A Creative Take on Sensory Processing: Part One

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My family has a thing for knives. It all started when my Aunt chased her sister down the street with a butcher’s knife, a natural reaction to newspaper theft. Her third grade teacher sent her home with a newspaper with a bizarre medical story she wanted her mother (a nurse) to read and give her opinion on, with explicit instructions to return the paper in mint condition.

So, when her older sister grabbed the paper and joked that she was going to hide the newspaper at the neighbor’s house, she lost it. Her teacher was a grisly, grizzled old lady who delighted in punishing little kids. Fear often leads to scare tactics. 

I look for birthday cards from artists with questionable cropping skills so the cartoons will look like they’re missing a hand or a thumb, a natural way to wish someone happy birthday. And I can’t walk past my aunt without her pantomiming stabbing, a natural way to greet a loved one.

I have always found it weird that a spat between two sisters decades before my birth would become my family’s biggest inside joke, and that that joke would take the shape of an imaginary knife because I feel knives all the time.

I remember the first time I tried wine. My first sip of alcohol wasn’t even a sip. I dipped the edge of my tongue in a glass of Moscato and immediately retracted it. It had an acrid, electric taste, and somehow left a burn on my tongue—not a heat burn, but the kind that comes from sudden physical pain.

My senses deceive me every day. A warm embrace feels like the squeeze of a snake, the ripping of tape plows through my ears in a cannon of strident sound, and wine splashes flesh sharper than the blade of a razor. 

Touch is a filet knife. It moves easily under the skin and catches you off guard. It’s supple yet jagged. A  sudden graze of the skin can send violent shockwaves through the body, but it can also titillate, while a firm grip can comfort as easily at it suffocates.

Sound is a petty knife, where keen converges with delicate. Precision becomes lost in a neurological traffic jam, as sensory signals fail to organize into appropriate responses. Volume is relative. Everything seems larger than it actually is.

My cochlea has a long list of sounds that the word hate doesn’t do justice to. Sneezing, coughing, chewing, licking, blowing, bare feet peeling from hardwood, and that goddamn faux rock band, the Lumineers, who will one day be greeted at the gates of Hell with a simple Ho Hey from the lips of Lucifer himself.

Smell is a mincing knife that rocks me to my core. Two blades. Always parallel. A slice through the nostrils; a punch in the stomach. Nausea has been the most reliable part of my life. But taste is the worst. Taste is a paring knife gone wrong. Layered and unassuming, it skins the flesh. Flavors linger. They may burn, but they don’t stain. Yet, three years later, the wine left an imprint on my tongue I can’t wash away.

Click here to read Part 2 of this series.

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