Splitting the Pole

Today, my ADD is on steroids.

I have poison ivy, or oak, or sumac, or something.
It is all over my body.
It started out as a small rash on my stomach.
Some little bumps appeared on my arm

the next morning. By the end of that day, it had crawled up to my neck. When I woke up

the next morning my entire torso was covered.
Despite going to the doctor and getting some kind of steroid shot,
there was no improvement. In fact,
it just kept getting worse. It began
creeping up my face and down my legs.
Yesterday I gave in, and picked up the steroid prescription
the doctor had ordered.

I’ve had a lot of practice ignoring itches.
A lifetime of eczema, and
15 years of meditation
have taught me to just sit with the itch.
Honor it, embrace it, and let it pass.
I’m usually pretty good at sitting with itches,
with discomfort,
with emotions, with pain.

But this itch is a black dog.
Do you know that thing?
If someone says ‘Don’t think about a black dog!’
you will immediately have an image of a black dog in your head.
It’s too late.
There is no way for you to not think about it.

I can’t not think about this itch it’s all I can think about it won’t go away.

I feel like a caged animal.
Do you have any friends who remind you of caged animals?
They’re always dealing with their discomfort
and anxiety by staying on the move.
They pace at parties. They patrol the perimeter.
They can’t be still and quiet, because they’re
always aware that the anxiety could creep back in.
I am that person today.

I have been that person many times in my life.
I used to suffer from pretty severe anxiety.
I found ways to self-medicate,
but often, I wouldn’t be able to get still, and my mind would turn the same thoughts over and over.
Whenever it would get bad in my head I would think of the pair of caged pumas in the old Merry Melody cartoon.
Do you remember them?
They paced back and forth back and forth in a small cage repeating
‘bread and butter bread and butter bread and butter bread and butter’ over and over and over and over again.
I googled that cartoon today

because this itch is a panicked puma.
A constant state of anxiety.
As I sit here my leg is twitching so fast and so hard that the entire room is shaking.
I have to send the itchy feeling somewhere.
To my shaking leg, instead of my spinning head.
I would go out and walk 500 miles
just to be the man who walked 1000 miles to no longer itch anymore,
if only sweating didn’t make the itch 100 times worse.
If only I weren’t sleep deprived.

Do you know why those caged pumas said bread and butter?
There is a superstitious belief that if two people are walking together and something comes between them, like another person or a barrier, or a pole, it is bad luck.
It’s called splitting the pole.
If you split the pole, something bad will happen to one of you.
In order to stave off the bad luck you must say bread and butter, so that nothing will separate you,
so that you will stick together,
like butter does to bread.

This itch is like butter.
And not in the good way.
I’m hoping something will come between me

and this itch

sometime soon. For now, it will have to be an ocean
of calamine lotion.

I will try to sit with it.
While the itch-related-earworms play like 100 broken records in my head.

Honor it. When my mind focuses on the itch, I’ll bring it back to my breath, to my baseline of gratitude.

Embrace it. I know it won’t last forever. It can’t last forever. It has to get better soon. It will pass.

This itch is my current situation.


  1. I am really sorry to hear about your rash! That is the worst. And…my mom used to say “Bread & Butter”… that brought up a great memory for me. Thank you ❤

  2. We always hear pink elephant, never black dog

    You’ve been preparing 15 years for this rash and it still sucks but probably would suck more without your preparation?

    Hope you get relief

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