Occam’s Itchy Razor

person holding cactus on a stick

“Occam’s razor (also known as the ‘law of parsimony’) is a philosophical tool for ‘shaving off’ unlikely explanations. Essentially, when faced with competing explanations for the same phenomenon, the simplest is likely the correct one.” – Occams-Razor

This winter has not been easy on our household with regards to health. Influenza, followed by mysterious lung infections, and capped off with a sudden and explosive battle with the stomach flu. While we have since recovered, every little health complaint is met with seriousness, as we are desperate to maintain a healthy household.

A few months ago, my thumbs started itching and the skin, only on the palm side of my thumbs became tough and scaley. I consulted with a few of my friends in the medical field and finally tried jock itch cream which seemed to clear it right up. Maybe it was just dry skin. Maybe it was my immune system revolting from multiple illness so close together. Maybe the vitamin D supplement I had started taking cured it. Too bad my thumbs can’t talk to tell me which remedy was the winner.

Then I developed a random rash on my shin and determined that I was allergic to one of the blankets on my bed. I didn’t like how the blanket felt, so probably I wasn’t really allergic, just annoyed – same difference. It made me feel better to blame a blanket.

About three weeks ago, I got a rash on one side of my body. I decided since I had slept on that side, I must be allergic to the new detergent I used to wash the sheets. A week later, I noticed that I had scabs on my left leg, presumably from the itchy skin that stemmed from the sheets.

My health seemed to be improving in many ways, but my skin was revolting. My mother had eczema, and I worried that my fate was to have bad skin. With my diet much improved, motivated by the earlier illnesses, and regular daily exercise, I thought the fates to be cruel to give me chronically bad skin. My face was clear, my nails were growing strong, yet little bumps and scabs lined my arms and legs.

Last week, my healthy weight loss became visually noticeable. As did little tiny scabs on my stomach. I was now covered, shoulder to toes with angry skin. Our two-year-old daughter was now starting to scratch herself and our son mirrored my complaints about being itchy. Whatever it was that was causing my discomfort, it appeared to be contagious.

I recalled the frustration and annoyance, as a young child, watching my mom scratch herself until her skin bled, complaining of how much it hurt. Then I remembered something relevant – my mom then went and got acrylic nails at the salon and her obsessive itching ceased.

My nails were stronger than they’ve ever been. I have worn them short my entire life but since they have been growing so strong, I had let them grow long. Then, as if my skin crawled up and slapped me across the face, it hit me. I was the cause of my chronically bad skin. My skin was no match for my long nails.

Awareness is the first step to changing anything. I had “decided” the root cause for my skin condition many times this winter. However, my attitude and long nails were never taken into consideration. I promptly cut my nails short and resigned to keep any skin discomfort to myself to see if our children’s itchiness also resolved. To no one’s surprise, it worked.

It’s only been a few days and my skin has improved. Our kid’s skin irritations have seemingly vanished as well. Perhaps, my nails were not the cause of my initial skin condition but they were certainly a variable and more simply, the cause of my scabs and increased irritation.

Skin issues may not make for good reading material but there is a lesson behind all of this. We have so little control over our lives. I cannot control if I have been exposed to something toxic or something I am allergic to. I may not know why my body responds the way it does and if I did, it might not change a damn thing. But I can control how I respond. And when there are two little humans looking to me for guidance and care, how I respond will be mirrored by them, whether I think it warranted or not.

My body is my house for a finite amount of time. There will come a day when my body will no longer be worthy of my soul and it will be left behind. Until that day comes, it is my responsibility to care for my physical state to the best of my ability. Not because I can change my fate, but so that I can enjoy the journey.

Turns out to stop itching, all I had to do was cut my nails. The simplest solution may not be the cause, but it can certainly be the cure. In the case of my itchy arms and legs, Occam’s razor proved true.

Today, when things start to feel complicated, I will remind myself of the simple truths for good living. Am I hungry? Tired? Lonely? Angry? Sick? Whatever the case may be, and whether it is within my power to do something about it or not, I can change my perception by accepting what is right in front of me and remember that solutions need not be complicated.

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