Blanket inhibition

I attended a writers’ talk this evening and, while I was listening, a few questions bubbled up that I wanted to ask. But the time for questions didn’t come until the end. By which point I’d forgotten all but one, and I was second-guessing whether it was relevant, whether it was a question that would contribute to the discussion, whether it mattered, whether it was selfish…let alone how to word it. So I didn’t ask it.

I had made the decision on my way there that I would ask a question because it was a show of support to the writers giving the talk. But I rationalised not asking the question because I thought no one would be interested in the answer except me, or maybe the writers wouldn’t want to answer it because it was a bit sticky.

The thing is, this sounds like anxiety. And in past similar situations, it’s felt very much like anxiety. But I’m beginning to believe it’s fabricated anxiety. The underlying problem, if I excavate my psyche, was that too much time had passed for me to be connected to the question anymore. At the point in the talk where I got curious, I had to stop myself interjecting or raising my hand to ask it there and then, and I was disappointed and frustrated that I couldn’t, but this is such a common occurrence for me that I didn’t even notice it until I came to write this post. By the time I was able to ask questions, it didn’t feel important anymore. But I knew that I’d decided that it was important, at least enough to ask, so I was rifling through the sock drawers of my mind trying to find a justification compelling enough to sway me. And I found plenty of justifications, but they were all for different things.

For a long time I had assigned my timidity when it came to asking questions to the bracket of social anxiety or shyness. I’m realising more and more how much it seems to be a feature of my unofficial ADHD. For many years I’ve had to repress my natural inclinations in order to conform to society’s expectations. But while I got very good at blanket inhibiting the ‘wrong’ response, I’ve never gotten all that good at the ‘right’ one. I often understand what it is, but I almost just as often still fail to execute it. This created a sad vacuum of inaction in my life that I’ve harboured a great deal of shame for, and while I’ve been working to deconstruct both the vacuum and the shame cage around it for over two years now, I still don’t fully understand its mechanisms.

If only I could have accepted I was different, instead of convincing myself I was worse.

If only we could all.

Sifting sharp pieces

Something I have realised I need to do some serious work on right now is owning my mistakes, missteps and failures more authentically.

I instinctively absorb blame whenever a situation doesn’t go as I’d like. Because of this, and because of the story that blame creates in me, I will ruminate over how to make it better, and how to be better, endlessly, if the wiser part of myself doesn’t intervene. But I am also so cripplingly ashamed of being at fault that I dare not speak it. I want to fix the problem, fix myself, and never make the same mistake again, so I can move on and never have to look at how wrong, and thus unloveable, I was in that moment.

This creates a strange dichotomy whereby my inner world is swirling with blame and shame and deep remorse, usually far outweighing the requirements for the situation, while my outer facade dances around the admission of guilt, and clings to all the reasons why it both wasn’t so bad and wasn’t all my fault. I’m suffering enough, I don’t need you to add to it.

And that’s entirely right; I don’t. But what I’m learning that I do need is a space to openly admit the exact boundaries of my failings; to examine them with considerate and compassionate eyes, and to find validation that they don’t in fact make me the terrible monster my shame would gleefully tarnish me as.

There aren’t many people in the world, I don’t believe, who can hold space for that kind of deconstruction of events, particularly in the throes of conflict, so it’s not that I should try to do this the in the raw, unfolding moment. But I’d probably be better served removing myself before I start to hear the defensive claims of victimhood or rationalisation gush from my lips. Take a breath, take a step back, save it for later. Save it for a space where I can tip all the failings onto the floor, and sift through for the pieces that are mine.

And then fucking loudly announce to the world which pieces are mine, and revel in the freedom of the proclamation.

Not so lady-like lumps

I have a lumpy head. Or, rather, I had a lumpy head. I just had the last couple removed earlier today. It’s the third time I’ve been in to Doctor Proctor’s minor surgery clinic. He’s a lovely man; very personable, humble and curious. I always feel a bit egotistical during our chats as he cuts open my scalp and pries out sacs of gunk, because he asks me considerate questions and responds so warmly to my responses, and I never really ask anything back because I’m a bit scared to interrupt his work by talking when he didn’t specifically prompt it. And not even because it might impact my scalp, just because I don’t like to interrupt people when they’re working.

By the time it came to today’s appointment, I half wondered what the point was, because I’ve barely noticed these remaining offenders since having the last two removed. They were, of course, removed in order of severity, with the biggest and most painful going first in the most traumatic of the de-cysting procedures, where I even got to enjoy the thrills of cauterisation when I was a bit too bleedy. There’s really nothing quite like the bubbling, hissing, crackling sound of your flesh burning, vibrating against your skull. Now that we were down to the least troublesome, I wondered if removing them was worth the trouble.

I’m not particularly squeamish and, adequately numbed, it’s not like I find the removals especially perturbing. Each time, however, I have found myself with shaky, sweaty hands by the time the stitches are in. It always feels disproportionate to the amount I suffered during the procedure. I mentioned it the first time, in case it was a side effect of the anaesthetic, but it didn’t seem to have a neat explanation. I’ve been trying to dredge up the parts of my degree that taught me about the biological response to pain, so I can speculate on whether, if the pain receptors are blocked, the body still has other ways of knowing it’s been hurt that may result in me having this kind of reaction. Maybe I’m just bluffing myself into thinking I’m fine and the shaking is a manifestation of how fine I’m not.

