Let Yourself Take Up Space

“Taking up space” is an interesting concept.

As we journey through this world, we may hit a wall at some point. We may hit several walls as we walk through the world and there always seems to be someone that will encourage us to keep going, to stay true to ourselves, to remind us who we are. This person might tell us to keep the faith, they might remind us that we are good enough and if we admit our feelings of being lost, insecure or feelings that we want to shrink in some way, then we might be encouraged to take up space.

But how do we do that? How can one “take up space” when one feels so small? We cannot make this so-called space move for us, right? We cannot manipulate time, therefore we cannot manipulate space, don’t you think? So what gives?! Where’s the freaking handbook? Show me the manual for “how to take up space?” Do you need to stretch your hands and arms out to the sky? Do you need to spread your legs out as far as they will stretch?

Do you need to pose as superman? This might help for a moment. Although, your mind might still be babbling, “We need to get small. Be small! We are not superman. I don’t like this! Please let me shrink.”

So, what do you do?

“Take up space” is such a simple statement and it seems like such an easy thing. Although most days it feels like the hardest thing to do. It feels like a complex puzzle that you must solve and as an added challenge you must solve it as your mind, heart and body are screaming at you.

“Be small!” the mind says

“Yes. I feel so lame.” the heart says

“Everything hurts!” the body cries

Meanwhile your friends are saying “Just be yourself. Take up space.”

Those phrases roll around inside you like a sweet but annoying knock at your front door. This knock lasts for months until it turns to a pounding at your front door. This pounding goes on for years as you internally wrestle with yourself and do battle with the encouragement.

Then after a decade or more of exhausting wrestling it hits you…what if you LET yourself take up space?

Let yourself take up space.

Ah. Of course. No wonder there’s no handbook, no manual, no detailed instructions for “how to take up space”!

All one has to do is LET it happen. Let space be space and let you be you in that space. Nothing to figure out. Nothing to tweak, erase, manipulate, or replace.

As effortlessly as the wind blows through the trees we can let ourselves be in space. As easily as the rain falls from the clouds and ripples in a pond below we can take up space.

New Year’s Realization

I have never really been an actor. But I thought I wanted to be one for over a decade because masking your whole life is like acting.

I have never really liked acting, but I loved characters.

I have never really liked acting. But I also didn’t want to take a backstage role. Actors get the applause. The backstage crew get a quick acknowledgment and then it’s curtain.

I wanted to be part of the story. I wanted to craft the story. And I wanted to be acknowledged for the stories I crafted.

So I will craft a story. I will craft multiple stories. And I will tell the truth. I will write from what I observe. I will write from my own experiences. I will write from the deepest part of my heart. And I will share as truthful a story as I can. The truth might make some upset. The truth might make some very sad. Feeling their feelings might make some very uncomfortable. But that means I wrote my story well. I did my job.

I intend to speak through the page, as that is all I’ve been truly able to do. Some channel their emotional energy through exercise. They bang out multiple sit-ups and several pull-ups. Then they think they have conquered both the exercise and their emotions all in one go. But sometimes your emotions don’t need conquering, the way a hero saves the day for the townspeople. Sometimes your emotions need you to sit with them for an uncomfortably long time until you can hear your heart beat. Once you hear your heart beat then you can feel your emotions. Once you feel them you can begin to work through them. Like grieving for a loved one who has passed, it is a process. The timeframe of this process is very individual.

That is why the reading of stories, the listening to music, the observance of dance, performances, sculptures, and all art helps the individual with whatever emotional process they are currently working through. Art is not just for entertainment. Art assists the individual by giving them a beautiful but perhaps painful look at an aspect of life they can relate to. From the relating they are a little less scared and alone in the wilderness of their feelings. Then the individual feels connected to their fellow human being. Connected in being.

That is what I have been chasing my whole life. It is an exciting ride, the artist’s journey! The individual needs to observe the art to feel their feelings and embrace their humanity. The artist needs to create the art to release their feelings and to make their humanity known. The individual and artist have different processes but they have a common thread, connection in being.

