On Sunday nights I like to take a zumba toning class. Unlike every other Zumba class that my gym offers, it is only moderately attended and so there is room to spread out. I’m not all that coordinated and I like to minimize injury to myself and others. I just like knowing that I have space. Space to dance, space to flail, space to get it wrong and even sometimes, to get it right.
Last week this woman keep trying to take my space. Like people and their church pews, I have a spot I like to stand. It is over to the side where I can stay near my water and have mirrors around me should I decide to look and be horrified by how uncoordinated I look. I have this thing about being in the middle, really the middle of anything. But this woman, who got to class late, must have wanted the same exact spot. Even though there was ten feet just to the left of her, she kept moving to the right, forcing me to move out of her way. Like dogs trying to show dominance, she just kept leaning in, moving over slowly and pushing me out of the way.
Too many times in life we feel that same feeling. Like we don’t have a spot of our own. Someone keeps trying to force us over because they think we have a better spot than them. They may infringe on our relationships, may take credit for our ideas, may find passive aggressive ways to put us in our place. All of this makes us feel like we need to take up less and less space. We become more and more insecure about our place in the world.
If you haven’t already seen the video of this poem, you have to watch it now. In it Lily Myers recites her poem, “Shrinking Women” and in it she describes how as women we are taught to take up less and less space in the world. She talks about how her grandmother gets more and more angular as she gets smaller and smaller while her grandfather becomes more and more round everywhere. Her brother says laughingly, “How can anyone have a relationship with food?” To wish she replies, “You have been taught to grow out, I have been taught to grow in. You learn from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence. You used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much. I learned to absorb. I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself.” Her poem tells of the questions she asked in genetics class that day, each beginning with the word “sorry” and how she spent all of her meeting where they were learning about their capstone projects wondering whether she could have another piece of pizza. She talks about her mom, creeping downstairs at night to eat plain yogurt in the dark because she doesn’t feel she is worth the calories.
I realize it is not just an issue for women. We do this at work, in our relationships, in our world, we find ourselves feeling unworthy, like we should just move out of the way of everyone else. You will meet people who will try to take your space in the world. They are unsure of what space they occupy and they come for yours. Or perhaps they don’t feel their space is enough and so they begin to spread and commandeer the space of others.
You were created for a purpose. You have more than just space. You have purpose, you have love, you have gifts, you have ideas, you have life. You were created for a reason.
Stretch out once in awhile, literally and figuratively to remind yourself of just who you are. Keep taking up all of your space, keep true to who you are, keep pushing forward and don’t be afraid to push them back into their space from time to time.
And in case, you’re wondering…I did get my space back by the end of the Zumba class.