The Itch

There’s this irritating tingle – this subtle contemplative rash that, every now and then, starts to tickle the corners of my mind.  The Itch.  I know that it’s coming because I’ll find that my day-to-day contentment is lessening.  Conversations with The Native will begin with, “I’m afraid…” and “What if we never….”  I’ll begin to spend hours online searching for a job, a home, a life that isn’t my own.  Searching and searching but never really finding what I’m looking for because I don’t know if it actually even exists.

Sometimes, like a mosquito bite at the back of your knee, I’ll shuffle and try to adapt to avoid scratching it – to avoid making it worse.  And while that particular bite may go away in time, a fresh bite will always come and The Itch will reappear.

I used to think that I’d get The Itch because after I left America, I spent a lot of time travelling during those first two years in the UK.  I thought maybe I was longing to get back on the road, to see more of the world, to experience different languages and architecture and to try horrible and wonderful, but all undiscovered, food again.  But being the homebody I am, now I’m not so sure.

Perhaps the most recurring symptom is that question of whether I’ll ever really feel home again and I’m searching.  I can’t sit with my husband and reminisce about our similar childhood.  We watched different TV shows, we had different hobbies, we belonged to different cultures.  I don’t fully belong here.  Nor can I run into the arms of the America of my past and pretend that she will be the welcome and safe friend that my rose-tinted glasses want her to be.  I have changed.  I no longer pledge my allegiance to one culture.  I’m searching, but I don’t think it’s out there.

I expect you don’t have to be an expatriate to get The Itch though.  Experience change; The Itch will eventually come.

The complicated part is sifting through my own longing to belong to find what the truth is.  Is it simply that I’m  holding on too tightly to the past?    I don’t think it’s right or possible to let go of it fully, but neither do you want to drag it behind you like a lifeless body that weighs you down and prevents you from moving forward.   Is it time to settle down properly and dig my heels firmly into the soil so that strong, deep roots begin to grow here? — because I don’t think I’ve allowed myself to let them grow too deeply just yet.

But maybe it’s that it actually is time to start looking at that new house, new career, new city, or even that new country.  Maybe to avoid stagnating, to avoid months, even years of frustration I need to pluck my heels from the soil and seek out the opportunities that might be waiting.

The Itch is a complicated illness.  It could be caused by a loss of perspective, thankfulness, and love for the life we have built in this country town.  It could just as easily be life’s call to move us on to experience more of what is on offer.

How do you tell the difference?

For me, I have to go back time and time again to what my main symptoms are.  Am I frustrated?  Am I sad?  Am I overwhelmed?  Am I bored?  Am I lonely?  If I answer yes to any of these questions (and sometimes all of these questions) then it’s quite likely that a move, a change in job, a change in lifestyle won’t actually cure The Itch.  I’m not saying that they can’t be symptoms that I need a greater change, but quite often the reason behind running towards change is that I’m just running.    It might mask the symptoms for a while, but give it a month, give it a year, The Itch will be back.

I am living in this place at the moment.  I am itching all over.  I just need to take some time and figure out what the right prescription is.


6 thoughts on “The Itch

  1. Deborah

    Darin and I struggle with that too… It’s funny how one week (or day) you can feel so content and the next you’re longing for a change. I think for me the key is not to rely on just “feelings”, but on where we believe God wants us. Some might say that is a “feeling” too but I would argue its different. Sometimes we know God is leading us somewhere else through prompting when reading his Word, doors He opens for us, and that still small voice that His children can recognize as unmistakeably His. Sometimes He tells us to stay put even though we desperately want out. I know you know all this and seek to follow his leading in your life. I’ve seen you follow him all the way across the “pond” and I know you and “the Native” will continue to do so. It’s tough though at times figuring out the “what” and “where”. I can imagine being an Expat only heightens that. If it makes you feel any less lonely, even though I’m not in a different country I struggle with the same things. D is 5.5 years older so we often have that pop culture gap when reminiscing about childhood, plus we grew up in different states, he was country, I was suburbia. Also neither one of us live close to family or where we grew up (although our closest “home” is only 5 hours away and I know that is a lot less than your distance!) However its still not “the same” going home, things change, people change, we change, and its just different, not all bad or good, just different. Plus doing what we do we struggle with putting down permanent roots as well. Will God move us on or ask us to stay here forever. There was one thing we did early on in our marriage that has helped us with that. We promised God that we would fully invest our lives here until God showed us clearly that He wanted us to serve somewhere else. We’ve tried to do that for better or worse. We have have wonderful friends and church family here that we love and treasure but on the flip side if/ when we have ever felt like God might be nudging us in a different direction or to a different place those relationships make it REALLY hard to consider doing that.
    I think I’m rambling now… Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Its good to hear other people struggle with that too…Take care my friend!! Hope you figure out what you’re suppose to do with your “itch”.

  2. avicarswife

    love this. it’s why p and i play the lottery. if we won, i would spend the rest of my life studying, traveling, and doing insane things. just to run from the itch. 😉

  3. samanthamcgarry

    The Itch haunts me routinely. Home is always wherever I am at the moment but I long for the homes of the past – at the same time as loving the home of the present. Maybe the Itch just serves to remind us that there’s more to this world than where we are right now?


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