Sometimes little things, non-things really, trigger big things. Sometimes things just press your buttons, and you know you need to let it go and you know that you’re over-reacting, but you can’t stop yourself. You’d like to be able to release it, to have it not matter, to be mature and dignified and rise above it – but the human soul doesn’t work like that.
Yesterday someone – who barely knows me, who certainly doesn’t know my history or my values or what I’ve been through – made a stupid, crass, sexualised comment in – well, I couldn’t say that it was said in innocence – maybe ignorance is the better word. There was nothing even particularly offensive, certainly nothing I could challenge this person on – it wasn’t even said directly to me, but it was something that would have come out of the mouth of my ex-husband. Something crude and dehumanising, something meant to be a complement which served only to make me into an object. A body, nothing more. A female body.
And this one stupid comment was enough. One memory after another – like taking a beating; only quietly, in my head. One memory after another, all of them foul, all of them sordid, all of them making me feel sick with how I was used. All of them things I hadn’t remembered, until then. All of them burdens I didn’t know I’d been carrying, points of pain I didn’t know I’d been holding. I was reeling, shocked: I felt as though I’d breached a reservoir of pus; like I’d broken through some neat membrane to find something decayed and putrefying.
I hate that little things push my buttons. I hate reacting with such vehemence, with such volatility, to a comment which should simply cause me to roll my eyes. I feel as though I’m being precious, judgemental, prudish. Over-sensitive, a diva. But I’m not. Because our buttons are buttons for a reason. Our sensitivities, our points of tenderness, those things to which we react with pain – they act as a red flag. As the warning sign which says, Beware. This road has landmines. Dangerous waters ahead. This is a dodgy dark alley of which you might want to steer clear. Wet Paint. Whatever metaphor you want to use – buttons are buttons for a reason.
So now I have a whole lot more to deal with. But that’s ok, because it means I’ll deal with it. I won’t sweep it away, or pretend not to notice it while I allow myself to be distracted by the demands of my busy life. I won’t remain oblivious to this point of pain which, like a muscle I didn’t know was knotted, has been waiting for me to pay attention to it. Like everything else, I’ll push through it, and it will make me stronger, and it will make me wiser, and it will make me a better person.
That’s the theory, anyway. Although sometimes I wish that human beings could carry signs: DO NOT PRESS THIS BUTTON.