I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Slowly I extended my hand waiting for the moment of impact. Then it happened, I gasped and pushed on through it, grasping the clay in front of me. It was art time at school and I had allowed the children to persuade me that having Clay Play for art might be fun.
They were wrong.
I shuddered a little inside, opened my eyes and gave them their challenge for the lesson, making a mental note to find a way around my aversion to slippery, slimy things. By next week we had a visiting artist coming in to take the class for Clay Time, and I was relegated to encouragement and supervision.
Fine by me.
I have tactile issues like many people who are gifted. It has shows up in many areas of my life and Ruby, my bestie, finds it hilarious. Half laughing out of recognition, half out of amusement and half at the expressions I pull (using creative licence to fudge the maths), we will often have some interesting conversations when we go out shopping looking for sensory stimulation and engagement for Lily
“Touch it,” says Ruby.
“No,” I reply.
“Because I don’t want to.”
“Go on, you’ll be fine.”
“No, it’s icky,’ I state with authority (great word, icky, covers everything.)
We’re both giggling by this stage.
“How do you know?” she asks.
“Because look at it, it LOOKS icky.”
“It’s only just a bit soft, give it a go.”
“No I don’t want to.”
“How can you help me decide if it’s going to be any good for Lily if you won’t touch it?”
“Because I’m clever and can SEE that Lily would love it.” (… or hear in the case of her favourite, toilet putty*.)
And so it goes on in rapid quick-firing to and froing much to the shop keepers delight.
This type of sensual intensity is not unusual to me (and I choose intensity over other terminology as it seems to fit the best for this brand of O.E.). Needing to wear seamless socks and soft clothes and not being able to go near wool and lace no matter how much I would like to, also falls into this category.
Skin sensuality is a biggy for me. Wool makes me itch, as does lace, anywhere. Buying bras are a nightmare, I have to make sure there is not any lace on them, the seams do not go near my nipples and they are soft and in the right size. Took me about two years as a teenager to become comfortable wearing bras at all, and I still have days, especially when I’m tired or sick and my tolerance is particularly low, that I can’t wait to get home and take it off.
The brain is an amazing thing. It processes all the sensory input provided by our senses, examines it and determines which it needs to take heed of and which it can ignore. For example it will be told by the sense of touch that there is something on my arm (or yours as the case may be) when I put a jumper on. It will then file that information. In the next round of tactile input it will also file the fact that the jumper is still there. Next round same thing (these happen microseconds apart). Then it puts a ‘caveat’ on the input. Only file or pay attention to the information if something changes. That’s how you only become AWARE of the jumper if you get a breadcrumb stuck, it gets wet, the label itches or you consciously bring your awareness to it.
I think my brain is too clever for its own good, as it works perfectly right up until the ‘something changes’ function. I am constantly aware of what I am wearing the entire time I am wearing it.
I have realised only over the last couple of years that this is not normal, and suddenly I know why people looked at me in that ‘funny’ way when I’ve discussed it. You know the look, the ones out the corner of their eyes, as if they are afraid that the weirdness might be contagious if they look at you straight. Or the flickering, almost shifty eyeballs, desperately trying not to make eye contact; not to risk you asking them if they understand.
The slowness in working this out is another one of my stellar, noteworthy gifted moments.
Food seems to be another avenue for my sensual intensity to raise its head and take the reigns. When hungry I will decide on the texture I want in my mouth rather than the taste.
I drove my mother crazy as a baby and a toddler, refusing to eat certain/most foods. I decided on several occasions that the best way to deal with spaghetti bolognaise was to tip it on my head rather than eat the crunchy onion. Crunchy onion in any mince dish is out. As is garlic on garlic bread; I scrape it off, smoked salmon is to be avoided at all costs, as is all other types of raw seafood. Avocado and cucumber are only to be eaten at certain times with certain foods in certain ways, while lumpy mashed potatoes literally make me gag.
I remember when I was seven (ish) and my mum decided she’d had enough of my fussiness. I was to sit at the table until I ate my mashed potatoes, come hell or high water. My older sisters went out for the evening and came back, and went to bed. My normally rigid 7pm bedtime was shifted further and further back as she did battle with my gag reflex, which incidentally got stronger the more stodgy and cold the mashed potato became.
At eleven thirty she gave up and I’m delighted to report I’ve never eaten cold, stodgy, lumpy mashed potato again.
Awareness and information have been the key. I am much better now than I was as a kid, and the last two years have seen me improve in leaps and bounds, now I know what it is and can let it be rather than resisting my weirdness.
I am doomed to conversations with people avoiding eye contact and hearing Ruby cry. “Touch it.”
*toilet putty is a squidgy play-doh like substance that is in a toilet shaped plastic container. You push on it and the trapped air makes a farting sound. Delights kids the world over!
** Starting from today i will be publishing posts once a week on a Wednesday. ‘Following’ will make sure you don’t miss any!