Growing into My Bigness

I have written before about being small, about feeling like I need or am expected to hide myself, make myself less, be less. However, I was hit with something several weeks ago as I again sat thinking about it. Being small is not as sudden a thing for me as I thought it was. As I sit and think and reflect, I can actually see the different lessons and admonitions towards being small that I have been given all throughout my life, not just in the past decade. It’s not as recent a thing as I thought it was. I’m looking back over my life and finding points along the way where I was taught to be small, to take the blame for others’ dislike. I learned that I needed to be small, that if I were too big, too bright, too…whatever, it was my fault if people got upset or didn’t like me. It’s kind of jarring to realize that it’s not as recent an emotional/behavioral habit as I thought it was.

I was taught to be small as a child. On school awards nights, I was taught by my peers to feel embarrassed by rather than proud of my achievements. My classmates would turn to me as I returned to my seat and tell me, “You should just stay up there [on the platform]. You’re gonna get everything anyway.” I felt the snide remarks all the way down to my bones, whether to be snide intended or not.

In middle school, I was taught to be small by the cute boy who pretended to like me and be my boyfriend for an entire week. Then, mercifully(?), a “friend” outed the joke. And it really was a joke because, seriously, who could ever like a nerd like me?

As a teenager, I was taught to be small because my fashion style was dressier than other girls in my social sphere and it might make them look bad. I was taught to be small when classmates rolled their eyes and made fun of the books I read, that I took solace in, and when they grumbled because I could play my part in concert band, even though their inability was a result of their lack of practice and nothing on my part.

In my twenties, late bloomer that I am, I was taught to be small when I perceived that I could not shine or revel in my own beauty because it would make others feel less happy about themselves, even though I had absolutely no control over that. If I could just step back upstage a little, not be quite so much in the light, that’s it…right there on the edge, that’s good. I can see it in photos now, recognize it for exactly what it is, and it hurts.

There are people in my life who have taught me to be small with the same breath that they used to admonish me for not “seeing how beautiful I am”. I’m sure they never realized or considered that that was what they were doing but it was. It’s sometimes hard, very hard, to hear “you’re beautiful” at the same time as being told that you make others jealous or unhappy. Suddenly, “beautiful” becomes not quite such a good thing; “beautiful” becomes something that brings pain to others, to ones you care about, so, obviously, “beautiful” is something that I should try to be less of. Me is something that I should try to be less of.

Though I have made progress (and I do mean quite a bit of it), I still battle the perception that I need to be small, less, duller. I question, I temper, I demure, I stick myself in a corner and keep quiet. Being small became a habit, born out of a desire to never hurt anyone, to be the cause of hurt, or a bone of contention. And so, sometimes, I still fall into its trap. If you have been taught to be small, believe me: you’re not alone. But you know what? We can “grow into our bigness”, as a dear friend once put it. I am growing into my bigness, into my role in my own life. I can stand. I can shine. I can strut. I can star. It is okay to be big in our own lives. It’s okay to be comfortable in our skin and unapologetic for it, to be unapologetic for our selves in our unique beauty and us-ness. Sure, we have our cracks, our flaws, our problems. But those do not negate us or our humanity or our worth. They do not make us monsters or beings who can be nothing but less-than. All that makes us is human. Humans, men, women, who do not have to be small. We are who we are, made as we were, and we do have something worth being, worth giving. Bigness doesn’t happen all at once; it’s a growing, like when we were children. It’s a process. But we can get there, you and I. God made us for big things; things that only we can do or be or create or give.

Even though you and I might have been taught to be small, we don’t have to stay there. We don’t have to believe that we have to be small or less. We can grow into ourselves,  rise up into our bigness, and we need not fear it.



When the Ground is Unsteady

The best-laid plans…

My plans for this year went to pot two weeks ago when I did a scary thing and accepted a last-minute teaching position at the same corporation where my husband teaches.

This was not what I had planned on! I had spent the latter part of the summer framing my mind to being home with my daughter for one last year. I enrolled her in part-time preschool, accepted an invitation to be a contributing writer with My Trending Stories, was planning my time and our budget to save more, cook at home more often, and maintain my workout routine. I was dreaming of enjoying walks and park time with my daughter, intentional time with dear ones, and time to dedicate solely to writing while my girl was preschool. And now, in a perfect hurricane of change, all of those plans have been shattered and my life feels as though it has shrunk immensely. I get up, I go to work, I pick Elizabeth up from daycare, I pick up or make dinner, I care for/play with Elizabeth, I put/wrestle her into bed, and finally collapse myself. There is very little time for what I love, for what gives me joy, and precious little energy with which to do or enjoy right now.

So, even though I know–I KNOW–that this is a good position, in a good building, with good people, and a good salary, I have to admit to having a very difficult time surrendering my plans to God right now. I am mourning the loss of them, the dream of them. The dream of what I thought God was calling me to. I miss my girl, I miss the life we had together. I miss the opportunities that I was looking forward to. Now, I am nothing if not unsure.  Right now, all I know to do is to get up and go to work each day. I have signed a contract for this year; I will honor my word. I will pick up my daughter from daycare each day. I will feed my family. I will clean house when I can. I will leave work at work as much as I can (though all teachers know just how futile this can be at times), and try to live life in the small spaces.

I gave a commencement address this summer where I spoke on not being afraid of being small, that greatness can be in the small things.  Right now, my life feels small, contracted down to the barest of routines with little room for the unexpected magnificent. All I can do is get up each day, keep my word, and do the best I can for my family and for myself and soul. Tonight, my daughter and I will have dinner with some good friends; a small pocket of time carved out that means so much because it shows that we are loved and cared for. All I can do right now is be small and try to live fully in the small spaces. Even if I don’t understand, even if I’m not totally sure of where I am or where I am supposed to be. I guess, for now, I’m here. I may not be entirely happy about that fact but, then again, I don’t think I necessarily have to be. Happiness has never been a requisite for me working hard and doing my best. I may not want to be teaching, do not yearn for it with all my heart. This was, honestly, a purely logical choice, for the good of my family. And that will have to do for now, I think.