“I notice you apologize a lot,” said a friend the other day.
“I do?” I said. “I’m sorry.”
“See?” he laughed. “You did it again!”
It’s true, I apologize a lot. It comes mostly from a skewed sense of the space I take up in the world or a room or next to someone. I’ve always been painfully aware of my physical presence, at any weight, and have struggled most of my life with feeling physically flawed. Long ago, these feelings manifested into spatial form, and even after years of therapy and despite this weight loss, I sometimes feel unworthy to occupy the space I need to be me.
I remember in high school (that’s me in my Country Kitchen uniform, age 16…yikes!), I did everything I could to hide what I thought was a large body. I stayed as small as I could and walked slightly slumped over and often with my arms wrapped tightly around my books. I rarely wore shoes with a heel. I crossed my legs so my thighs wouldn’t take up as much space wherever I was sitting.
I also became easy to sleep with (not in the Biblical sense). When I was young, I somehow unconsciously trained myself to take up as little space as I could in a bed. To this day, I don’t move around much, and I usually wake up in the same position as I fall asleep – on my side in a somewhat fetal position and hugging a pillow close to me to keep my arms from stretching out.
If being invisible was possible, most of the time I’d have chosen to be. Even now, particularly in the presence of someone with a strong personality and/or outer beauty.
It happened last night when I went to see a friend’s new band perform. While Tony tuned his guitars and plugged in the amps, the singer, Molly, walked up to the bar where I was sitting and ordered a beer. I introduced myself and we chatted for about 15 minutes.
A lovely young woman in her late 20s, Molly radiates kindness. She’s also lithe thin; graceful with long arms, long legs, long fingers, and a swanlike neck. As we talked at the bar, I caught myself hunching my shoulders and squeezing my crossed legs tighter together. When I checked in with my body (something mindfulness meditation has taught me to do on the fly), I realized I felt really large sitting next to her and my posture was my way of apologizing.
When Molly left to warm up, I checked in with my mind and it was thinking that I, too, have long legs, long arms, and long fingers, but they are attached to unacceptably broad shoulders and broad hips. My neck is thick and susceptible to sagging. Negative upon negative. Apology on top of apology.
Rather than be disheartened, though, I got curious. Curious AND, more importantly, non-judgmental.
Yes, I still want to be invisible sometimes. I intuitively sleep without moving, shrink into myself when I feel intimidated or weak, and say the words, “I’m sorry” without thinking about why I’m sorry.
BUT…Seeing that last night and checking in with my body and mind and sensing all there was to sense, feeling its source when it was fresh rather than when it was days, months or years old, was a huge breakthrough. (Pats on the back, Lynn! You go girl! and all that good stuff.)
Also, not running away from the feeling is major. I looked back today on the times I wanted to be invisible in the last three years. Times when it wouldn’t have been prudent for me to run away. This pushing back against the fear started with Oprah. Truly one of the biggest personalities in our culture, right? How in the world did I get through meeting her without begging the earth to swallow me up? I obviously drew from something inside – something I was NOT aware of at the time, but I credit my friend Shari for tapping into. What I learned from that trip above anything else is that a true friend is not afraid to show us how to or demand we pull our heads out of our butts.
This personal strength (I’m dubbing it my Super Power) is something I need and want to cultivate to live in the light of day rather than in the shadow of fear. I don’t want to be invisible and I don’t want to physically shrink in the presence of beauty or strength.
While I doubt I can change my sleeping habits, I want to fill up my required space and stop apologizing for who I am. I want to feel the aliveness of awareness and take in what strength and beauty has to offer.
So here’s to sitting straight, uncrossing my legs, unfolding my arms and embracing something larger and more significant than a pillow.
Unless, of course, you don’t agree.
Remember, I don’t bite. Leave a comment!