Chemical burns, or why I can’t do it on my own

I am a proud person. My mother raised me to think through a problem and find the solution, which resulted in years of rarely seeking help. This also made me self-sufficient and impatient. I don’t like asking for help and will usually exhaust all of my resources before reaching out. While yes, this can be a valuable skill, it’s often a detriment because I’m fooled into believing I can exist on my own. 

In some cases, I may initially recognize my need for help and seek it out. If it is not immediately available, my first thought is, “can I do this on my own?” Ninety-four percent of the time I say yes. This jump in logic has frequently led to ill-advised moves, but none sting worse than the chemical burns. 

You see, some products require the supervision of someone else. When they say have someone help you, they mean it. Directions exist for a reason, typically to keep you safe and avoid lawsuits. Because I believe I am smarter than everyone and cannot wait for assistance, I typically ignore said warnings and try it on my own.

As a young teenager, I developed a plantar’s wart on the bottom of my foot. It probably grew from shared locker room floor bacteria because I never bothered to protect myself from germs (they make you stronger). It quickly grew into a giant pain that I think consumed half of my foot. It was angry, to say the least.

My mother and I tried everything to get rid of it, including a really crazy home method of duct taping a potato slice to it. Spoiler alert: this doesn’t work and actually hurts a lot. Finally, in desperation, we resorted to the hard chemicals for wart removal.

The process took several treatments to complete, and naturally I was very eager to finish and resume my normal foot life. One evening, when it was time, I asked the other members of my household for assistance. It was some sort of freezing liquid that had to be sprayed directly onto the wart, and because of the chemicals, the wart surface had to be flat to keep from dripping to another area of the body.

When no one could immediately assist me, I pulled a classic Chelsea and decided I could do it myself. I placed my foot on the edge of the bathtub and settled into a lunge-like position. It’s this moment that should’ve been my final red flag, but I ignored my instincts and the wobble of my unbalanced body and continued.

I twisted back, readied the nozzle and sprayed. That motion alone caused my leg to move, pulling my foot and allowing the sweet, freezing chemicals to drip and settle along the side of my foot. I wiped it off as quickly as I could, but the damage was done.

Frantically, I called for help as I saw the blister begin to form. Within minutes, it looked as if a giant, fleshy worm had attached itself to my foot. It hurt to even slightly touch, so regular shoes were out of the question. To make things worse, I couldn’t reapply the treatment for another week to avoid irritation. 

You might think I learned a valuable lesson from this experience. My next example will prove that to be false.

A few years ago, I decided to get a pixie cut. The only problem was my neck and hairline. I am a very hairy person and the hairs don’t grow in a nice, clean way. I used to be very self-conscious, but now I’m like whatever, I have the neck of Wolverine, it’s fine.  

As the stylist chopped off my hair, she nervously pointed out all the hair on my neck and asked if it would be alright to shave. Shave it all I said giddily, I never liked it anyway. 

For the first time in my life, I had a clean hairline and I loved it. But you know the problem? Hair grows back. So I found myself needing to keep that area clean. The most effective method I found was Nair-ing. Typically using Nair is a personal experience, but that changes when you’re putting harmful chemicals onto the back of your neck where you can’t see. 

My best friend/roommate Sam kept my hairline nice and tight for months, but one night she wasn’t home. She said we could do it in the morning, but I was ready now, and Lord knows there is nothing more dangerous than me when I decide now is the time.

Confident in my skills, I lazily slapped the Nair on the back of my neck and looked at the time. Great, I need to take this off in six minutes. I tried to pass the time by pretending to clean my apartment aka looking at my phone. Sometime later, my neck began to burn. Strange, it hadn’t been six minutes, so I ignored it. This is why you should always trust your gut or in this case the painful tingling on your neck.

By the time I took it off, when I thought it was done, it was too late. I had burnt the back of my neck. Yes, the hair was gone, but there was a lovely red patch where the Nair had lived for too long.

The day after carnage

In both these cases, I knew I needed help. There was a reason I’d always had help before. And yet, because I wanted what I wanted in that moment, I did it anyway. Both times (and the thousand other examples I didn’t list), I let my pride get in the way and I literally ended up burned. 