I’d become quite self-conscious about my lumpy head. Specifically, the idea of a romantic interest feeling them during a moment of intimacy made me squirm. My ex teased me about them and, while I don’t think his intention was to make me feel bad, it pushed on some tender spots around feeling unfeminine and thus unattractive, and created a problem where once there hadn’t been one. Beautiful women don’t have lumpy heads. I was surprised to find myself so affected by an ugly idea like this. It wasn’t the kind of person I thought I was, and it led me to unearthing a bunch of other ugly ideas that I’d pushed down and papered over.

While the lumps were objectively causing pain and discomfort, the blight on my self-esteem was probably the main reason I wanted them gone. It feels like a nice bit of closure to realise that, at the same time as I was going through the process to have these blemishes upon the silhouette of my scalp removed, I was also doing the inner work that disentangled their existence there from my sense of worthiness.

So I guess now all the loose ends have been nicely stitched up.

Give me more

There is a part of me – a significant, and close to the surface part – that enjoys a good bit of pain. A part of me inclined toward overexertion, obsession, and prodding open wounds. Most of the time, if you give me pain, you’ll see me smirk with a glint in my eye. Go on, give me more.

I’ve often thought that, if I was ever unlucky enough to find myself in a hostage situation, or being tortured for compliance or something, I’d be quite likely to get myself killed. Because I’d fucking brat. Like, don’t get me wrong, I am terrified of both death and authority, I’ll be a very good girl up to a point, but push a certain button in me and I will resist you relentlessly, I will goad you into punishing me, and all the while I’ll be smirking bitterly with a glint in my eye. I think the term is defiant. It’s like I never grew out of seeing how much I can get away with.

I’ve had to temper that to be a decent parent, because I can’t afford the recovery time. I’ve had to tame myself. But I think I went too far.

I wrote over a year ago about wanting to undo my taming, and I wasn’t talking about this masochistic wildness, but it’s all linked. The ability to both hurt and be hurt is integral to the human animal. The ability to wound, but not kill, and be wounded, but not die. And while that does apply in the macro, I also mean it in a more local sense. If you cut yourself, that part of you shouldn’t wither away; it should heal. And if a certain part of you is repeatedly taking punishment, it shouldn’t wear down to the bone; it should callous. It should resist. And resistance, well-practiced, makes it stronger. That’s a fundamental quality of being alive; it sets us apart from mere objects of creation. It gives us agency. And while we can’t help but be subject to this quality in lots of ways, there are many other ways that we unconsciously forgo it, and instead submit ourselves to external factors.

If we cower from pain, we become less than we are. And if we treat others as if they can’t take the pain, then we don’t give them the credit they deserve.

We’re living in a strange world – a world where you can avoid a lot of pain if you want to. But not all pain. If you’ve gone the avoidant route and haven’t conditioned yourself to withstand it, then what’re you gonna do when the pain finally comes? Because it will inevitably come.

I’ve been living in a bit of a fantasy for a while thinking I could become who I want to be without so much as a bit of chafing. Because it’s so easy to find an existence that doesn’t necessitate friction, and it’s even easier to get used to it once you have. And, also, honestly, I was really fucking tired of pain, so it was nice to believe I could be free of it for a while.

I know that part of my submission was biological – I fundamentally changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined through experiencing pregnancy and motherhood, and my drive to be the soft, warm welcoming arms that an infant needs and thrives within conflicted with any desire to be hard, rough or seasoned. This was probably a phase I needed to be in. But as my son grows, what he needs is ever more complex, and ever less about me. And as I grow, my ability to understand my own needs is ever more advanced, and ever less ambiguous. I need more pain. And I’d better make it good.

Twice round the block

I decided to start running a few days ago. I ordered my shoes, they arrived ahead of schedule, and then I bashed my foot and knelt on a screw while modifying my son’s bed. Which I found quite amusing, because it’s a bit of a pattern for me to injure myself right after I’ve decided to do something physical, as if my brain didn’t provide enough self-sabotage on its own. I also found it interesting that both of the body parts in question are the sites of prior, more significant injuries that will likely impact my ability to run long term. Like my body was saying Oh, shame, look, you can’t run, remember your dodgy foot and your dodgy knee? Aww man, you’re gonna have to sit this one out, I think. Nothing you can do, not your fault or anything, just maybe just come back to it one day when everything’s healed. Or, you know, maybe not, it’s up to you, no pressure. Running’s probably just not for you anyway to be honest, I’d probably just find something better to do. That’s probably best, I’d say.

However, I wasn’t even in the vicinity of that wavelength this time. I don’t know by which virtue I escaped it, but escape it I did. So I jogged on my mini trampoline for half an hour this afternoon, testing out my apparatus. And it was fucking fine. Then this evening, I took it to the streets. And I ran two whole miles, I think. Well, that’s what my Christmas Fitbit says, anyway. And it was fucking fine.

We’ll see how I feel tomorrow, but my inkling that I need to lay the gauntlet down for myself with an absurd running challenge of some description is getting more vicious. So that should be interesting.

And I’ve ordered myself some running socks. Things are getting serious.