After years of lying to myself and to others, the game is over. I’ve been found out. After years of taking a backseat in my life and within my family, I’m afraid I cannot do it anymore. I’m not an actor, nor am I a social butterfly. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be animated and full of energy. It doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to say. I’ve got energy and I have lot to say. It just comes in a different form. What you think I might lack in these areas when you see me in person. I make up for in my writing. Not because I have to prove myself, but because that is just who I am.

I am the kind of butterfly that will observe the way the sun trickles through the blinds. And then write of how beautiful it was as it caressed the wall and danced across the floor. I am the kind of butterfly that will observe the way your lips move as you talk to me. I will observe the way your eyes ignite in a fiery rage as you unleash your bottled up emotions towards me. And then write of how I saw your heart sink, though your fists were clenched, and your words were biting. You did not mean it. The anger was just a cover up for your broken heart. Then through my writing though I might not write it explicitly, you feel urged to take a look at your broken heart. Give it a kiss. Give it a good hug. Then look at yourself. Give yourself a kiss and hug. Take a big breath. Then keep on keeping on.

While you do that I will be working on my next story. I will be observing more of the world. And then loving it through my writing. I will be doing my own self-improvement work through the art that I do. We are all humans. I’m not perfect. I don’t have much figured out, but now I know I’m not an actor. I’m a writer.

And now, you, dear reader, know that I’m not an actor. I’m a writer. And like I said…I intend to write the truth. From now on…regardless of how it makes you feel…

To Speak or to Be?

At a social gathering, a house party, or some holiday festivity…I have had generally the same experience no matter what social event I attend.

There are people all around. Lights are bright, the conversations are lively and spirits are high. I enjoy everyone’s high spirits. I take in the bubbly feeling of the evening. Food wafts through the room. Some smells strong enough for me to almost taste and other smells too strong they make me gag. I distract myself from this feeling by looking around. I view the Picasso-like picture of everyone’s colorful outfits mixed with the colors of the surrounding decor. I observe each person’s expression. Many of them elated smiles and I hear the uproar of laughter. The evening is a sparkling cocktail of sights, smells, and sounds.

I stand adjacent to some clusters of people engulfed in conversation. Across the room other clusters of people burst into laughter, and others chat in the kitchen while the host feverishly finishes cooking the main meal. I have no idea what I should do and yet I feel I must do everything. I feel I must be social, I feel I must help in the kitchen even though several have already offered, and I feel I must match the jovial spirit of the party. However, I am content. I feel safe standing off to the side and silently observing the gathering. I am intrigued by the pattern of every social gathering I attend. Everyone in clusters, the smell of food that fills the room, and lights that feel so bright I cannot think straight.

“Why does everyone always stand in clusters? When waiting in line at a public venue everyone ends up standing in a mob, but at a private party people stand in tight circles. Why do we do this?” I think to myself. “Why does the food overpower the room? The food smells so strong it makes me queasy. It makes me dizzy. And the lights…do they have to be so bright? What is with the lights that feel like they bounce off every wall and then with laser-like intensity reflect off of every plate, dish, and piece of silverware that is present?”

After this train of thought, I feel deeply self-conscious and strange. I do not want to appear as though I am the odd-one-out or the wallflower of the night. So I walk towards a cluster of people. I try to appear involved in the conversation. I stand between a couple people. Someone makes a joke or tells a funny anecdote. Everyone else laughs, their eyes sparkling in delight. I don’t quite understand why it is so funny, but recognizing for myself that my timing in this conversation is off, I just give a half smile and muster up a quiet chuckle. After trying for a little while to engage in this conversation and still not understanding what everyone is saying, I make my way to another cluster.

I bounce around between conversations trying to find where I might fit, but nothing feels right. There’s too much going on for me to feel like I can relax into this traditional social gathering. So I grab a drink, if I can, and feel my legs start to turn to jello.

“How strange would it be for me to sit down?” I think to myself, “Would it be rude for me to do that? Am I going to get in trouble if I just take a break for a moment? Gosh, the couch looks so good.” I awkwardly meander to the couch, but I’m too embarrassed to sit. So I just hover in the general vicinity of the couch.

Finally the host sets dinner out and everyone flocks to the table. If this is a formal sit-down dinner then guests all sit around the table. If this is a buffet style gathering then guests grab a plate of food and sit wherever around the venue. Regardless of how the meal is served everyone has a rather full plate of food and the conversations are still lively. Some conversations end up shifting from being lively to being loud after each group laugh. This is where the social timer inside me starts to reach its end.

