All the (good and) small things
This has been a difficult week for me.
I love this time of year, but it always takes me a few weeks to get into the darker mornings and evenings, not to mention the (slightly) cooler weather, and the last few days — after a long weekend, no less — were quite a slog. Add to that the fact that social media — something I turn to when I’m feeling lonely and need something to cling to (which happens more often than I like to admit) — was flooded with incredibly negative and very trigger-y nonsense stemming from the circus south of the border, and I’m basically doing everything I can to not crawl into bed and stay there until some time next year (or beyond).
It has not been easy.
Baseball has lifted my spirits immensely, even with last night’s loss. Not only is it something I love that I can focus on and that can distract me from the stuff that’s bogging me down, but I get to share it with like-minded people — and being able to feed off of their emotions and positivity is a godsend. Admittedly, my time spent on social media this week has been mostly limited to me scrolling very quickly through posts and making mindless posts myself, so that I’ve been able to do what I can to skip over the stuff that puts me in a bad place — whether it’s relatively trivial, like negative posts about our baseball team, or a bit more heavy and home-hitting, like posts about sexual assault. I haven’t been very successful at staying that course, though, and am feeling a heaviness I haven’t felt in a while.
So, I figured it might be a good idea to finally put a post together that gets me to think of the good things that have come from the changes in my life. This is something I’d been thinking about doing for a very long time, but I just never got around to it. Perhaps I just needed to wait for a time where I needed to think of the good things, however small, that put me in a happy place.
All of this is going to seem incredibly shallow, and I guess it is. There are a lot of other really good and maybe not-so-small things that have happened that I certainly don’t take for granted — like not having to take medication for various ailments anymore, because I basically don’t suffer from them anymore. That’s a great thing, and isn’t really what I want to focus on here. This is about small things that we ALL take for granted, and that might not seem particularly important unless you’ve not been able to do them before.
Taking up less space is quite possibly the change that alters my mood the most. And really, if you look at all of the good and small things, they all relate to this point.
As a large person, I spent most of my time trying to take up as little space as humanly possible. My physical presence was obnoxious, and (in my mind, at least), it put people off, and I’d tend to do what I could to minimize that. On subway trains, I’d try to smush myself into a doorway (not on the side that opens, because that’s just rude), so that people could sit and stand without my immensity invading their space. At movie theatres, I’d sit off to the side or down in the front so that I wouldn’t have to be that person to sit next to you and take up most of your armrest and poke you in the side with my elbows (oddly enough, I’ve noticed that it’s not only larger people who do this, but whatever). I took to arriving for movies at least 30 minutes early so that I could get a seat of my own choosing, and so that anyone who would decide to sit next to me did so by their OWN choice — they were actively choosing to sit next to the person who was taking up too much room. It was easier that way, somehow (until people would approach and then walk away shaking their heads when they didn’t want to sit there — that always sucked).
Walking down the street, I’d move as far over as possible — even into the road — so that people wouldn’t have to encounter me too closely.
Concerts were a terrifying prospect, because you’d never really know what the crowd would be like and whether or not the seats you got would leave enough room for yourself and the people around you (spoiler alert: they wouldn’t). This applies to baseball games and other sporting events, too.
I’ve always been hyper-aware of where I was standing/sitting, and how much space there was for people to maneuver or exist around me. I didn’t want to be That Person to piss people off and make them uncomfortable. I’m sure part of it was the belief I had that I didn’t deserve to take up any space (I was raised to Stay Out Of People’s Way), but that’s a whole other topic.
But, given what’s been happening to my body, I obviously take up significantly less space now. It still boggles my mind, and I don’t always remember that I’m smaller, and I’m still not sure if that will ever truly be something that becomes second-nature to me, but on the days when I do realise and acknowledge how things have changed, and I have the full confidence to walk up to a bench on a train and sit either next to one person, or to sit in between two people, well… that feels like the Biggest Fucking Prize I could have won. I still get a few eye-rolls and comments from people, but I don’t take up more than one seat any more. It’s an incredible feeling, and one of those things where, unless you’ve experienced it, you have no idea what it’s like. I am Average. Wow!
And, a good and small thing to stem from my smaller size that has nothing to do with being in public: I can fit in my favourite giant chair. A year ago, it was a tight fit, and it was not actually my favourite giant chair — because when you can’t fit properly or comfortably into a giant chair, that feels pretty shitty. But, I can fit there now, and it has become my favourite giant chair. Amazing.
I can also fit into my bathtub. Glory be.
