Sunday, March 02, 2008

Frankie Says Relax

I've always been a little...okay, a lot...fidgety. (One of my nicknames in college was Fidget.) I remember when I was a kid, we'd be at church and my mom would lean over and hiss, "Stop shaking the pew!" I had no idea I was moving my leg so much that I could actually cause the entire pew to vibrate, but there you go. I've been a nail-biter, a hair-twister, a finger-tapper, you name it.

One of the more embarassing conversations I've ever had with a supervisor was when I was called into the office of my previous boss to discuss my inability to stop twitching my leg during meetings. Not only did I not realize I was doing it, I was humiliated that other people had noticed and thought I looked like some sort of junkie going through withdrawal. (My boss was actually very tactful and gentle about it, though she said it sometimes made it seem like I was anxious for whoever was speaking to finish up so I could leave. Which, generally speaking, is true of any meeting I attend, but no one else needs to know that from my body language.)

Ultimately, I was glad she said something, not only because of the impression I was making on other people, but because being aware of it helped me to keep it under control to a certain extent. Sometimes I don't realize right away that I'm doing something weird and repetitive, but once I do, I can stop if I really focus.

However, while I have often unconsciously exhibited nervous tics, I'm now grinding my teeth in my sleep. Will my body ever just relax?!?

For your reading pleasure, here is a list of my top fidgeting habits:

1. I no longer bite my nails, but I am guilty of nibbling at the edges of my fingers. This is a filthy, disgusting habit, given that I know exactly where my hands have been.

2. As mentioned above, I jiggle my right leg when I have to sit still for any period of time, whether in a meeting, in a waiting room, or in the car. I've actually had almost everyone I've driven anywhere reach over, put their hand on my leg, and say, "PLEASE STOP." Yes, I shake the entire car with my nervous energy. I had a friend who referred to it as Bouncy Leg Syndrome.

3. I rub my hands together. This is mostly when I'm nervous or upset. I'm sure it makes me look like Rain Man.

4. I click my teeth together. This is a fairly recent addition to the tic list. It's not a frequent thing, but it's one of the weirder ones, as I suppose it looks like I'm snapping at thin air like a small dog.

5. I stick my tip of my tongue out and rub my lower lip with it. It's usually reserved for when I'm thinking really hard or frustrated with something. This is actually known in my family as the Maria tongue, since my mother does it, as do several of my nieces and nephews.

6. When I'm scared or nervous, I do this thing where I curl my index finger and tuck it next to my thumb. I have no idea how this started but I am constantly surprised to find how quickly it helps me relax. Very strange.

7. This last one is actually a two-person tic, the worst kind. It's usually mindless, rather than associated with any particular feeling. (Though, like all of my tics, it's exacerbated by any kind of anxiety.) It used to happen all the time when I'd watch movies with the Ex: I'd take his hand or forearm and start to move my thumb over one particular spot, over and over. He always said he thought I was trying to rub the hair off. I don't know what's with this one either, but I recall it being soothing.

Wow, I sound like a total freakshow! No wonder I like lists.

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