While I’m sure these specific examples don’t apply to everyone because you guys aren’t me, I do know we all get like this. We know we can’t do it on our own and yet we try and try and try. Or worse, we let knowing we CANNOT do it alone keep us from ever trying because we worry about failure. 

We all need help sometimes. When you think you got this, you most likely don’t have this, or you won’t have it for long. I’m not talking about figuring out your independence, because no, longterm you don’t need someone to help you program your TV or show you how to change a light bulb. This is about the deeper need we have in life for help. 

Our culture is about success and pushing the need for relationships away to achieve more. We focus on our careers and school and think we’ll have time for friends later. Guess what everyone – that time never comes. I’ve been telling myself for years as soon as I get over this I’ll have more time for that and I NEVER have more time. Plus, later is a luxury we all aren’t afforded. This moment might be the only one you have.

Until recently, I denied help from everyone. I wouldn’t ask and typically wouldn’t take it when they offered. I believed friends were nice, but I didn’t need them. This naturally reached my relationship with Jesus because I would pray about my stress, but it would always be me saying what I can’t do. I didn’t really think God would help me because I’d never felt the relief of giving up a burden before. I let myself be scared into thinking I needed to do it on my own without opening up to anyone.

In 1 Peter 5, Peter delivers some great advice about persevering and how you aren’t alone. He also tells you to cast your cares on God AFTER you humble yourselves before Him. I don’t know about you, but I’m great at casting and terrible about humbling. 

My pride dictates what I can and can’t do and leads me to believe I can do it on my own. As my illustrations clearly pointed out, the answer is no. When you think about your life and stressors and anxieties, what are your first thoughts? I don’t know how this is going to work. I can’t do this. And then maybe that’s followed by “It’s fine, I’ll figure out.” Maybe, if you’re like me, you throw in a “I trust God” for good measure but you aren’t really giving it to Him. 

Asking for help in any situation involves humbling yourself. It’s admitting you are not God and you cannot do life by yourself. Deep down, we all know we need help, but we’re just terrible at asking. Please know you aren’t weak because you can’t do it. It’s weak to stay where you are, unsure and afraid of moving forward. 

Strength comes from boldly admitting you need help and seeking it out, whether it’s on a project or at work or any area of your life. There are always people who will help you. It takes courage to trust God and live one day at a time, trusting He will reveal the next steps in His time.

I cannot do this in my own. I don’t have the answers. I don’t know how I’m going to be ok. My pride tells me to dwell on this, but my God washes away the insecurities and replaces the fear with perfect peace. He puts the right people in your life to help you with everything, from making you laugh to fixing your car.

Trust in the confidence you have in what God will do and not your pride telling you what you can’t do. 

And don’t use chemicals without supervision.

Talk, talk, talk

There are a few basic things that most people who spend 30 seconds with me will realize: I’m a talker who is very loud with no awareness to the volume of her voice. Within those 30 seconds, I will probably bring up something deeply personal or inappropriate without realizing most people aren’t accustomed to that. My hands will do some weird motions because I’m a spaz and at some point, I will most likely dance/prance for no particular reason. 

Imagine what it’s like to be the people who spend more than 30 seconds with me! LOL! 

I start with this, because for too long I’ve apologized for being that person. I employed this false bravado for years to hide the fact I was deeply insecure about the person I was. Every report card included that side note of “talks too much in class” and my senior superlative was loudest in the class. I grew up hearing how loud I was and being told to shut up and eventually I thought it was bad. 

I tried to be more aware of what I was saying, how often I was talking and the level I was speaking at. I worked to suppress my need to add input to every conversation and tried to listen more. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a miserable failure. 

The problem is I’m not just loud and talkative. I’m passionate to a fault. Why to a fault, you ask? Passion is good! It drives us! For me, it consumes me and I can become blinded to other sides because I’m a control freak and naturally I assume I am right and I know best for every issue. But these opinions, whether right or wrong, added to my insecurities because it’s rare you’ll find a subject where I’m just lukewarm, so I spent a lot of time projecting what I thought into conversations, complete with hand gestures to emphasize my points.

After the aforementioned conversations, I would go home and panic that I had been too much and repeat every detail of what was discussed, convinced no one would ever want to talk to me again. I promised I would be better, only to do the same thing at the next opportunity. 

