if i could do it all over again i’d be in the same skin i’m in
sly and the family stone
in a previous post i spoke about one of the perils of getting older being the daft indignation of never looking how we think we should in the mirror. i am currently experiencing a particularly bizarre anachronism; at the age of 53 i have developed acne for the first time. having been in somewhat of a spotty phase (spots but not acne) for most of my life, it has only been in fairly recent years that i’ve enjoyed the luxury of no longer worrying about my skin. so i am outraged as well as disconcerted by this latest development. i am accustomed to my ME regularly coming up with new manifestations. as well as getting gradually generally iller over an extended time, i also often experience surprising extra symptoms. but this acme of spots is a bolt from the blue, and has led me to thinking about skin in other ways: thoughts about the edges where places overlap and meet; about our outsides and insides; about our connection to the rest of the world; and about skin as an emotional barrier.
in my “staying home” post i referred to how i’d gotten lost in a moral maze in the first part of my life. back then i was constantly missing several layers of skin, and was dangerously prone to seeking out and paying heed to advice on almost any topic, from more or less anyone. because that tendency caused me no end of trouble, i’ve subsequently given a fair amount of consideration to psychological advice-searching: to how much faith i used to put in it, and how much some other folk still do. and i’ve come to the conclusion that that faith is usually misplaced.
asking for practical guidance is ok – questions such as where is a good place to get curly hair cut, and what shall i do about my sofa leg gradually losing contact with the rest of my sofa – both of these queries have resulted in helpful feedback in recent times. but when i was lost (and even nowadays when i forget my way for a while, i come down with the same symptom of my feet failing to stay on the ground) – so, when i am lost – the sort of counsel i’m seeking is emotional and philosophical. and i’ve found these kinds of requests for advice don’t often yield useful results.
lately i’ve been pondering a few of the ways in which our culture’s messages are directly oppositional to getting by, let alone flourishing, as a sick and disabled member of that culture. and even though we haven’t asked a question, the kinds of messages we are sent every time we watch television, read a newspaper, or are pushed along a street in our wheelchair, can feel an awful lot like unsolicited advice. especially at times when our skin isn’t offering robust enough protection.
i guess it can be possible to be sent, but choose not to receive messages; but when the messages come so fast from all directions, and often in disguise, it is a huge challenge to be sufficiently alert to recognise and fend them off before they’ve found their way beneath our skin.