I've been breaking out in hives lately. Its been happening for 6 months. At first I thought I was allergic to gluten...which still might be very true, that or I'm allergic to wine which would suck just a little. French fries and red wine are kind of my favorite things, which also might say a lot of about how much time I have to take care of myself (I'm working on this, as well).
I thought the hives were food related and I was committed to eliminating the things that would be causing them, one by one I went through the list; red wine, gluten, dairy, beer. I googled hives, the cause of hives, "what the F causes hives" I typed one frustrated evening.
And then they would appear. No gluten, no wine, no dairy. They were just appearing, at this point really whenever they felt like it. So I started really examining what was going on. What is the common denominator in this highly unprofessional science experiment I am doing on myself?
Answer: Not saying no.
I know that is not in a food group. I know that is not in a dieting book or written somewhere in a scientific journal. But literally when I find myself overcommitted, under-loved, forgetting to feed myself, putting myself in situations that only serve the OTHER person's needs I am breaking out in hives.
Literally. It's uncomfortable. Sometimes they make it hard for me to breathe. Sometimes I am so itchy I think I am a distraction to other people in whatever non-essential meeting I am in. They also happen to appear when I am wearing a mask.
No, not a real mask. But that mask where I pretend to be someone else or I hide my opinions or ideas to make other people comfortable.
Listen, I know society works on these underwritten rules of behavior and expectation and "politeness". We stroke ego's of people we don't want to stroke because those are the rules. That's how you win the game. That's what has to happen.
But is it? Because pretending to not be smart, pretending that other people have better ideas when I really really believe in my idea, or pretending that I don't see what is actually going on, it is making me break out in hives. And I don't like hives. I don't like Benadryl either, which seems to be the only cure for hives.
I feel as if someone put me in an alternative universe where there are all of these rules that NO ONE likes but EVERYONE plays by because, that's the game. But what if I don't want to play? What if I don't want to pretend? Wear a mask? Act as if I don't see the truth? What if I want to go where people only speak the truth. Where people say, "Hey I am breaking out in hives because I am overcommitted and the emails keep coming and people keep asking for pieces of me and I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING LEFT.
In one of my TV binges the other day on an episode of Grey's Anatomy there was that incredible scene with Cristina Yang where she says this:
"Burke was- He took something from me. He took little pieces of me, little pieces over time, so small I didn't even notice, you know? He wanted me to be something I wasn't, and I made myself into what he wanted. One day I was me Cristina Yang, and then suddenly I was lying for him, and jeopardizing my career, and agreeing to be married and wearing a ring, and being a bride. Until I was standing there in a wedding dress with no eyebrows, and I wasn't Cristina Yang anymore. And even then, I would've married him. I would have. I lost myself for a long time."
And if I am being completely honest, if I am speaking my whole truth and nothing but the truth. I think society is my Burke. I think society is taking pieces of me over time and I don't think I am the only one.
I think maybe the other women around me, the ones I meet and spend time with and get to know, I think they feel like Cristina too. And maybe some men too, but especially the women.
And I think, for the first time in my life, that I am not going to let society take any more of me. I am not playing by the rules. I am not wearing a mask and breaking out in hives.
I don't know how it is going to work. Maybe it will be slow at first, the saying no and the boundary setting and the not wearing of a mask. Maybe it will lead to a life of pure isolation living in a tent somewhere. Maybe if I don't play the game by the rules I won't be able to play at all.
But maybe that's the point.