I’m not sure if every talker will admit this, but yes, we do like the sound of our own voice. There is an obvious arrogance that comes with constant babbling, assuming every word is important. Perhaps some people talk because they can’t help it, but I talk because I want to be heard.

Sometimes it’s because I want to be understood. Whether it’s overexplaining a situation to make sure no one gets the wrong idea or trying to describe every detail of my life to give people back story, I just want to connect and have people understand where I’m coming from.

On top of being a talker, I’m (mostly) an extrovert which means I like to talk about things with everyone in great detail. It helps my brain to unload and discuss with different people. Often times I send my best friend five or more lengthy texts in a row outlining a current problem in my life or maybe describing several different situations, depending on the day. I say I’m done discussing a subject but truth be told I’m never done discussing anything.

A few years ago, I was in a Bible study and one of the leaders asked for prayer to have a more gentle spirit, referencing 1 Peter 3. In the passage, Peer discusses where beauty comes from for women. Of course, we know real beauty is on the inside, but in Verse 4, he describes real beauty as “that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 

Here’s another translation: “Be beautiful in your heart by being gentle and quiet. This kind of beauty will last, and God considers it very special.”

When I read those words, I immediately realized ‘gentle’ and ‘quiet’ are two words I would never use to describe myself. I spend a lot of time working on my outside appearance, but never thought about the importance of a quiet spirit. At first, I believed having it would be impossible for me. I tried to be quieter and it didn’t work. I didn’t feel closer to God and I didn’t feel like I was being myself. 

But then something important occurred to me.

Having a gentle and quiet spirit doesn’t necessarily mean someone is soft spoken. God didn’t give me a voice only to change His mind and decide I should be quiet. The gentle and quiet spirit, in my mind, is more like discernment between when you should and should not open your big fat mouth.

For example, I’m great in Bible studies because I will answer every question. The downside is I’m terrible because I don’t know if my dominance is keeping others from talking. Now, I try and really reflect on the question before giving my response and I allow others to fill that time because it’s likely they will have better insight than me. The only time I will immediately speak is when I know what I have to say is right, meaning it adds value to the conversation and is worthwhile and not just words for the sake of words. 

This translates well into other areas of my life. Instead of simply talking at my friends, I try to listen better and add when I have something important, but when I don’t, I just want to let them know I hear them and validate their feelings if needed. Instead of saying ‘you shouldn’t feel this way because God loves you,’ I try to get that message across in a more gentle manner, but I also push to let them know I hear their heart and emotions and it’s ok to be there and feel that way. Am I always great at this? No, but I’m learning and trying to be a better friend in all situations. 

So sorry to everyone who thought I was going to quiet down. In fact, now that I’ve reached the point, I daresay I will be louder in many ways. 

I’m at a point in life where I can view these ‘flaws’ as gifts and I try to use them as such. Instead of being embarrassed that I have no shame, I use it to talk to people I don’t know and try to make them feel welcome. I’m pretty good at parties because of this, tbh. Rather than blurt my opinions wildly, I listen to my opponent and consider and decide how to respond instead of just flying off the handle. Sometimes, the handle is still left in the dust but I choose my battles better.

Being loud, animated, enthusiastic, passionate, excited, etc. makes me who I am and now I love that person because every day is pretty much an adventure. I understand I can be divisive and that’s ok! Part of growing up is realizing not everyone will want to be your friend and it’s not really personal because we all have preferences. I will be too much for certain people but that does not mean I am too much. That is very important to realize

Now I say all of this with an asterisk, of course. You shouldn’t go around being a jerk because that is how God made you. It’s important to look at everything that makes you, you, and figure out what areas need a little fine tuning. It’s not just saying “well I’m loud so people will have to deal with it,” but “yes, I’m loud, how can I use this for God and when do I need to shut my big fat mouth?”

Everything about you exists for a reason and there is value. Don’t let someone make you feel less because they don’t understand. Don’t hold it against them because they don’t get you. As with most things in life, this is a battle that starts in you. If you see your uniqueness as a weakness, other people will make you feel that way. I promise that everything about you, good and bad in your eyes, is absolutely amazing and God gave you these gifts and talents and traits for a very important reason.

