The twitchiness is twirling my earring. It’s persistent today. Then it picks up my phone again, scrolling, tracing the well worn path from app to app, email to email, like a tiger pacing in a zoo. I snap out of my trance, put the phone down and turn back to this question blinking quietly on the page. I write a few sentences, then perhaps pick up the phone again or go to the fridge and mindlessly stuff something into my mouth, or I go the bathroom and inspect my face for spots that need squeezing or eyebrows that need plucking. I return again to my computer and the task in hand. I feel for the scab at the edge of my hairline, behind my ear, and fondle it, find the flappy edge and go to pick at it for a few blissful seconds. I try to focus, but the twitchiness insists I cannot just be. There’s always some version of this going on. I am revolting. I am disgusted with myself. It feels more like disgust than fear, but maybe the disgust is simply a tributary of the fear. I am often doing some version of this or other - unease, twitchiness and disgust. Which came first? And then the thought pops into my head, “Who is disgusted with whom?” Who IS disgusted with me? Who is witnessing this pantomime, this ridiculous time-wasting nonsense? It suddenly feels like a Punch and Judy show in my head “That’s the way to do it!”. Mr Punch is beating up Mrs Punch and it’s funny and not funny all at the same time, all the while the witness watches.
I close my eyes and curl the tip of my tongue up into the roof of my mouth, an old trick to quieten the mind, taught by an Indian Guru I was once obsessed with. To sit, to be, to let the words come. I can’t sit still for even a minute. I switch off the radio, in case that’s the problem (ha!) and instead turn on the “Relaxing Melodies” app, then turn on the “Forest” app which prevents me from picking up my phone for predetermined amounts of time, but not without another quick scan for new emails. I don’t want to just sit. It’s like wrestling with a crocodile, boxing with my shadow. I’m out of practice. Good habits take a while to embed. I know this and I’ve forgotten the pain of restarting after a long break. I had it down pat this time last year, got a good routine of sitting, reflecting, writing and then bam! six weeks of school holidays with the kids and it all went out the window. Especially my sanity.
I love sitting, but with a book in my hand. I love walking, but with a dog. I love nature, but with the kids or the dog. I love meditating, but with a 30 day challenge attached. Terms and conditions. I don’t like to slow down without a purpose. I might just sit in the garden with a cup of tea listening to the birds, but only if no-one else in the house is up and needs attending to. I like there to be motion, a doing. Who is doing all this doing, who is addicted to the motion? I can slow down and be present in yoga, because there is a permission slip attached by virtue of a teacher and exchange of cash. Slowing down feels like it needs permission. I have always fought against routine and structure, because it always seemed such a trap, but it is exactly what I need, it actually unlocks the door. Regular practice is my antidote to the twitchiness.
I dissociate from experience in case it hurts me, or it at the very least I can feel in control of something. If I detach there is a sliver of control. The bufferzone, an illusion maybe, but a familiar one. I keep the moat topped up. You can’t make me, it’s up to me. You can’t get to me over here. But Mr Punch is in there already, I haven’t gone anywhere because he’s conjoined with Mrs Punch, so all it achieves by trying to cut off the pain is to cut off the joy. It isn’t the full rainbow. Minimising, shrinking, making smaller, micro-managing so that if it’s smaller it might not hurt so much if I fall. Make sure not to fall off the pedestal, my mother once warned, so I cut the ropes when people get too close or intimate and set sail in the opposite direction. It’s always when I feel I might get swallowed up whole, engulfed, overwhelmed, I cut loose. Over the years as well as detaching from my closest relationships (because then it won’t hurt so much if they’re not there anymore) I have detached from my femininity, my poetry, the dance inside, because it contains a vulnerability I will not allow. In this family set up, I must not be vulnerable, I am strong, with my husband I must not be vulnerable. I can be volatile and mercurial, but not vulnerable, and so the volatility, the uncertainty serves to keep them away. He touches me, wholeheartedly loves me in spite of this, my frequent retreat far away inside my head and still he tries. In my many pathetic attempts at running away as a child (pathetic because no-one ever noticed I had gone), I loved creating the shape of my body with pillows under the bedsheets, just like they do in the movies. Sometimes I feel like I have done the same, and left some human looking pillows in place of me, a body double, whilst I have vanished. A cosmic game of hide and seek, now you see me, now you don’t.