I am 4 feet 10 inches tall. Though I know many a short person who would trade bodies with someone tall in a hot second, my small size has rarely bothered me much. Sure, I get irritated when imperceptive people decide my age based on my height and thereby dismiss me, and there are times when I’d like to be able to reach the top shelves in the grocery store without doing my Spiderman impression. But in terms of simply being fun-sized, I generally like it. What would be the use of bemoaning my stature? I haven’t grown (upwards) since elementary school, so it’s not like I can will myself into a midlife spurt.
Plus, there are advantages to being small. I could hide in my locker as a high school student and jump out to give friends walking by a boost to their heart rates. My tiny fingers can reach lost objects in places where adult-sized digits would get stuck. I can sit comfortably in preschool furniture, and I can easily climb in restaurant play places to fetch my obstinate child when needed. And speaking of children, I tend to relate well with them because it’s no strain to make eye contact. (Also, I think they believe I’m one of them, because I regularly hear children stage whispering to their parents, “Is that a kid or a grown-up?”) Honestly, I wouldn’t trade these perks to be tall and svelte.
I have realized this past year, however, that there are times that I tend to make my presence as diminutive as my body. I often don’t ask for what I need, and I hold back on my opinions (sometimes) or feelings (often). I hesitate to make decisions that involve others for fear of inconveniencing someone. I abhor having people wait for me, even if there’s a good reason I’m the last one ready. This kind of shrinking is not so healthy as being at peace with my height.
I didn’t realize what I was doing until I was reading a prayer by United Methodist clergywoman Kerry Greenhill in We Pray With Her. In her “Prayer of Blessing to Be Who You Are,” Kerry writes, “May you take up space in the world” (169).
Oof. That was a much-needed kick in the pants.
Every time I don’t spell out what I need, I am not taking up my allotted space. Every time I bite my tongue, withdraw into my head, refuse to state a preference, or become frantic so as not to worry others, I am not taking up my allotted space. And space cannot tolerate a vacuum; someone else – likely a someone who has already annexed more than their fair share of space – will swoop in and fill up what I do not.
So in 2019 I am going to take up more space – not more than I am due, but the proper amount. I am going to use my voice. I am going to own what I feel. I am going to trust my gut. I am going to reclaim my time. I have already started making micro-expansions, and I am getting better at recognizing when I’m not taking up the space that I could.
In addition I will be looking for ways of coming alongside people who have either ceded too much territory or had it stripped from them. I am not alone in shrinking where I could be growing, or at least holding my ground. Let’s do this work of claiming our space – which really means living into the fullness of God’s image within us and God’s call to us – together.
Deep breath in, expanding our lungs. Exhale out, blowing our innovation and wisdom and beauty into the world. Let’s do this, 2019.