Never apologize for being who you are because when you do, you’re basically saying God made a mistake and you’re so sorry the world is now subjected to His carelessness.

Within 30 seconds of meeting me, you will probably realize I’m loud and animated and a bit over the top. You will either find me annoying or enjoy that weird joke I made probably because I suffer from word vomit in social situations. Maybe you will want to be my friend or maybe you will want to avoid me with every ounce of strength you have. Either way, I love you and it’s ok that I’m not the person for you. I know I’m continuing to become the person God desires and that is what matters.

The strange phenomenon of line cuddling at amusement parks

Something happens as we wait in line for totally rad but ultimately vomit inducing ride at the amusement park. We move closer as we weave through the bars and rails, guiding us to our thrilling destiny. It’s as if we become like magnets, drawn to the sweaty refrigerator of our significant other until we cannot resist being completely connected until boarding the ride forces us apart and into temporary despair.
We’ve all seen it and I’m sure most of us have done it.

This is a phenomenon I first began to notice as a young teenager visiting Kennywood on a band trip. Maybe I noticed because as puberty began, the hormones raged and suddenly I too wanted to romantically canoodle as I waited for the Phantom’s Revenge. Perhaps it’s simply I was old enough to notice every couple around me interlocked as if their lives depended on being connected. Who’s to know.

What is it about standing in line for long periods of time that makes us want to embrace each other? Now older people, don’t try to blame this strictly on young couples. I would argue there is an equal distribution of couples across the age spectrum hanging on each other in line. 

Is it the odd smell that clings to us after a water ride, releasing chemicals that make us want to be near each other? Is it the inevitable sweat aroma and the thought that together, you can become even sweatier? Or is it the drama of the situation, realizing the ride could malfunction and this may be our last chance to hold each other?

Honestly, I think it’s that last one.

(not honestly)

In this example I am cuddling for both safety and warmth, two acceptable reasons

While I’ve personally never canoodled (outside of huddling for warmth in colder months but that’s necessity), I’ve definitely wanted to. Obviously, it’s because I desired to be closer to the person I was with, but that doesn’t really answer why in that setting. Typically, it’s very hot and you most likely have that “been at an amusement park all day” stench about you. In a normal situation, the last thing you want is to be all over someone else, but not when the amusement park love magic washes all over you. 

 It’s like a spell is cast as soon as you walk under the ride sign at the beginning of the line. No longer are you crowded with hundreds of other people trying to experience the latest rollercoaster. Instead, you’re in your own couple world where all you can do is stay wrapped up in each other, oblivious to everything else. 

And I mean oblivious. Have you ever seen the poor, single friends of couples? They just stand there awkwardly, alone in a sea of cuddling couples. What did these people do before smart phones? I don’t want to think about such a tragic experience. 

It could be a fever of some sort, you know? It’s likely we’ve all picked up something from the dirty line rails we all touch and the water ride water that looks like some of the rivers in Rio. Maybe there’s some sort of bug that lives in the bacteria of the park and once you’re infected, you must cuddle to save your life. 

I think I feel most blessed to be single when it’s 59794 degrees at the amusement park and I’m literally a puddle of sweat because there isn’t any pressure to be scooped up and insulated by my boyfriend. I can illegally sit on the rails in peace, looking at all the other sweaty people entwined. 

The only other reason I can think of for line cuddling is the excitement of the day mixing with the exhaustion of theme park life. If you’re having a really good day, you want to experience and enjoy every second. When you combine that with how tired you become after walking and standing in the hot sun, maybe it’s natural to simply fall into the arms of your lover for comfort and support.

But that doesn’t explain those who sprint in right as the gates open and are cuddling in the first line they enter. Having never been a couple at an amusement park, I suppose I can’t really understand the why. Perhaps it’s simply what you do because everyone else does it and you like to be close to each other. Most likely I’ll just keep playing Yahtzee on my phone as I wait (with or without a boyfriend tbh). 

In my expert opinion, I would argue line cuddling is an epidemic that needs to be shut down for the sake of every other human, including children, also trying to enjoy their day at the park. To help you and your partner avoid this canoodling fever in the future, I’ve listed a few action steps to keep you safe. 

1.Think long and hard about how gross and dirty your partner is before you embrace them

I don’t think I can make this point enough. No amount of love you feel for someone can erase the grime building up in their pores and crevices. 

