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Where’s your touchpoint?

By September 18, 2009How To, Writing

big and smallI recently wrote a post about contrast and how we need it to define things, i.e. we can’t name ‘cold’ if we don’t have ‘hot’ to compare it to. But, now I’m wondering what to do if the contrasting and defining object is a moving target.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know how big I am, or how small for that matter. Literally. I’m shocked by the mirror and the scale. I’m shocked when things are too big and when they’re too small. I’m shocked when I see pictures of myself and I come up to everyone’s chest. I’m shocked when I see my reflection and I seem larger than I expected.

As a result, I don’t trust any of it and I go about my days having no idea what I look like or how my body actually fits into space.

And, really, why should I? This is a case where the contrasting target is moving. AND, this is a case where the physical is heavily influenced by the emotional and intellectual self. For reasons feminine, cultural and uniquely circumstantial, my size and my perception keep changing.

  • In high school, I was popular, successful and an athlete. I was larger than life, but my body felt small.
  • In college, I was invisible, drowning with an eating disorder and unhappy. I was terribly insignificant, but my body felt huge.
  • As I entered adulthood, I was told to be independent and strong, but society and its magazines were reminding me not to get too big. I was confused and yo-yoing, my body didn’t know which way was up.
  • As I became a mother, I urged my body to grow in order to support my babies as they came to be and as they continue to need my protection, time and attention in this world. I am expanding rapidly, my body feels like it isn’t my own and its borders are too far away to see.
  • As a wife, I need to pull those edges back in to ‘me’ so that I can feel my woman-ness. My body feels conflicted and exhausted and totally bent out of shape.
  • As a writer, speaker and blogger in the context of this blog and a few others and in my immediate community, I receive insanely wonderful connections and feedback. My brain and heart feel big.
  • As a writer, speaker and blogger in the context of the world and social media, I’m just tiny. Little fish, big sea.

When I look at all of this, I see that the common thread here is relativity. It’s similar to the fact that I still feel 17, but my birth certificate says I’m 36. I mean, really? Is that true? What’s true?

I’m not sure there’s a way to escape it. But, I’m certain I can’t let it color my forward motion. If we sat around all day and thought about the 300 million people on Facebook, we would never join or think it could be a successful social media tool – and we’d miss out on connecting and sharing with old and new friends. If we thought about the millions of other writers that are out there – either getting published or struggling with rejection letters – we would never type another word.

Why do we look to the outside to define our size or simply who we are? Why would we look outside when outside is constantly changing and insecure? Huh. Maybe that’s why we’re so insecure.

Hard to pin your edges on something that moves, expands, shrinks and bends, isn’t it? Maybe it’s the inside – that still thinks it’s 17 and perfectly sizable that needs to be the touchpoint. That way, at least, it’s always up to us, the magnitude of the space we take up in the world.

Image credit: Steph & Adam

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Andi says:

    It’s funny I am always shocked when I see my husband and I together in a mirror, window or picture. I am 5’0″ he is 6’1″ but I never realize how short I am! I spent many years when I was younger judging myself against a societal scale, and then somewhere along the way (maybe age?) I just started saying that I am my own person, I am unique and I cannot be judged or compared against anyone else. I still battle the weight thing from time to time, but I try to go easy on myself and love what I was given. It is the inside that matters. Definitely the inside. Since I started blogging and being part of this community my heart feels extra full as well, something I did not know I was missing. I was happy before, but I am certain that there would now be a hole if I was to stop blogging. Thanks Julie for another truly excellent post, each one a little gift, slowly unwrapped as I read each word!

  • Jason says:

    Funny, but I have always been 180′ from your post. I seldom, if ever, cared what others thought or how they saw me. Some people see me as an egoistical, arrogant ass. I think they miss the point, which is that if you ask me a question and I know the answer, I’m going to let you hear it, whether you like the answer or not. Yet as a direct result of my analytical nature and “others be damned” attitude, most of my time has been spent in solitude… not really a bad thing, now that I consider it. I suppose it takes some people most of their lives to become comfortable with being themselves and being alone with themselves so they try to be with and please others in order to fill their own void?

  • Laura says:

    This is a good post. Most days I feel my body is too big and my world is too small.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Jason – it’s so interesting that you read this and understood that I was letting others define me…when, in fact, this is all about self-definition simply in relation to the life around you. I love the different interpretations that arise!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Andi – you and I will be the short crew this weekend! I’m 5’1″!!! Can’t wait to finally meet you!

  • Ari Herzog says:

    You’re not tiny, Julie. You’re HUGE! You’re a giant whale in the frame of oceanic mammals. If you’re not, none of us would be here.

  • I have this image of expansion and contraction.. not sure where to go with it though.
    I used to be afraid to “show up” as big as I really am… like I might not really be able to handle the real me… so I tempered, contracted, hid…. Not too loud, not too opinionated, not too, not too……
    I think we all define or see ourselves, in relation to our world, our people… and for me it’s been about self-measurement and knowing that I can be as big or as little (figuratively) as I want as long as I am happy!
    Thanks for this post, I’ll probably think on it for awhile.

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