I am very glad to be sitting after standing for so long and feeling like I failed to participate in some social routine. As I sit and eat I feel a slight sense of relief wash over me. I no longer feel like I have to be on. I can relax, but then I get pulled into a conversation.

“So, Barbara,” Someone says, as they take a bite of food.

Or someone says, “Hey, Barbara. Could you pass the potatoes?” As I pass the dish to them they jokingly add, “hey you don’t have to talk so much.” Everyone chuckles…

*Ding* My social timer goes off. *ding* Sadly, I cannot leave. I know it would cause a scene if I left at that moment. So I stay at the party, which feels like shoving myself in a box. While this doesn’t feel good, I tell myself that it’s fine. It would be more uncomfortable to get in trouble or to be seen as rude for leaving. So I stick it out.

After the meal is over, I retreat to the conner and hover around the couch. But then I think to myself, “You know what? I’m tired.” So I let myself sit down. As I begin to zone out I hear a conversation about something that peaks my interest. “Finally something I can happily participate in”. I get up and join the group.

Person 1 poses a question to someone. That person answers said question. Cue opinions from person 1, person 3 and person 4. Person 2 reiterates their thoughts and explains themselves.

“Ah.” Person 1 and 3 say, “I see”.

“But what if you…” Person 4 says, adding another opinion. The conversation picks up and person 2 remains on the spot trying to explain themselves. All the while everyone remains lively and jovial.

“Dare I speak?” I ask myself, “Could be risky, but I want to be part of some conversation. I have a voice. I have something I can add to this conversation.”

I feel my body clench. My mind cringes nervously, but I take a big breath. And I say, “I agree with her. I like that kind of thing too…”

Four pairs of eyes turn towards me. They turn towards me, the voice that broke the two second silence, and they shoot through me with their harsh gazes. Crickets chirp for a moment and then everyone turns back towards their conversation.

“What did I do? Why am I at fault for speaking? Am I at fault for speaking or is it something else?” I think, as I slink back towards the couch and take my rest.

I begin to have flashbacks from my days at school. When someone would break the silence by blowing their nose everyone needed to see who it was. When someone would leave the room then heads would turn towards the door. That was embarrassing enough for me. But at a lively social gathering I have always felt like it was unacceptable to be quiet, to be awkward, to find something funny without laughing, to be nervous, to be honest, to be happy without smiling, or to use your God-given voice to speak in any capacity, even if just an utterance of a few words because heads always turn quickly and gazes always feel harsh.

Sometimes I feel like I should show up with a sticker that reads:

Hello my name is Barbara. Please do not expect me to smile frequently. I am already overwhelmed by this gathering. However, if there is a conversation that I feel I can be part of then I will make an effort to be part of it. I am glad to be here for the duration that my social timer allows.

Unfortunately, I do not think one could write that much on a sticker, nor would it control other’s reactions when I happen to naturally go against their social customs. It is not out of spite, malice, or disrespect that I go against the grain of social customs. It’s simply because I am showing up and it is hard. I am overstimulated, I am overwhelmed but I show up anyhow. And then I feel that the way I am simply being is not okay.

To speak or to be? That is my question.

So I don’t smile very much when I go to a party. That is not because I am unhappy. And I don’t laugh heartily at the anecdote or share vigorously in conversation keeping silence at bay. That is not because I don’t have fun and it is not because I cannot socialize. I am usually not depressed at parties, I enjoy having fun, making jokes, sharing anecdotes and socializing.

“So why can’t you show that? Why is it not obvious?” Some might wonder.

Would it help if I told you I’m ADHD and autistic? Would it help if I told you it is the way I am “beautifully and wonderfully made”? Would it help if I told you what my “social timer” means and how it works? Would it help if I explained my facial expressions and the meaning of my body language?

This is my face, content as can me. This is my body, relaxed and present. Can that be enough? If not, you can find me at home. Happy being on my own.

And I know that I am not the only one that feels this. To be or to speak? Keep on being.

Transition Meditation

Let your stomach drop.

