Before I begin today’s post I want to say thank you, again, to those of you who have offered letters to your bodies. What amazing gifts! Every single one has teared me up and filled me with reverence for who you are and the honest ways you’re engaging yourselves. If you haven’t read the letters yet, I hope you will! And as ever, please consider writing one yourself. If you do, I don’t think you’ll be sorry you did!
This post and the next are devoted to tending trust around height. I’m 5’11″, so I’ll be covering the tall end of the spectrum, and my new soul-friend, Pamela, who is 5’2″, will be offering her words about shortness here tomorrow.
So. Where to begin…
You know that bit of wisdom you hear sometimes about there always being more to the story? I want to relate this to height.
I have always been tall, and have felt my height like a current, pushing me ever up on “stage”. Stages, for me, have come in many forms: feeling stared at and pointed out by strangers (not because of beauty, but because of my size); being the person, among groups of friends, that salespeople and servers and teachers direct their comments to; feeling an unspoken abdication of leadership to me, for anything from initiating conversation to asking the next question to deciding where to sit or which direction to face.
I have felt out in the open, constantly, with no where to hide, and often with the added expectation to say or do something.
There are times when this has felt natural to me, and normal, but just as many that have felt awkward and strange, and the normal adolescent wish to fit in and blend in startlingly present – even now, well into adulthood. Even when the force of this current has felt normal, “normal” hasn’t always meant comfortable, either. My normal has involved a lot of forcing my spine straight and shoulders back – literally and metaphorically – when everything in me wants to shrink.
I could say so much more about the way my early height, and boys’ seeming lack of romantic interest in me, shaped and continues to shape my self perception as a sexual/sensual being (more on this next month!), or the way I embrace and resist the challenge my height is to patriarchy in my relationships with men, or the wish I sometimes (secretly, abashedly) have to slide into a more comfortable subordinate role in relation to them.
But my point is this: my height has ushered me into certain roles and not others, certain beliefs about myself and my rightful place in the world, and the sense that options other than these simply aren’t mine.
And in one sense, this really is true: I will never be a short, curvy woman. I will never be a gymnast, nor could I have been if I’d tried. And I will never be a woman easily dominated or hidden well in crowds (…or anywhere else, for that matter! :).
But here’s what I’m asking tonight:
What if trust – for me, and for anyone who feels trapped or frustrated, sometimes, by the roles their bodies usher them into – could be nurtured by challenging the notion that these roles are the only ones available to us?
We are complex creatures. We hold whole hosts of personas within us. We want to be weak and we want to be strong. We want to be sexy and we want to be regarded outside the realm of attraction. We want to lead and we want to follow. We want to hide and we want to be seen…and sometimes, to shout it from rooftops or shake our thang BIG.
And throughout a lifetime, whole seasons of any of the above can cycle through.
Maybe you’re tall and you want to go incognito for a while, completely off-stage.
Maybe you’re short and you want to lead powerfully or take up more space, and without needing to fight for the honor.
Maybe you’re obese and you don’t want to be silent and shameful about the space you take up, or rely on jokes or anything else to make others comfortable around you.
Maybe you’re wiry thin and you feel a full-bodied, sensual self wanting to express itself through your very (thin) limbs.
Could it be that the beliefs we have about ourselves are every bit as powerful as the societal expectations of us, and if we shifted our beliefs, and gave people around us different cues about who we are, no matter our appearance, we’d discover clear adjustments made in others’ expectations of us…and whole new words of possibility open up for the roles we can fill?
What if those of us whose bodies are extreme (and anyone else for that matter!) made a habit, then, when chafing at the roles we feel are ours to fill because of the bodies we inhabit, of asking:
What if there’s more to my story than this?
Maybe the person you are…the person I am…has far greater leeway to express diverse personas and roles than our bodies, and the chapters we’ve lived so far in them, might lead us, or anyone else, to think.