Is This Normal? Some Thoughts on Love. Also, Dogs. Also, Bodies.

I took my rings off the other night.

My wedding ring. My engagement ring. The two stackable rings I wear with them that I bought in a fit of extravagance for $12 at a fancy strip mall with immaculate sidewalks and enormous, Christmas-tree-lit palm trees in Southern California after an hour of agonizing over which to pick.

I took off the twisting ivy ring I bought to remind me that I grow fast and strong and have the power to break down huge barriers, at least eventually.

And I took off the filigreed silver ring with a riot of flowers and leaves; the one I bought in Mexico and wear on the middle finger of my right hand. I call it my flip-off ring, even though I’ve only ever flipped off Greg’s back with it, and, much more often, myself, usually in reproach for saying something Self decided was stupid. Self is all, “Stupid, stupid, stupid. JEEZ, Beth. WHY DO YOU SAY WORDS OUT LOUD? TO PEOPLE?” Then Self pulls out the flip-off ring, points it at me, and waves it around. In other words, Self can be a real asshole. Self and I are working on this.

I took my rings off the other night, but not because I didn’t want to wear them. I did. It’s just that my fingers felt jittery. Scritchy. Like they buzzed with constant, tiny electric currents. Bees under the skin. Restless Finger Syndrome? I don’t know. I just know the rings had to go away for my fingers to survive; strange sensory attacks that subsided when the rings came off. I took them off again just now, triggered, I suppose, by frantic finger memories.

Is this normal? Is this a thing the average person experiences? Or is this a symptom of mental illness? That’s a question to which I never know the answer. Not ever. About rings and other things. Does it make a difference that I also had to put on a tank top because my forearms turned scritchy, too? That the buzzing traveled through wrists and up my arms like something both alien and organic? Foreign and ingrained? Like the buzzing is the Borg and like resistance is futile? Does that make it more likely to be an illness issue? Or is this just part of having a body? I’ve never been particularly good at this part of being human — the How to Have a Body part. Why do some people seem to know how to have a body? And how to work a brain? Or are those myths, and it’s all a mystery to everyone? How is it possible to be past 40 and not know?

I took my rings off the other night.

I took the rings off, and then my shirt, and I wore a tank top and naked fingers and somewhat ugly panties which were lacy but worn, and I pulled my knees to my chin in my chair and stared at my computer screen and didn’t know what to say.

I didn’t have Writers’ Block. The opposite, maybe? Too many scritches and jitters and too many words pushing against the dam.

Too many thoughts about the state of the church and what it looks like to leave.

Too many thoughts about the state of our country and what it means to be both fierce and kind in the world right now.

Too many thoughts on why I can’t be silent these days, even though people tell me I’m complaining, or I am not respecting authority, or I should just “let it all sort itself out” and “see what happens” which appears to be something only privileged people say to each other because their lives aren’t on the line.

Too many thoughts about which wins when the choice must be made — ferocity or kindness — and which is the way of Love. Both, I bet; it’s just a matter of when to flip over the temple tables in a righteous rage because politics has married religion to make profits of gold, versus when to eschew the Sabbath rules to heal the sick, and give sight to the blind, and harvest food for the hungry, and to lift our neighbors’ oxen out of the ditch where they’ve fallen.

It’s rule breaking, either way — ferocity or kindness — to choose the side of the vulnerable. So often the way of Love, though. Over and over, the way of Love.

I stared at the screen the other night with too many words in my head, and no rings on my fingers, and I gave up quickly because I’m working these days on being gentle to Self even when Self isn’t gentle back.

Instead of writing, I put my computer to sleep, and I got in the bathtub and turned the water to hot.

I read a novel that was unedifying and captivating and perfect.

I listened to squabbling children whose arguments were repetitive and endless.

And I let the dog lick my toes and gaze at me with consuming adoration. I thought my dog should give Self lessons in Love, and lessons to the world, too, though the world will accuse her of being too affectionate, and too in-your-face, and too unable to understand the bigger issues at hand.

I took my rings off the other night. I don’t know if I did it because I’m ill or because I’m human. Probably both, though. Probably both.

Love to you, friends,

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
15 comments
  1. Bodies are a real pain sometimes, aren’t they?
    For me, the restless everything syndrome is part of the PTSD. But I don’t know, if life had gone differently, if I might have had the same problems? It’s impossible to tell. I know children with no trauma history who freak out over sock seams, due to sensory issues, so it may be a matter of which came first, the PTSD or the sensory overload?

    Focus on being you, my friend. Breathe. Feel. Move forward when you can. It’s all any of us can do. <3

  2. Sometimes you just need to take everything off. What’s behind it? Some deep psychological need? Blisters? A rash? “Restless Finger Syndrome?” Anxiety? Who cares? Sometimes the “why” is not important. Your soul needed to, and it made you feel better. Bless you. Take the time you need, then “gird your loins” and move on.

