsequent consequences of getting into it unaware has me thinking about the metaphor that can be the only reason poison ivy was created. Sometimes, when you know there is a high probability of getting into something negative, you need to be sure you can identify what it is.  It doesn’t help at all to be able to recite a trite rhyme about the things in our lives which are poisonous. We need to be able to say definitively this is what it looks like, this is where it will be and this is how to work in it without being negatively affected.  In this case, poison ivy must have been sitting underneath beautiful flowers. I didn’t think to check underneath the beautiful things to be sure the poisonous were not hiding there.  I let my guard down.  I had my hands in it, didn’t know it, and then moved on. It was only later the full consequences were revealed. The itchy, scratchy, yucky consequences.

I can think of so many instances in my life where I gave pretense to being aware of poisonous situations but did not take the time to fully identify what they looked like. Usually the toxic was hiding under beautiful things, camouflaging itself in the shadow of good.  How often can we unknowingly be carrying the poison, touching others and ourselves until suddenly we fully understand? Too late to prevent the consequences, we have to walk through a time of misery. There will be times, we will have to have outside remedy to get relief.

I started the day out in gloves, long sleeves, and long pants. It got hot and bulky and inconvenient. I had put on the armor to protect myself from this could be enemy, but when I didn’t recognize it, when it seemed to be nowhere in sight, the preventative covering seemed burdensome and unnecessary, so I took it off. And the metaphor continues to have legs.  Had I finished my short-term task covered in the protection, I would not be miserable for days. How short sighted. How careless.  How often has my lack of discipline in something small lead to discomfort for a long period of time? Let’s just say that donut this morning, could be exhibit A.

I’m not sure if I have perfected this lesson at this point. Likely, I will forget the agitation I am feeling right now and get out ahead of myself. It tends to be my way. Or, as I have more than once juggled the idea of, I could avoid yard work for the rest of forever to keep from having to worry about being on the lookout. But that seems unlikely and short sided.  Instead, I believe whether it is in my yard or in my life, I should cover myself in the armor of preparation, knowledge and discipline. Eyes open to see the beauty that surrounds me, but keen to be aware of the things that could be hiding to steal my joy.  Chances are, I will unknowingly wade into patches of toxicity, so I must be diligent to keep awash when I find myself in the places where those weeds are likely to grow.

In the interim, I’ll be covered in the sweet, creamy pink of Calamine, shifting awkwardly to avoid scratching the spots that will just spread the poison.

Poison Ivy

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