I have felt too much of my skin for too long. It began with my raging acne as a teen; all the things I would not say came out in angry cysts all over my face, chest and back. The pain made me aware of it all day every day and forced me to look down at my shoes in public and avoid mirrors at all costs.
At some point in my life I learned that the surface of my body included my digestive track. All the half chewed items forcing their way down my throat and into my gut, along with the emotions I swallowed on a daily basis set my skin up for absorbing trauma of every sort.
Is this why I have skin? Because it is the most effective barrier against trauma? Or is it there to soak up the trauma? Because as easily as things go in, they also go out, and the more I consider my body and the surface of my skin, I begin to see the whole apparatus as a bellows, breathing in and out whatever happens to be in the immediate environment. Is there a way to choose what I take in? Or is my skin a mindlessly automated filter, just doing what it does with whatever comes its way, garbage in, garbage out?
My skin was never perfect. Too fair, too scarred, too hairy to be useful. But to be touched made none of these things important. My skin was too traumatized to be responsive to touch early in my life. It wanted mostly to be left alone as any touch would send sparks through my veins. But into my thirties and forties, my skin developed a deep desire for it. It was baffling at first, the longing. I didn't understand it until I allowed it. Not the touching so much as the feelings the touch evoked.
My skin quickly became a beloved friend and not a thing to be hidden or managed. My skin became a tool I could use to feel good. Touch was a delight; warming, comforting, loving. I see now that my trauma had kept me from this. Had my skin also let this go? Did my skin, maligned and scorned, figure out a way to release enough trauma so that I could enjoy loving touch?
I entered an era where all I wanted was touch and I would do anything to get it. Touch became a compulsion, an obsession, and at times drove me into the arms of the wrong kind of people, just so I could feel that warmth, that comfort, if only for a short time. My poor skin, to be used as such. It was years that I put my skin through this, wanting desperately to feel more deeply the touch of others, I would alter my senses and experiment with my skin. I could go in to a trance and know only skin. There were times I felt it would have sprouted flowers if I had allowed it.
Now it is starting to lose its form. The weight of the world and the trauma and the stress is wearing it down to the thickness of parchment, and as it starts to hang off of my chin and elbows, I am more than grateful for every part of this journey. I love the surface of my skin, for everything it has done for me, everything it has allowed, and everything it has cast off. I love to run my hands over it, grip my shoulders, touch my face. We have all been through so much together, me and this collection of malcontents.
I would not know myself in the same way if I had not gone on this adventure in awareness, and while there is adventure still ahead, I can't help but pause here in mid life, and wonder at how close my skin has allowed me to be to opportunity, possibility, and mystery. I can't belive that this surprising mechanism is such a small part of what makes up my body, for all it has done for me.
I'm excited for what it will allow in next.
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