“advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.” –erica jong
“sometimes when we get angry enough at being treated as if we are small (very often when we feel small and unheard, it is not because we are small and unheard but because we are acting small and unheard), we get brave enough to trust those who think–and say–we might be big. one slight too many and we finally say our true name, but we “swallow” a lot of anger first.”–julia cameron
i don’ t remember swallowing anger. i remember my own internal frustration. i remember a slow constant exhaustion. i remember trying to have the smallest footprint i could. i remember trying to be as low maintenance as i knew how. i remember not asking for things i may have wanted or needed help with. i remember trying to not rock the boat. i remember trying not to cause true displeasure. i remember trying to be safe. i remember trying to tell the truth. i remember being a pattern seer. i am not saying i was successful with my trying. i am not saying i tried in appropriate ways.
but i remember my own frustration.
i remember my own exhaustion.
i remember trying to be small.
was there a slight that occurred that i somehow did not cultivate? no. where there slights that weren’t slights at all but crushed me none the less because i tried to be small? sure. were there slights i experience because of my own need to be small? of course. whenever i tried to be the size i am, it scared me and i shrunk.
graphic design was a foray, a dipping my toe in the waters, into testing my true size but it still made room for me to hide and be small in my anonymity. i started being my size when i allowed through guidance of graduate school my design to become my own (cheryl, fiona, beckett, ray, teresa, trishadeaux, eddy) which in turn allowed me to risk making bad art (padgett, orto, jimenez, kittleson, jacobs). in the bad art, i found i could uncurl and uncrouch from my self induced smallness. as i stretched out testing my extremities, it unsettled me and those who loved me in my smallness. absolutely they wanted me to be my true size. yet none of us knew what that was. there was a sense of unsureness as to whether this might reveal something in me as good or all shadowy and bad. so there was a tension between allowing and disallowing, between encouragement and shame.
some things i noticed even then was a dwindling of the many unhealthy things i did to say, “please, please see me.” the strange list of “see me”s that were shrinking were ferocious diet coke burping, crass humor, flumpy but cool tomboy attire (i thought) that cost next to nothing in the circles i ran in, boy clunky shoes, the many, many ways i denied my own femininity, pretending as hard as i could that i didn’t really care that i would never carry a baby in my womb, unkempt hair, trying way to hard to be witty and appear smart and that nothing could hurt my feelings. these things diminished as i no longer desperately needed to be smaller than i am.
though many days i would really like to be small again. it feels safe and i miss terribly the friends of my historical small self.
as a part of not being safe in this moment, as a part of trying not to curl back up, not being smaller than i am, i write. today i write because i have not been doing so. not doing so is a definite shrinking back. writing is part of being my true size, not being small or invisible. it still frightens me. i realized this morning when i was emailing a fellow writer friend some of my students’ writings and said, “i am not writing right now, so i am making my students write,” that i need to writing. writing, rights me. so today i write.0