Archive for August, 2009


Well Tickle Me Injured

August 24, 2009

The fellow who gives me Marma Therapy – we will call him Marma Man – recently offered a fascinating definition of what it means to feel tickled: the experience of an extremely minute degree of pain. The theory is that the body feels a sensation in a particularly sensitive area of the body, and fears the touch will increase to the pain threshold, so it causes us to clench in response, as if we are about to feel something more advanced. It makes sense when you think of what areas tend to be most ticklish: those around the soft tissue of organs, or surrounding major lymphatic intersections – the abdomen, the armpits, the inner thighs and hip joint. Also of note are areas where many major nerve sensors end: though we generally desensitize in our hands over time, you can certainly tickle a baby in their palm, and I know few people who aren’t ticklish in their feet.

I’m interested in this because I’m pretty ticklish, but only in certain areas. I’ve started wondering if these areas, not just physiologically, but emotionally, are where I am most fearful of experiencing pain, or where the memory of painful experiences have centered themselves in my body.

Take my stomach, for instance. (As a yoga teacher I know I should say “belly” because the “stomach” is a small organ to the left of center in my abdominal cavity… but something about the word belly makes me uncomfortable, so stomach it is).  I’ve always had distaste for my stomach. No, I hated my stomach. Now I’ve upgraded to distaste. With more meditation and therapy maybe in like 20 years I’ll upgrade to love.  Anyway. It was a serious source of emotional pain for me growing up. I remember in my most self hating times – probably around early puberty – going to bed and praying when I woke up the rolls of fat around my mid-section would be gone. I remember sobbing as I somewhat violently gripped at the flesh, willing it away through tears. (Meanwhile, was I exercising or changing my eating habits? Yeah not so much…self hate is pretty stellar at setting up the conditions to allow it to thrive).

Unless the touch is from someone with whom I am already intimately involved, I tend to shirk away quickly from any hands headed there.  I’ve certainly gotten better over the years – abdominal palpation used to be practically out of the question at my annual physical – but it’s still a weak spot.

Similarly, I can’t stand to be touched on my knees.  My legs were also a source of struggle through my childhood.  Though I was less disgusted with them visually as I was my core, because I have bone structure problems from my pelvis down to my ankles, I was unable to participate in sports with any impact, had to wear specially made hard orthopedic insoles, and suffered from chronic shin splints and joint pain.  In addition to memories of plain old physical pain, I think ticklish contact with my legs brings up old, stored memories of inadequacy: the feeling of being the fat kid sitting at the side of the gym doing her homework while everyone else played kick ball.

I do wonder if there will ever come a person in my life whose touch doesn’t “hurt” no matter where it is.  Or maybe it’s not a person, it’s just a matter of time and healing.


Something I Forgot

August 8, 2009

Before I left the city for a yoga retreat a couple weeks ago, I did what I do best: I updated my Facebook status. I generally don’t think of my updates as deeply prophetic in any way; I assume those who read them would agree.  But it struck me later on that day that my subconscious may have declared my fate on the ubiquitous social networking site.

“Looking forward to getting on vacation and discovering what I forgot.”

Innocuously enough, I intended to mean the items I neglected to bring in my shit-storm of packing that morning. Once the double meaning occurred to me, however, it gave me chills. And immediately after reading my weekend schedule upon arrival I knew to what the prescience referred: 12:00-1:00 Saturday: YogaDance.

I had a sad realization a few weekends ago at a party in my neighborhood – without alcohol, I seemed to have forgotten how to dance. Dancing at parties was an enormous part of my life in high school and college.  As a former drummer (ok, until I was 13), I love rhythm, I love moving with rhythm, and I love that feeling of releasing to an experience, at least when I can capture it.

Now, I should note, I didn’t drink in high school or most of my freshman year in college – a time when I was spending two to three nights a week dancing at the campus bar/club.  But as soon as alcohol became a major force in my social life, I think dance became neurally cemented to it.  Emerging from the distilling vat in 2009, out on the dance floor with my buzzed friends at this party, it seemed my ability to move my body without debilitating self consciousness was beyond me.  So when I read the description of YogaDance, and had it described to me as “all about letting it all go and just moving,” I felt a shudder of dread go through me: that was the last thing I wanted to do, and I knew I had to do it.

So I went.

At first it was terrifying; I cried a little, I felt completely awkward for about 5 minutes, but eventually I remembered things I had forgotten.  I forgot I’m a great dancer, both trained and untrained.  I forgot that maintaining balance while dancing is much easier sober.  I forgot, no one else really gives a shit what you look like, and if they really do, they probably have plenty of their own suffering to deal with.

In general, these forgotten parts of  my personality bring up the reason drinking became such a facet in my life in the first place: to shut off that voice that tells me over and over again that I’m not good enough, not doing enough, look ridiculous, and judges, judges, judges.  Freud called it a SuperEgo, recently I heard it referred to as The Peanut Gallery, The Board of Directors, or, my new personal favorite, the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee.  By drinking, that voice is silenced temporarily.  Unfortunately, I’ve found whenever it wakes up, it wakes up with more vigor.  The real work that I’m attempting now is to foster a relationship with the Committee, and let it be what it is without letting it control me.  Reminding my body how it can move to music without judging itself was a big step in that process.

Issues of body, movement and self-judgment beg a much more frightening question, though: when the time comes to have an intimate, physical relationship with someone completely sober for the first time, what blocks am I going to face?  I have to say, though it’d be really nice to get laid one of these days (I’m coming up on a year now…) I’m pretty petrified of the impending experience…