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September Surrender: Day Twelve

What I’m Letting Go

I’m a chronic skin-picker. It’s been that way my whole life. I have issues with my fingers. I pick and bite at my cuticles and scratch the skin all around my nails. I’ll even bite or chew it all off until it bleeds. As long as I feel like I ‘fixed’ what’s wrong. If I can pull off just a bit more, my skin won’t feel like it has as many tears in it, and it will look nice. Not great, but good enough. I pull out my hair, too. No one tells women that as they age, they get weird hairs growing from their chins or necks, so if I’m the first to tell you that, you’re welcome. But it does get me into a lot of trouble. My neck right now has a scab that began as an ingrown hair but is now an unsightly blotch that I still can’t leave alone. I picked at it all the way to New Hampshire, hoping that if I just tugged a bit more of it off, it’d be “corrected” and then I could let it heal. But there I went, tapping at it and touching it, irritating it and picking at it. I undid all the work the woman who gave me a facial did on it. I even went to Rite Aid and picked up some solution she said would help heal it. And yet I keep going.

I’ve always had weird stuff with my fingers and face. I sucked my ring and middle finger when I was a kid as my self-pacifying gesture. I did it through third grade, and was poked fun at a lot for it. My mom did everything she could to try and get me to stop, as my teeth got pretty jacked up and had to be corrected with braces. I wore bandaids on my fingers and thumb (because I’d switch over when I’d be bored with two fingers), and sometimes still put them in my mouth. My Tee-ball league baseball card features a six-year-old smiling Gina with a bandaided hand holding the bat. One kid who I later went to high school with, and completely remembered this story, called me The Girl with the Bandaids on her Fingers. It was embarrassing, just as my chewed up fingers are still embarrassing to this day.

Once in a while I make the decision to quit picking at my skin, but it never seems to happen. I go right back to doing it within a few hours. Maybe even seconds later. I need to realize that this is in fact a conscious choice I’m making. It’s a compulsion, yes, but I can have control over it if I choose to. Letting go of this idea that I’ll always be picking at my fingers could be very beneficial. I can choose to figure out why this nervous habit has stayed with me all my life. Or I can just go back to damaging myself for no good reason.

My mom told me I stopped sucking my fingers “overnight.” I don’t remember it being like that, but I did grow out of it. Is it even possible to grow out of a compulsion? I guess we’ll see.

What I’ve Discovered

I made it back home today in about four-and-a-half hours. Even though I vowed to stop driving fast, I did a few highway zooms here and there. But I have stopped tailgating people I want to get past. The whole time the cat was absolutely miserable. She’s an indoor city cat, but for a brief moment had a life as a country cat. But she absolutely hated the car. When we finally got home, she wouldn’t get out from under the seat. I spent twenty minutes with my blinkers on in front of my apartment, blocking a bus stop, begging her to move her butt and get out from under the seat. I was so frustrated with her not budging, clawing into the seats and sending fur flying that I started wailing. I was sweaty and gross and just wanted to get into pajamas and lie down. But she wouldn’t move, not even with a bunch of treats in front of her. She made her choice to stay put, and wasn’t about to let me move her again.

Eventually I wiggled her out, got her up to my apartment, and spent ten more minutes using a lint brush to clear all the cat hair out from under the seat. I harkened back to the moment I put her in the car to go home. She dug her claws in my shoulder so deep that it pulled several threads from my shirt. “Goddammit!” I screamed as she slid out of my arms. I had a moment where I thought about how I’d react if she was my child. Kids copy their parents. Would mine also start taking the Lord’s name in vain over some minor inconvenience? Would they also become drama queens when someone isn’t doing something they need to be doing? Am I destined to just yell and lose my temper for the rest of my life?

I’ve realized it’s just as much of a choice of how I react to things too. Just like it’s a choice for my dad to get mad at my mom when she says mean things to him that she can’t remember saying. I almost didn’t get this entry done because I got sidetracked on calm-down duty again. I want to make the better choices so that when it’s time to discipline my child, I won’t have to turn into mad mommy. No one listens to mad mommy.

What I Hope to Find

I’ve certainly been unleashing my inner ‘Karen’ lately. I’ve called corporate over masks at the car rental company. I pestered The Met for months via email until they dropped the mandate there too. I even asked a hotel worker to confront a man who was bothering me on a Florida beach. But as luck would have it, I noticed my annoying work paid off today, as I didn’t see a single masked face inside the office when I returned the car.

I felt good knowing I won that battle, because I played my cards right. I said in the email asking about my experience that I wouldn’t be back unless the requirement was dropped for customers and employees. Clearly they were just as unhappy with it because not a single one covered up today. It felt good to trust my instincts on being a whiny, annoying problem-haircut mom about things, because I saw the progress get made. It’d be nice if I could find ways to trust what I’m picking to spend my energy on, even if I have setbacks in fighting with the cat, or yelling at both my parents that I needed to do work and couldn’t deal with their drama at the moment.

The more I find the confidence in myself and what I’m about, the easier it will be to choose the right path. Losing my temper at things has always been a struggle, and maybe very little progress has been made, but the fact that I’m even aware it’s a problem speaks volumes. The damage one can do to one’s self isn’t always physical. Why choose to hurt when I can pick a path less angry next time?

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