2. Look at the couples around you and recognize how you don’t like what you see and realize by canoodling, you become them 

Sometimes it’s easy to forget what you look like, but a line offers the perfect opportunity to notice it isn’t really cute to be all over each other in front of people, especially when there are children present and it’s a park so there are always children watching you, very confused.

3. If you feel like you must touch in some way (maybe to ensure one of you isn’t lost in the crowd), try simply holding hands or playing that game where you try and slap the other person’s hands before they move them

We all get bored, I get it. And maybe cuddling helps pass the time, but there are other games you can play. I’ve seen people bring cards to amusement parks before. Ever play Heads Up with your group? So much fun! Also the slap hand game I mentioned. That’s always a win. 

4. Remember you came with other people and they might like to be engaged in conversation as well 

I know the fever may cause a delusion into thinking you’re alone, but you aren’t, and those friends you made come with you even though they knew they’d be ignored might like some attention. Phone batteries rarely last more than 2 hours these days.

5. If you will die without touching each other, keep the PDA to a minimum 

Listen, if you absolutely have to, keep it clean, ok? No prolonged kissing or repeated kisses. Try a nice, chaste expression of love and then go back to talking to each other and enjoying each other’s presence without sucking face. 

Together, we can end the outbreak of line cuddling. It starts with you and me.

Trust Your Gut

Arguably one of the worst aspects of getting older is losing the ability to enjoy 95 percent of the rides at an amusement park. As children, we recklessly throw ourselves onto the Tilt-a-Whirl and Scrambler, worrying only of being squished by our riding companion. We laugh with glee as the Wipeout takes us around and around and we beg to ride another time.

Now, at the ripe old age of 26, just picturing those rides turned my stomach. I can barely watch them at fairs and parks because within seconds, I am sick to my stomach. Recently I tried the Pirates Ship, thinking the gentle rocking would be comforting, but within one thrust I was ready to abandon ship.

I’ve become the friend who gladly holds your bags (you’re welcome) while you enjoy the ride and asks if we can ride the train and/or bumper cars again.

There was a time when I roamed carnivals and theme parks, undaunted by the motion of any ride. I proudly rode everything I could, not believing my mother when she said she couldn’t ride because it made her sick. Everything changed at the Big Butler Fair when I was in high school.

[The following story includes details of the first time I realized I had to take my motion sickness seriously, and contains certain reflections that may be too gruesome for your sensitive constitution. Read on if you dare.]

The Big Butler Fair is an annual hullabaloo held over the Fourth of July in Butler, Pennsylvania. It attracts guests from all over Western Pennsylvania with its standard fair atmosphere, boasting animals, greasy food, a fake freak show and drag races maybe? I don’t know. Imagine the mingling smells of all the food vendors, combined with the hay to keep the ground passable and the animal stench wafting from the barns and stables. The standard rides are all present, like the Zipper and Swings.  

One warm evening, my parents dropped me and my older sister, Kristi, off at the fair while they attended a work party. I don’t remember what we rode first, only that when we finished, I felt off. I believe this is the first time I began to notice my motion sickness, although I didn’t attribute it to that. I told Kristi how I felt, and she suggested we eat. As someone who would list eating as one of her favorite activities, I immediately agreed.

We browsed through the food aisles, trying to decide between pepperoni rolls, hot sausage sandwiches, blooming onions and the like. Eventually I settled on a gyro for reasons I still don’t understand. As delicious as it was, the feeling in my stomach didn’t go away.

me and Kristi, maybe a couple of years before this happened i dont know

What happened next is a true example of what it means to be a little sister. Even as a young teenager, my sister was still top authority and essentially we did everything she wanted to do. It didn’t matter how opposed I was, eventually she got her way. I could fight and pout, but I knew I would do listen. She’s my older sister, after all. 

“Let’s ride the swings”

Deep down, I knew this was a bad idea. My stomach basically screamed at me “NO IT’S A TRAP ABORT NO PLEASE GOD NO TRUST ME,” and I tried to listen. I protested, explaining I still didn’t feel well and asking for more time between rides. She countered with how slow the ride was, and how the breeze created from the motion might help. I tried to say no during the entire walk, but to no avail. Like every time before, my sister had her way and I was buckling myself in before I knew what was happening.