I can sit cross-legged on the floor (or, even in my favourite giant chair — a chair I couldn’t even sit in comfortably a year ago!). I haven’t been able to do that since I was in grade school — and even then, I was bigger than my classmates (despite being younger) and sitting cross-legged was quite possibly the most uncomfortable and terrifying thing for me (one of the many things I would get teased about). I used to dread when we’d have some kind of class thing where we’d have to sit like that, whether in the classroom or (heaven forbid) in the gym. Like, anxiety attack-inducing fear of not being able to sit comfortably like my peers and oh god, what if I’d get a cramp in my leg or if my feet would fall asleep or if I’d end up farting when I’d squat down — a far worse thing to do as a fat kid than as a skinny kid… yeah. This was in grade school. An 8-year old should not have to worry about this kind of thing, but hey, that was me. I worried about everything, and when every little thing I’d do could end up in me getting bullied, it was no wonder.
But anyway, I can do that now! I went to a garden party with a friend a few months ago, and I wore a skirt (whaaaaaat?!). And I sat on the grass, CROSS-LEGGED, and it was not painful and I was actually comfortable and there were people around and it didn’t end horribly and I almost cried because suddenly, a world of things like picnics and outdoor parties opened up to me. It was a revelation.
I can also sit with my legs crossed, one over the other, without relying on a table leg or wall or something to keep my crossed-over leg propped up. And I can’t stop sitting like this. It’s comfortable! And makes me feel almost lady-like, whatever that means! (It might actually be a problem, because I really can’t stop sitting like this. I get uncomfortable if I DON’T sit like this. My knees are bruised because I keep slamming them into my desk at work like an idiot when I throw my one leg over the other. It’s ridiculous. I’m even sitting like that now, as I write this. I’m addicted to crossing my legs.)
I can bend over to pick something up without worrying that I’m going to get winded — yes, that’s a thing that used to happen — or keel over because my balance is shot — yes, that’s happened, too. I can tie my shoes without putting my feet up onto something! (As a perpetual sneaker-wearer, this is a big deal.)
I’m taking a class in mindfulness, directly related to the surgery I had and losing weight, and we did a meditation a couple of weeks ago that required us to hug ourselves. I could hug myself. I could physically wrap my arms around the front of my body! I didn’t think that was something I ever needed (or wanted to do), but I could do it, and it almost made me cry.
I can shop at “Normal” stores. Last week, I stopped by the local Gap near work “just to try things on” and (hopefully) give myself a boost, and ended up buying a pair of jeans and a couple of tops — none of which were in the largest size! AT A “NORMAL” STORE! I’m frankly still a bit high about this one, though I’m fully willing to accept that their sizes are bullshit and adjusted for vanity. But still — I went in, tried on a pair of size 12* jeans… and they fit. And made my ass almost look presentable. And made me feel curvy and awesome and wow, and yeah. I’m still feeling it! And the tops I bought were both medium. MEDIUM. I’ve never even been able to buy a men’s medium before, let alone a women’s medium.
In August, I bought a t-shirt in men’s small!
(*Yes, size 12 is still considered plus sized. I am still fat, I’m totally OK with it, and yeah, that’s not really my point.)
I bought a summer dress this year (though I only wore it once because I’m still a little self-conscious about my arms)! I wear skirts without leggings! I wear leggings without skirts! I almost kinda like dressing like a girl!
I bought a pair of amazing and beautiful shoes with heels, and while I haven’t had much opportunity to wear them, I want opportunities to wear them!
A few weeks ago, I tried on the winter coat I’ve worn for the last few years, either to prove to myself that I haven’t really gotten much smaller, or to prove to myself that yes, I need to get a new winter coat.
I need to get a new winter coat.
And I might actually be able to get one that looks nice and keeps me warm! One problem with plus-sized clothing is that you’re lucky to find something functional — and if you do, it never looks particularly nice. But even finding something functional (and affordable) is next to impossible. So basically, you’re fucked. This year, I’m not fucked. And that feels really good. (I will, however, end up either being very poor because I don’t quite have the money to replace my wardrobe, or there will be baggy coats in my future for quite some time.)
The other day, I noticed something kinda weird: people’s faces as I was walking along a busy street.
It’s not as if there weren’t people’s faces there before, and it took me a few minutes to realise why I noticed this.
I was not walking with my head down.
I don’t like making eye-contact with people, mainly because I’m terrified of people and social interaction in general. It’s not that I’m rude (OK, I’m rude and not-personable and am very unlikeable), but I’ve always walked with my eyes focused on the ground a few feet ahead of me.
But I wasn’t doing that. I’ve caught myself keeping my head down, here and there, but for the most part, I walk with my head higher than ever before, and I’ve started making eye-contact with complete strangers — and the universe hasn’t imploded.
I’ve started smiling at strangers. And strangers have started smiling at me (even good-looking ones! And I don’t think they’re being sarcastic!).
It’s startling. Terrifying. And kinda awesome.
I’ll chalk it up to confidence, which ties in to the good and small things that I’ve talked about here.
I guess they add up, and maybe overall they’re not so small after all.