“You talk about being too much, taking up too much space…but if you had to be less, or take up less space than you do…then you’re reducing yourself in order to make yourself fit.”
I remember when I started wearing my father’s cowboy boots. They have a metal heel and are louder than stilettos on the grocery store tile. They demand attention, require that the person wearing them take up space. I couldn’t curl into myself and become invisible in these boots. They were going to make noise whether I liked it or not, and I didn’t want to not wear them, so I had to learn to own it, and square my shoulders and be ok with taking up the amount of space required to walk down the street in these boots. I began to wear them for that express purpose- a reminder to take up space.
When I started going by Malachi, I always expected that I would just shorten it to “Kai” because, let’s face it, Malachi is a mouthful of a name and, at the time, felt a little pretentious. Over the years, I’ve gotten an assortment of nicknames; funnily enough, “Kai” was never one of them. There are people in my life who have only ever known me as Malachi and the name fits, now, in a way that it didn’t when I first chose it. I’ve grown into it, grown into taking up the space the name affords me.
This is how I grow- by growing into. By tackling something that feels slightly too big and adapting to it, expanding until I fit inside the space allotted. But there is always a part of my brain that worries, especially when I can’t measure the size and shape and dimensions of the space offered to me. Am I already too big for this space? Or is this a space I need to grow into?
I’m exhausted today from an upswing in frantic energy yesterday that brought me to a grand total of 6 1/2 hours of my waking time sitting in the car and chain smoking. I did other things too, but my car is (and has always been) neutral space. It shifts to fit me, rather than the other way around. There, I can be as expansive or reduced as I feel in any given moment, and I still fit that space.
It’s easier to think of myself as a concentration of smoke. Given enough ventilation and air movement, it’s not too bad; confine me to a small enough space, and I will fit, but I will also be toxic. I wasn’t made to stay put, or stay still, or be confined within tiny parameters. I need room to move. I need to breathe.
It’s also fitting that I think of myself this way, sitting in a tiny car and chain smoking like pulling on a cigarette is a lifeforce without which I may disappear entirely.
The problem is, there is no predefined space for the size and shape of me. I do not look like most people, nor do I interact with the world in ways that are expected. And so I run into these problems where I do not know how much space I should be taking up in any given situation and, as a friend pointed out, I reduce myself until I think I fit.
And that makes me toxic.
There is a difference, I think, between “taking up space” and “having expectations.” It’s when the line blurs between them that I run into problems, and the line blurs when I realize there are fundamental things that I need that are not being met.
I am someone who needs affirmation, and kind of despise that I need that. I refuse to ask for affirmations because, for me, asking for them makes it feel less genuine and authentic. I put great stock in those friends who will call me on my bullshit honestly- I used to say that the best friends I have are the ones who will rip my writing to shreds, but that idea carries over to, “my best friends are the ones who are willing to put in the time, effort, and labor to help me become a better version of myself” (and I’m honored and grateful for those that are willing to do that work with me). By asking for affirmations, I feel like I am inviting people to say what they think I want to hear, rather telling me something honest.
That being said, unfortunately, affirmations are also really important to me. But it feels complicated because I feel like I am using other people to quiet my own brain weasels which, for me, is a temporary solution. I don’t want to rely on the affirmations of other people to soothe my own anxieties about taking up too much space but… fuck, I really need them sometimes, and that’s a hard thing.
So maybe this is another stage of growing into- knowing when to ask for what I need, and knowing when I am depending on the words of other people as a crutch to avoid dealing with my own shit. A different way of taking up space- not just in my body, not just in my name, or presence, or words or whatever- but in asking for the things I need from other people when I need them. Taking up space in the sense that I don’t have to do these things alone- I can take up space, not only in my own life, but in the lives of other people as well.
This is going to take some growing into.