1. Wearing Converse. More specifically (I had to consult the beautiful woman sitting next to me in the coffeeshop to get this detail right, shoe novice that I am–good thing she’s my fiancée): Low-top Chucks. I got them today on a very sweet, spontaneous shopping trip to the thrift store and TJ Maxx with Mani and my mom. They’re blue, with white soles. They offer absolutely no extra height to my five-foot-half-inch frame whatsoever. And I feel short. I feel short because I am short, and often when I’m actually out and about, I wear boots that lend me a couple of inches, nothing extreme, but still something to bring me closer to eye level with much of the world. Want to see a picture of them?
The short part isn’t how I’ve changed. I’ve always been short. Small, petite, etc. Like, small as in I forget I’m small altogether until I go clothes shopping and the numbers of the sizes don’t match my self-image, my sense of bigness. This has been true pretty much forever. What’s different is settling in with it, happily. Wearing my Chucks and having to gaze up a little at Mani, not diminished but actually emboldened by being more fully present in my god-given package.
2. Acting ridiculous. Sometimes. This morning, I took Aviva’s brush to my head–something I rarely do and even more rarely do publicly. Then I stepped into the bedroom with a twinkle in my eye. “Like my new look?” I asked. Family lore has it I was a funny kid, the kind of funny I now see Pearlie is, how her laugh can set us all to laughing. I’ve also been serious. Am serious. Life is very serious business, right? It’s a real part of me, and there are ways in which I value and love this about myself.
Unforrowing my permanently creased brow more often, in exchange for the delights of silly and goofy and being able to laugh at myself, these feel like offering a gift to myself and maybe even to others. To make someone smile, sometimes at my own ego-busting expense–what could be better, really? See Exhibit A to your right.
3. Inviting vulnerability. Novelist Leslie Jamison writes, “Empathy isn’t just something that happens to us — a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain — it’s also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves.” Being empathetic to and inviting vulnerability from others–these come naturally to me. But loving myself when I don’t feel strong or happy has been a steeper climb, and sharing these moments with others, even or especially the people closest to me, even more so.
Why? In a word: Fear. Fear that my sadness and struggle are not as attractive and beautiful as my small, cute self or my funny self or my on-fire creative self or my optimistic and positive self. It’s not always easy, but I am changing, growing into someone who trusts that I can be vulnerable and still lovable, that these are in fact mutually inclusive, the former a sometimes painful but always worthwhile gateway to greater intimacy and aliveness.
And it’s a choice: To pay attention to the reflex to shut down. To extend a hand in the dark–Hi, I’m hurting–and clasp the one that meets mine, not despite my vulnerability, but because of it.
*Play along with Isabel Abbott’s “three things” project at Lists and Letters.