Breathe. Transition is scary, but you are safe.

This is a safe transition because it is good. You are going where there is a need. You are needed.

It’s lovely to be needed. Try not to doubt that you are needed and that you are wanted. Don’t forget you are wanted, too.

Let your stomach drop. Breathe into your gut. Breathe from your gut and allow the breath to move through you as deeply and as much as possible. Allow the breath to whisper to each tense muscle, “Release. Unclench. Let go. You don’t need to hold on so tightly.”

Yeah…but why? I still wonder.

Because you are wanted and needed. Wouldn’t it be so nice to finally accept that? Wouldn’t it be a dream come true to breathe into all you are and then step out into the world permeating authentic confidence?

There are so many people that already think you are great. They think you are kind, thoughtful, loving, responsible, and creative. Where in those qualities is there any room for doubt and embarrassment? Who said you are not enough? Who said you can’t take up space?

You are enough. Let your stomach drop. You can take up space. Breathe. You are wanted. Unclench. You are needed.

Let your stomach drop. Breathe. You are ready. Let go. You are ready to transition and grow into you.

Don’t spend another moment trading your authenticity for approval.

Embrace the space you naturally take up. Become very clear on who you are and who you are becoming that taking up space feels like going on vacation. All tension and expectations dropped at the door, forgotten. Taking up space is being without fear.

Stomach relaxed, shoulders back, and head up. Ready, set…let go.

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Humbled by a Thought

The parable of the Drowning Man has come to mind this morning.

My friends have trickled into my experience like the various things that God sent the drowning man.

The man was convinced that God was going to save him. He was sure that God would reach out directly and rescue him. It wasn’t until the man passed away and angrily talked to God directly that he realized God had been there the whole time. The man learned that God tried to save him by sending him various rescuers. It didn’t seem like God was saving the man to the man because he had a certain idea of how he’d like to be saved.

As humans we get caught in our egos. Sometimes…correction, often we get really stuck in our egos. We put on our colored glasses and look at the world in a “here’s how things are going to happen” kind of way. We take an “all or nothing” approach to life. Then when things don’t happen in that one specific way it is very upsetting.

Like a disgruntled customer in a restaurant we flag down the waitress. “Um…excuse me. Yeah, hi. These french fries are cold and I ordered chicken. Where is it?”

The waitress responds gently, “Well, we are out of chicken. So you ordered the steak instead and I guess you finished it?”

The customer looks at his plate “Oh.”

“As for the fries…” The waitress continues, “You were talking with the people at your table. Fries get cold quickly. They were hot when I brought them to you, but if you’d like I can warm them up for you?”

“That’s okay. Thanks.” the customer says.

We must be willing to see that what we get may not be exactly what we wanted, but we are 100% provided for and blessed.

I have often craved to be rescued. I get lost in my fantasies of being whisked away by an imaginary boyfriend. The classic knight in shining armor tale, but instead of a knight, he’s just a man. And instead of armor he wears jeans and a plaid shirt. So basically I guess I’m attracted to the Brawny paper towel guy.

Anyhow, my point… while Disney made being rescued by a sexy man look really good to young viewers, like me… I don’t need it. And while we often take being rescued by God literally, it comes in various forms.

Sometimes it’s a loving hand to hold. Sometimes it’s being able to sit with your significant other on the couch. Sometimes it’s family that comes over to help when life gets overwhelming. However for many people who live on their own and are trying to make things work on their own, like me, it’s our friends that save the day.

So today I am feeling humbled and very grateful for my friends that live far and wide. I’m grateful for their patience, their loyalty, and their love. I often feel like I didn’t do enough to deserve such wonderful people. However we have no idea how our existence makes a difference in the lives of others. We don’t have to do a whole lot to make an impact. We are all tapestries and we all bring a unique set of colorful threads to the masterpiece of our world. 

The drowning man missed a key element of beauty that exists in this world. It wasn’t until she died that he understood how profoundly connected we all are. And no matter what you call God we are all interconnected in the most beautiful ways to that Source. When one thread takes themselves out of the mix for whatever reason then the grand design gets hurt.

Dear friends,

Keep being you! I am humbled by your beauty and grateful to be a witness to all that you are. I love you.