Sitting in My Smallness
I’m a really small person in this world. Virtually invisible on social media. Rather unaccomplished in most any sense. And barely known or recognized in my own hometown anymore. Further, I’m even small in the actual, actual sense. I know like two people total over the age of 18 who are shorter than me.
Even though being a young person in the post-graduation world felt small, now at 39, after not working at all for ten years, has me feeling my absolute smallest. When you’re young, it’s a given that you don’t have a lot to stand on. But when you’re mid-life and you hand someone a pieced-together attempt at a one-page reputation summary, you may get little pity glances, like, “That’s it, sweetie?” It takes me right back to 15 when I had nothing going for me and all my hope put in someone saying for no apparent reason, “Sure, you’re hired,” except that most people my age have very apparent reasons to be hired.
A 23 year old director I would be working with asked for my resume and I confidently said, “Sure!” and all I could think was “Oh crap. Where do I find one of those?” I couldn’t even recall the last computer I had one saved on. It probably was such a worthless piece of aged machinery that it wasn’t even going to turn on once I located it. Even my yahoo emails from that long ago are falling off into some kind of naturally deleting program, so there wasn’t even a chance of finding one in my sent box. Talk about a dusting career. Ugh!
So I just started writing one and I think it took up one third of a page on my first try. I fumbled around and got wordy and after a couple hours I managed to make house management and motherhood duties take up half the page, which led to a virtual paper crumpling. It would’ve felt better to actually crunch up the paper and toss it in a distant corner. Delete just doesn’t do it. Eventually I went whining to my spouse who literally had to remind me about one of my jobs I forgot to put on the list. After some stretching and attempts at brainwashing my reader, a semi-acceptable one page resume came together, mostly from things my eighteen to twenty six year old self did. I kept thinking that she’d better pull through for me because the me-ever-since hasn’t been pulling any weight in the world’s becoming-something category.
Now that I’m looking for work and outlets to use my gifts, I’m finding something very interesting about this momentum. There is a very intense internal push to hurry up. Hurry up and arrive at being good at something. Hurry up to be known. Hurry up to be successful. Hurry up and be everything you hoped you’d be. Hurry up to be in a completely new stage.
What impossible expectations flood our little fledgling aspirations! Goodness, me! (I live in the south now). These weighty pressures are so deeply personal for only myself to feel (and feel them I do in gushing, heart wrenching abundance). I have to point them out even to myself in order to disallow them to have free reign to run me.
In the midst of this surging struggle, I have heard a specific phrase in my mind lately that has me stopped in my tracks. And thank God. The message has been:
What does the smallness feel like?
Don’t go a step further. Stop. Feel what it feels like to
Just. Be. Small.
At first I thought, I don’t want to sit in it. I want to move ON! I want to get somewhere. I am tired of the waiting, the detours, the sacrifice. I had three children ages 8, 10 and 10 when we got pregnant with another baby. I told people, “She missed the boat.” The stay-at-home-mom-boat. I loved staying at home but have known for a long time that getting back out there was my next step. Just be small? I was! Yet, it was true that the second I decided to “do something” all the internal freak out and inner insistence and general dramatic concern began. I needed to find some grounding in the midst of these winds of change that I had so warmly welcomed.
That’s why “Just be small” then felt like a relieving suggestion. The building pressure to be big and amazing and to have arrived was coming up my throat and the idea of just letting myself feel my own place of smallness for a moment, as part of the process, seemed achievable. Real. Even interesting.
So I have begun to sit in the smallness. To not hate it. To not separate from it. Instead, to wonder this raw, unseen place that every single person in this world encounters, sometimes with twinges of discomfort and other times with pure boughts of insecure trepidation that come with incessant squirming.
We all start small. The starting is sometimes at 16 and sometimes at 39 and for all of us it happens many times over, for many reasons. We wriggle and force movement and get impatient and grow restless in the process. Whether it’s facing having only 52 followers as an artist. Having a miniscule platform as a writer. Trying to get a baby company off of the ground. Applying for a job in a totally new direction. Looking for work after a divorce. Changing direction from a path you finally decided you can’t live with anymore. Whatever it is, the exact second in time that we finally step towards it – we can absolutely despise that we’re not there right away.
But what if while we were making our awkward adult baby steps, we just accepted each step as right where we were supposed to be – an interesting place worthy of our time, and a point on our journey we will never get to visit precisely again. And somewhere we could find great value. Because it actually shows a lot of courage. And faith. And stubbornness. And determination. And it reveals seeds of strength within us insisting on forging a new life, a new change, a new opportunity, whatever that may be for each of us. And even that bit of will within us has already propelled us into being something new.
What if we let our small fledgling aspirations sit on the table before us. All tiny and barely there. And instead of kneading them (and choking them) into something bigger with an impulsive, nearly hateful, impatience – we just sat with our darling start. And had a glass of wine. And felt very glad for the hope of a beginning as we let ourselves just. be. small.