Thursday, June 30, 2011

Taking Up Space

I have been challenging how I think of space, personal space, and the amount of space that I take up. I know that I've written previously about a situation on a plane where a thinner girl in the plane seat in front of me had her chair reclined and refused to pull up her chair when the dinner tray arrived. I had to have the stewardess make her pull the seat up because there was no way that I could eat dinner with the tray resting on my breasts. I mean, I probably could have pulled it off....but it might have had a messy ending. This girl was really mad that the stewardess made her move....this girl also sighed heavily and rolled her eyes when I first sat down anyway.....I could just say that the girl was a bitch...but it was more of a case that she was disgusted with my size. This incident just fuels my theory that thinner people think of space in different ways and that oftentimes when faced with having a fat person in the vicinity they feel entitled to take up as much space as possible. I like to compare it to a little kid throwing their body over their toys saying "these are MINE" whenever a new kid comes to the sandbox....because well, we all know that fat people have this conspiracy going in order to take up all the space possible in the world.

I wish that we could say that we are that organized.

I am very conscious of the amount of space that I take up at any time. And while this sounds odd.....I try to take up as little amount of space as possible. So on a plane, I never use the armrests, rather I hug my arms around me the whole flight. I arrive early to meetings so that I can grab a seat where I am as out of the way as possible.....same with restaurants. When I was in school I would choose seats on the outside aisle so that I could get in and out of the seats without having to move past anyone. I also hate to have my back to any door. Part of this is so that no one can sneak up on me....but there is also a little bit of it so that I can see anyone coming and move out of their was as quickly as possible. I apologize when I have to move past people's chairs...even if they don't have to move. And if I get put in a seat where there is a situation where moving would cause issues.....I stay there for the long matter how full my bladder is. And don't get me started on crowds.

The thing is, is that in my head I take up alot more space than I do in reality. Libby and I stood face to face the other day and our shoulders are the same width apart. I really don't take up that much more space than the average person. So I've been trying to challenge myself in how I take up that space.

My first real foray into this was taking part of a suspend and bend yoga class. Basically it is yoga done in a hammock. Its looked fun in the video but I was apprehensive. My first question to the studio owners was if there was a weight limit. By their reactions to my question it was obviously something that they had not thought of. I explained to them that since there was a 15 person limit in the class and that I weighed as much as two people I was concerned that their ceiling might not hold. I know that this sounds ridiculous....but if you are a fat person these are valid concerns. The owners of this studio were cool about it when they realized that I was actually asking a good question. They reinforced the bracings in the ceiling and found out how much weight the swings could take. Its 1000 pounds per swing by the way.

I took a half hour intro course which was mainly focused on learning to trust the equipment. This was -and still is- the hardest part. I mentally could not let myself put my full weight in the swing. I kept trying to keep a foot on the ground. I freaked out a little when I was doing downward dog and the swing was holding the majority of my weight....the pose was way too easy. When I stopped worrying about the swing collapsing out from under me I had alot of fun. The class made me really really uncomfortable uncomfortable that I decided to take that as a challenge and went and bought a five-class pass. I haven't been back yet because of my schedule, but I am going to do this. I need the challenge.

This is just one step out of many that I have been taking in rethinking how I take up space. Tearing down those barriers has been very freeing. I've been fully extending my arms (and legs) in yoga even if the class has a bunch of people in it. I've been buying clothing because I think that the clothes are cute and not because I've gone through an extensive worrying process on whether or not I think that it will be flattering on me or not. I'm cute, the dress is cute, it will all match up in the end.

The other way I've been challenging this idea of space is by talking to other people about space. I hope that it helps open other people..... I still have a way to go with one of my co-workers who has a mini-seizure everything I say the word "fat". You know that scene in Lion King where the hyena shutters when the other one says the name "Mufasa" was just like that when I told her that I was a "big fat fattie and was proud to say that I was fat, and that I gladly rub my own buddha-like belly for luck". I wish that I could have had video of was classic. I want other people to think of size differently as well. I know that I challenge it everytime I am in a yoga class with others. In fact the instructor of that intro class (who had at other times snubbed me a bit) started talking to me where previously she would actively try not to see me. I don't chalk that up to her realizing that I am a fabulous person...I think that it has more to do with me shattering her view of what a fat person is or is not capable of.

