Even today, I am
disappointed that I never grew to be six feet taller or taller. In
my generation, I've always been taller than average. Yet, much of my
life I felt small, insufficient. I guess I wanted to be too tall to
As a child and
youth, adults frequently described me as shy and quiet-- which
frustrated me as I have equally often been told to quiet down and
"Please, just stop talking." In retrospect, I'm pretty sure I was
ascribed reticence by people who just didn't want to get to know me.
Yet the stuff in my
head has always been so vivid and loud. And I've never been shy
about talking. One of my oldest and dearest friends once called me
her “favorite monologist” (in love, mind you, in love).
It's not that it
takes a while for me to warm up to people either. At a
bustling writers' convention's keynote dinner, Jim and I landed a
huge and empty table because it was awkwardly located in the hall.
As the hall filled, people who had been buffeted from other tables
with “Sorry, those seats are saved,” found their way to our
stragglers who ended up at our table were strangers before salad.
Yet, by the time the rolls were out of the basket (not a euphemism), the conversation was rolling.
Jokes were made and called back throughout the night. People were
self-deprecating and insightful and candid. The conversation kicked
into high gear with people eager to throw in ideas and land the next
joke or tell the next story.
I should add
that none of us were attending as writers, some were fans, others volunteers.
As our table really
hit its stride and we were gasping to recover from a particularly
hilarious incident, a best-selling author sitting among other
luminaries of popular fiction at the adjacent head table said “I really wish I'd sat
at that table.” And we, at the table of misfit toys, burst into
another wave of laughter.
When my kids were
very small and just learning how to navigate in crowds, I spent a lot
of time trying to keep them from being trampled. I wanted them to
gain physical awareness of other people, crowds, and traffic
One day when Scout
was a preschooler and Rogue was a baby, I suddenly recognized that I
was asking them not just to make way, but to recede. To become
smaller. To take less room. As it sometimes happens in parenting, I
had that laser-focused moment of recognition about *my own* issue- my sense of
space. I've spent a lifetime apologizing for how much space I
inhabit. It was a reflex. Immediately, I scaled down what I was teaching my kids.
Yes, get out of the way, but remember you too are entitled to space.
I want my kids,
particularly my daughters, to know that they deserve a place in the
world. If it's crowded, that place can be smaller for everyone; if
it's open, that space can be larger. But they deserve a person's
worth of space in the world-- though not preferably not on the stairs
or in front of me when I'm carrying something heavy. Awareness and
accommodation of others is still important, but it doesn't mandate
sacrifice and apology in every instance.
I spent almost forty
years of my life giving up every shared armrest on a plane, or in a
theatre. I've sat through productions with shoulders pulled in so
the stranger next next to me can sit comfortably using the space in
seat. I felt sorry for taking up space- even the minimum space I was
So, I gave
myself permission to exist in the physical world.
And I guess I'm
writing this now to make space for myself in the digital world again.
When I started blogging about baby gear back in 2006, no one I knew
read my writing beyond Jim. Though I was thrilled to have readers
and moved away from blogging only about gear, I didn't really expect
it. I made the blog because I was tired of writing out a whole
bunch stuff for strangers who asked me about stuff I was using with
my kids. The blog meant I could just refer them to the web site for
When there were a
few readers, I got a chance to make jokes that my infant child
couldn't appreciate. There was shop talk about the day to day of
parenting. It was pretty joyful.
Then people I knew
subscribed. And it was weird, but not a big deal. Suddenly though,
I had to think through my writing differently. People might take
something for what it wasn't. There were new stacks of emotional
baggage lying around just waiting to be toppled.
When life turned
upside down for us with medical stuff, I throttled my posts even
more. Some days I wanted to pour out my heart and hear the insight
my online community had to offer, but I knew the discussion would
cause problems in my daily life.
That put a chill on
admiration, I've watched Anne Nahm write candidly about hard real
life experiences. I think about the stuff she writes on families and
life ALL THE TIME. It's honest and explores, like the
parent-blogging community of yore, what is really happening in our
lives- the kind of stuff you discuss with a friend over a meal about
your parents aging and dealing with siblings. But Anne took the risk
of knocking over those heaps of emotional baggage and told her sister
about the blog. I so deeply admire that she's been able to cross the streams (a la Ghostbusters) and keep writing about those deeply
important conversations we rarely manage to have but all so
I want to write like
that. I want to talk about things that are important and happening
in daily life, and to hear what others are thinking about similar
experiences in our lives. It meant so much as a young parent to have
an idea lab for those really hard things about being a parent. I
But I've gotten
completely tangled up in “no one wants to read this,” “is this
worth writing?,” and “how will people in my real life interpret
this?” to the point that I pared down to almost no writing at all
despite the fact I loved the experience.
It feels like I'm
now asking if my ideas are good enough to take up space. On the
internet. For free. And I've seen what's on the internet. I guess
I'm asking the universe for permission to take up space again.
I'm here to take up space. Come join me. Let's take up some space together.