Sometimes the fidgeting is soothing, like when I feel anxious and twiddling my thumbs or massaging my cuticles gives me the same sense that babies get from rubbing a blanket. It’s a feedback loop with a pleasant sensation at base. My familiar skin touches my familiar skin, over and over, both sides sensing the other. At night when I go to sleep, it is my toes that wiggle against each other or my foot that rubs back and forth on the sheet. When I was younger, I would lie on my stomach, bend my knee, and slam my foot into the bed over and over. When I was younger still, I rocked on my hands and knees or banged my head into the pillow—my mom tells the story of taking the casters off the crib after I rocked it all the way to the bedroom door and shut her out for a long time.
Other times, the fidgeting backfires. I will tap my toe or bounce my leg up and down in nervousness and the motion will beget more nerves. I’ll twist a tendril of my hair until suddenly I have twisted it so tightly it pulls at the roots. Occasionally, I’ve ended up with bald patches in my eyebrows from rubbing and pulling at the hairs when I read.
Whatever the result, I have an underlying sense of the fidgeting as a weakness, as a character flaw. I think about motionless meditators and know they are my superiors. I am no catlike hunter, still in the grass, all my energy potential and none kinetic.
The all-knowing They say that fidgeting can be good for a person. It burns calories. So fidgeting while watching TV is better than not fidgeting and watching TV. Maybe so. But I still find myself wishing for stillness.
On the other hand, typing, knitting, cooking, all good activities for my restless hands.