I am not sure what the next big space experiment will be besides taking another one of these suspend and bend classes. Although Libby thinks that it should be horseback riding.....which could be fun. I haven't been on a horse since my teens and I'm sure that I could rock riding boots...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Getting It

In an odd turn of events, the past couple of weeks I have felt fully competent at my job. I've felt confident in all of the financial stuff.....that's not the issue. Where I wasn't feeling confident was in the area of training. Coming from a very very different background than the majority of my co-workers I kinda felt that I really didn't have much to offer.....but something clicked recently. Maybe it is the fact that I realized that I have the skills to teach.....which means more sometimes then having all of the knowledge base in the world. After all, knowing alot about a subject means nothing if you can't connect with someone to teach them about it. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I've been a information sponge at work and it is sticking. Or maybe it is because when I finally got to the point where I realized that there was more that I didn't know about in this world that I was able to be open enough for all of that information to filter in.

In this process of "getting it" I've noticed a change in my vocabulary. Or maybe I could just say that I've been using big girl terms without feeling pretentious. In a legitimate conversation today I actually said "that is the essence of white privilege" in reference to some actions of my past. Normally when someone uses "privilege" in a conversation---which happens more than you would think at my place of employment---I would have to suppress an eye roll. In my defense though, I've heard people claim quite often that someone was exercising their "privilege" when they were just being an asshole to someone else. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for trying to understand the reasonings behind a person's actions....but sometimes you also have to call a spade a spade and call an asshole an asshole. I also talked alot today about fat acceptance and referred to myself as a "person of size".....ok.....that kinda makes me giggle a bit, but I was totally serious early...totally.

I think that the interesting thing about "getting it" is that I've managed to re-tap into that activist side of myself that I love and miss. The downside of this rejuvenation is that I've been pulling alot of very late nights and early mornings trying to make headway on the eight-gazillion different projects that I've been working on. Progress is being made but the price is alot of sleep loss. By the time I get to bed at night I'm too tired to read. Which is sad because the books are piling up around me...... if I'm never heard from again its because all of the books that I need to read finally fell on top of me. I wonder if you can learn by osmosis better if you are trapped under what you want to learn from?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Bigger Than A Box of Brillo Pads

Don't stop me if you've heard this story before....just nod your head and pretend that it is the first time, ok?

There are defining moments in your life when you realize that you are incredibly grown up. My first major moment of this kind occurred about 3-4 months after I had moved into my first apartment. I was washing dishes and had a particularly gross pan and I needed a Brillo pad in order to scrub it completely clean. Now when I lived at home, I knew where the Brillo pads were....but in my own home, I didn't have any. As I was in the checkout line with my $1.69 box of Brillo Pads as the only object in my shopping cart, it hit me.....I was a grown up.

And it scared me.

I've had other moments similar to this....mostly times when I took on a new financial responsibility: paying for my own car insurance and gas, making my first payments on my student loans.... Oddly enough, I never really felt like getting married made me adult, but paying for the cheap-as-free wedding did.

This week I had another grown-up milestone....I bought a car.
My old car was starting to die a slow death. I was 16 when my Dad bought it and had been driving it for 15 years and close to 150,000 miles. And apparently in having the car for as long as I did, and for all of the memories that I made in that car, I can only find a photo of the back of the car as Jimmy was barbecuing for the 4th of July.

I had been researching for several months. I had saved up for a decent down payment. I had even asked my Dad to come along for moral support in buying a car while my parents were visiting Jimmy and I last week.

I was more stressed out that I needed to be. There were some financial history issues that brought emotional stuff up, but my credit was much better than what I thought it would be. I was very lucky to have gone through a great dealership....although I couldn't appreciate it at the time. The finance guy was trying to cheer me up but it wasn't working. My mom described my emotional state as "a wet rag twisted up so tight that it couldn't twist anymore"....and that would be an accurate description of how I felt. In the end, I bought a nice car that I can afford. Her name is "Ginger- the Red-Headed Step-child". She is a 2009 Subaru Impreza whose color is called "Paprika".

Things that are awesome about a new car:
1. Working right-hand turn signals!
2. A driver's side window that rolls down!
3. A CD player that actually plays the CDs loaded into it!
4. Being able to drive for more than 10 minutes on the freeway without the engine warning light coming on!
5. Feeling like a grown-up and feeling like I'm transitioning into a new era of my life.