Burn Down the House!

Sometimes in life, circumstances force you to become an expert in topics you’d otherwise avoid. For me during a time when I had a lot of roommates, that topic was … lice.

After days of persistent itchiness and symptoms from more than just dry skin or new shampoo … I asked a roommate to check my head. Less than 10 seconds into the informal examination, she confirmed what I feared — I indeed had head lice.

Head lice are transferred by head-to-head contact, and I did not realize how often my head touches others until I had to intentionally avoid that kind of contact. Every hug and group photo halted. Jackets and blankets could not be shared. The list goes on.

That was the preventative care. Then there was dealing with the current infestation. Blankets and clothing had to be washed, dried, and sealed in airtight bags. Couches had to be vacuumed, sprayed with special fluid, and left untouched for 48 hours. Hair had to be shampooed, combed through, shampooed again, combed again … regularly and frequently.

Having no previous experience with lice, I immediately became terrified. My first thought was, I need to shave my head and wear a wig — there seemed to be no other way to exterminate the dozens of nits that had taken residence on my scalp without invitation.

Escape seemed possible only by drastic measures — shaving my head, moving to a new house, never hugging anyone again. I fantasized for a moment about how nice it would be if this were a movie where we just burned down the house and got a new one.

Two fellow housemates had lice, too, and the others rallied around us to a) protect the “clean” housemates, and b) rid us of our unwelcome guests.

After we all became officially “clean” again, I couldn’t help but worry that the lice would return.

For the first week after the extermination, I only gave half-hugs, keeping my head away from others and making sure they kept their heads away from me. I didn’t sit on the couch for a couple weeks, for fear of picking up any leftover nits or transferring any remaining from my own body to others. I didn’t share blankets for movie nights or rest my head fully back on chairs or pews at church. Paranoid might be a good word to describe my actions.

Exercising caution is important for a life of wisdom, but I’m realizing there’s a fine line between careful living and fearful living.

After my housemates had returned to normal life, and I was watching a movie from my perch on a hard wooden (and “safe”) chair while everyone else enjoyed the couch together … or suppressing my loving self because I couldn’t give a full hug … I decided to stop living in fear of lice. I couldn’t live like that forever.

The first time I hugged a friend fully and sunk into my couch for movie night, the feeling of letting go of anxiety and stepping into love reminded me that some things are worth risking. Certainly, I wouldn’t give full hugs if I or the other friend still housed pesky bugs, but living like there hasn’t been resolution is not only silly, but sad.

I’m trying to take this new attitude into other circumstances, too. Are you with me?

Here’s to risking and living!

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