Shortly before Christmas I posed for a class where they happened to have a string of mini-lights (old school, not LED) hung up behind the stage. Someone joked that I should pose with them. I’d already thought of this, actually, and that was all the extra encouragement I needed. I decided to wrap them around my torso a few times and do a 20 minute reclining pose. I thought the twinkly lights would reflect off my skin in a fetching way.
The artists were like “yeah but that’s gonna be too hot though” and I said no, the bulbs were warm to the touch but not uncomfortably so by any means. I insisted that I would be fine. And I wrapped the cord around me and lay down.
Less than two minutes in, it became apparent that although the mini-bulbs weren’t all that warm normally, being pinned between my body and the stage trapped and reflected their heat until the two bulbs that were directly under me started to feel like needles stabbing my skin. But I didn’t wanna break pose and I didn’t wanna admit that I’d been wrong so I fuckin’ lay there for the entire twenty minutes and later found that the two spots had actually blistered while I was lying there. It looked like I had two vestigial nipples on the side of my ribcage and the spots continued feeling hot for hours after I got home despite me applying ice to them. Ugh.
I told my friend Ponytail about this and he said “you’ll get no sympathy from me! You did this to yourself.” I protested that I have a reputation to uphold. I get jobs partly because I hold really, really still so I don’t wanna start being all “Okay, here’s the pose. Wait, no, hold on a sec, my nose itches. Whoops sorry no now I’m noticing that the light is right in my eyes. Sorry, sorry, my foot seems like it might fall asleep, hold on…”
Ponytail said “Yes, but there’s a very big difference in scale between having an itchy nose and burning yourself.” And I know this might seem insane but that genuinely had not occurred to me until he said it. Only then did I think “Oh shit, yeah, that’s not in the same league at all.”
I’ve talked before about how my mom minimized and dismissed pretty much every physical or emotional complaint I had when I was growing up. If I woke up feeling sick and told her I thought I’d better stay home from school: “You’ll feel better once you’re up and doing things.” If I told her that my great uncle gave me the creeps: “Oh it’s fine.” etc., etc, etc. My ex-husband was largely the same way, actually, accusing me of faking the various ailments I had back then just to be dramatic. And as a result of all this, I have a really hard time drawing boundaries for myself because I convince myself that the stuff that bothers me probably isn’t that big a deal and I’m just blowing it out of proportion. This is why it took me three years to complain to the landlady about my neighbours’ screaming fights, this is why it took me so long to put my foot down about The Pedant’s lateness, and this is totally why I sat there in excruciating pain for twenty minutes while my skin burned. I knew that all of those things felt awful to me, but figured I was just being oversensitive.
And maybe that same baggage is at the root of most of my past relationship problems. I know with Minx I struggled a lot with whether it was reasonable to demand certain things that I needed or not.
This is an issue I’m going to have to work on.
Here’s some quick, free cognitive behavioural therapy for those of you who can’t afford to go: we all have “core beliefs” about ourselves and the world and these core beliefs shape our views. If the core beliefs are fucked up, that’s gonna have a profound effect on our lives. If for instance we believe that we’re unloveable, we’ll tend to notice evidence that supports that belief (“the last two people I asked out rejected me!”) and gloss over everything that doesn’t (“…but when I was younger I was married for ten years. And also someone asked me out last week”). The way to start unfucking your head is to identify your core beliefs and then start actively looking for and cataloging the evidence that proves the messed-up beliefs wrong. Then you look at the evidence and come up with a more reasonable core belief. It takes a while to internalize what you’ve learned, but it can be done.
So that’s what I’m gonna do here. I guess really it’s two core beliefs at play: that I’m oversensitive, and that I don’t deserve to be comfortable/happy. Because if I thought I deserved to be comfortable/happy, I would have asserted myself even if the stuff bugging me really wouldn’t have bugged anyone else, simply because “fuck you, I don’t have to put up with feeling this way.”
Gonna be a hard road ahead.