    (Also, bless you that you didn’t have the urge when you were out in public.)

  3. I understand the not even knowing my own body…when it works it is great when it doesn’t then I am clueless and SELF gets all witchy and does a lot of finger flipping and tongue-wagging at myself (and then came menopause! What?!!!). But at least it was just your rings and shirt that came off and not EVERYTHING. Which has happened recently in my house…fortunately my kids are all out on their own and not viewing this wildly hot/cold temperamental at once in love with this crazy world of people and next ready to jump ship for another planet. And it is often a fierce kindness that is required with my SELF and with the world! Or retreat from the madness with a good book or hike in to the wild woods to primal scream, restore and refresh. I LOVE to see your emails in my inbox. I wish you were my next door neighbor! HUGS.

  4. When you get filled with emotion, especially strong emotion, it can be unbearable to have anything really close to that emotion. It’s so tender and raw and “scritchy” – I can identify! Huge hugs. I, too, am breaking from a church in some ways and it feels like I’m leaving family. And it’s not even one I’ve been in forever, as you have with yours. Flip yourself some Grace, hon.

  5. Both is the answer to all the questions. You knew it all along.
    I know because I ask the same questions, and come here to see the “both” answer.
    Waving from the not so dark…

  6. Sensory stuff. It can be so maddening. I have neurologically involved migraines (since age ten) and literally NOTHING can touch my skin. I have to strip down, the sheets ono the bed must be the smoothest we own and cold, and I still feel like ants are crawling all over me. All my sympathy.

  7. I agree with the first post; there was probably stuff trapped under your rings that was irritating, and in a sensitive state, the feelings spread. The ring thing happened to me when I was working in a NICU and had to wash my hands every ten seconds; the soap caused blisters under my rings. I’ve since developed the habit of taking off my rings while I’m at home–pretty sure my husband knows I married him, ha!

    I, too, appreciate your honest words in this tumultuous time. Just reading the word LOVE over and over again in your posts brings me hope. Thank you.

    1. I got blisters under my wedding ring, too – exactly where the water got trapped. It itched like the end of the world. People told me to ditch the ring. To fill in the space under the stone. To get a new one – but I LOVE my wedding ring, and I ignored them. I learned other coping mechanisms.

      Then my boss changed and my stress level dropped like *wow*, and the itching stopped. That was almost six years ago, and it’s only come back about twice, and only under high stress. (See: when I had my kids)

      I believe both/and.

      Chris, thank you for your work in the NICU. If taking your rings off was all you needed to save your hands and also save the babies, bless you.

  8. Lots of different thoughts about your restless fingers problem. The simplest one is that your skin might be feeling sensitive and the rings are irritating your hands because they trap sweat or dirt or hand cream or whatever. Maybe going ring-free for a while, and talking to the pharmacist assistant (or US equivalent) about a soothing cream, might solve the problem. I find that my body is much more sensitive/twitchy when I am very tired or stressed. Last week, I was almost at screaming stage because my bra was so uncomfortable all day long (that might also have something to do with the fact that all my bras are ancient and probably no longer fit properly). The same bra is just fine this week because I am not totally stressed about a child with a high fever and history of convulsions, all happening while in a foreign country on holiday.

  9. Maybe taking your rings off is a big flip off to the world. Totally understandable under the circumstances.

    Hugs Beth. This is the first time I’ve commented but I’ve read your blog for a long time. It has given me comfort and laughs, and now I wish I could give you something back. So here is a big hug from the other side of the planet.

  10. It sounds a lot like anxiety to me, I get similar jitters. Hope you’re ok.

  11. We left a ministry once, and it felt like our whole reality became unstable. It was right, but it left us a little hysterical. Only the sweet love of Jesus keeps us alive sometimes. All my love in a shaky, sketchy time.

  12. I feel this way often lately, all jumpy and jittery inside!! Like my thoughts and emotions just need to come jumping out!! But I keep them in because I know they would not be well received in my community and I love the people here they may think other wise if I let out even some of my thoughts on the current events in our country and world! So I to think it’s both normal and illness! It becomes illness if we continue to bottle it up!

  13. A lot of things feel tight and scritchy right now. I wish taking off my rings would help.

    I found a church I like. They talk about love every week. Also acceptance and healing and peace. Last week we sang a song called “Turning Over Tables”. I cried. It’s beautiful and what I needed my church to be saying. Google it. You will love the words. I promise. You won’t cry. That was just a me at church that day thing.

  14. Argh.

    And yes.

    And I so wish I could take my rings off, but I developed arthritis the same week I got married and my ring will have to be cut off, which is especially upsetting since I lost the stone in December, so instead of a pretty sapphire, I have a hole with grabby edges that snag on my sleeves.

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