On taking up space

My mom used to tell me, “This is the first day of the rest of your life.” It was what I heard when I was really struggling or when there was something to celebrate. And as a teenager I was perpetually either struggling or celebrating.

Today this phrase came to mind for the first time in a while. I was cycling to work when, behind me, I heard honking and shouting. We were the only two folks on a four-lane road in an industrial part of town.

Dude is unrelenting on the horn. I am unrelenting with the middle finger, holding my line in the right lane about 3 feet from the row of parked cars next to me. “DUMB BITCH,” he shouts.

Normally, this type of thing would throw me into a frenzy for the next few hours. But this morning, I took my middle finger and softly placed it, with the others, around my handlebars in a moment of total apathy as he passed. That moment was the precise moment I knew today was, in fact, the first day of the rest of my life.

This afternoon I looked up the origin of the phrase and realized that it’s about addiction and recovery. Fuck. Of course.

You see, our culture is addicted to people taking up as little space as possible. I am not dumb. I’m not even a bitch most of the time. I’m just not as small as he wished I was.

I have struggled with taking up space pretty much my entire life. I’ve spent many hours in therapy puzzling through how to do it. I have intellectualized the shit out of it. Today was the first day, though, I felt it in my bones. It was in my muscles. Every fiber of my fascia, every neuron, every cell felt it. My heart beat slowly and assuredly because it knew it. My fucking gallbladder knew it. I no longer needed my middle finger to take up space because my own presence on that road was enough for me.

Oftentimes in the classes I teach you’ll hear me say, “take up as much space as possible.” I think we all need reminders of our bigness, of our presence, of our bodies. I used to think I felt this way because I’m physically small. I had a beautiful reminder this week that this is universal. An athletic man, well over 6 feet tall, revealed that he often doesn’t feel comfortable taking up space for fear of being intimidating. This isn’t a gender thing. It’s not a size thing. It’s a goddamn human thing.

I learned something very precious this week. I’m in the business of breaking our cultural addiction to smallness. I’m in the business of helping people take up space.