As soon as we lifted into the air, my stomach sighed and quietly whispered, “I tried to warn you.”

Before one turn was completed, I knew there was only one way this was going to end. The mouth sweats began and I tried to keep what was coming at bay, at least until the ride ended. I looked at the unsuspecting crowd below, just trying to live their best lives, and I panicked realizing there was no stopping the inevitable.

Suddenly, it happened.

The undigested gyro made its way back into my mouth with such force I had to clasp my hands over my mouth to keep it from exploding onto the masses below. It couldn’t be contained, so my only option was redirection. As soon as I gently floated away from people, I removed the hand barrier and let it fly.

In many ways, I’m grateful it was only the gyro I had just ingested. It probably kept the mess to a minimum. Far too late, the ride ended and my sister got out of her seat, smiling, until she saw me. Wind was my enemy and not everything cleanly escaped, so pieces of pita and lamb covered my chest and seat. Fuming, she basically ripped me out my seat, helped brush the regurgitated gyro off of me and the buckle and stomped away toward the exit gate.

As we walked, I tried to explain that I did warn her, but as I opened my mouth, it happened again. We approached our exit and I projectile vomited even more stomach contents. I had no warning for this one but felt immediately better, like a brand new woman.    

We then waited for our parents to come get us, my sister still mad about what occurred. Or maybe it was because I probably smelled like vomit. I can’t be sure. I, however, felt like a million bucks. A decade or so later and I still recall how wonderful and full of life I was.

[side note: my sister can still ride every ride everywhere we go and gets mad at me when I say I can’t like she hasn’t witnessed the proof]

Yes, this story is disgusting, but it teaches a vital lesson – always trust your gut. This is a very literal example of why you should listen to the voice in your stomach, even when you don’t understand. I didn’t know what was wrong, I didn’t think about motion sickness, but I knew something wasn’t right. Instinctively, I knew what would make it worse.

I didn’t trust my gut and I blew literal chunks all over my life.

We have instincts for a reason. Instinct is an inherent reaction to a stimulus. Inherent is something permanent and essential. So our instinctive reactions don’t come from learning or thinking, they come from us. While this can be seen in big, important areas like being afraid of the dark and heights, we also have instincts in most situations (that maybe we just don’t listen to):

  • When we like someone but aren’t really sure if they like us (instinct tells us underneath the mixed signals and desires if they weren’t into us, we would know)
  • When you hesitate about plans because you just know you will probably end up trapped at a field party until 3 a.m. (field parties are always a bad idea)
  • When you think a friend is being a snake but you have no real proof (snakes are clever)
  • When your boss has a Wolf of Wall Street quote poster and you’re thinking maybe this isn’t the company for you (no part of that story is aspirational)
  • Etc.

With everything in life, there are exceptions. Sometimes that person really does like you and maybe that party will be the best night of your life. Maybe your boss has that poster ironically and maybe your friend isn’t snake-y, just really stressed. This is where our thinking and learning comes in to process the gut feeling.

A great example of instinct is job interviews. When you go in, there is always a vibe. Sometimes you and the interviewer get along great and you know this is the right fit for you. Other times it’s so weird that as much as you need a job, you secretly hope they never call. Those instincts perceive what is happening and let us know what is and isn’t right for us. I’ve accepted jobs I didn’t have a good feeling about before and it never worked out. 

I say all of this knowing I’m great at trusting my gut and also not great at trusting my gut. When it comes to most things in work and life, I’m there. I hear the threat of vomit and I abort before I’m a risk to society. With boys, I hear it but I’m like no, no, I’m not going to throw up this time it’s fine. I choke it down for as long as possible trying to convince myself it isn’t happening but my instinct is always right. 

If you’re reading this and thinking maybe you don’t have good instincts, I don’t know what to say. My thought is thank God you’re alive now instead of scarier periods of history where instincts actually kept you alive. I mean, it could be worse.

Moral of the story: listen to the sweet voice of your stomach. Unlike your deceptive heart, it never leads you astray. When has it ever suggested pizza and it wasn’t a good idea? Or tacos? Or ice cream? It only has good ideas. This is important to remember. Trust your gut.