The Mishegas of Taking Up Space

  1. If I had to name the biggest theme of my internal mishegas, it would be angst about taking up space.
    For the uninitiated, "mishegas" is Yiddish for "craziness."
  2. I have a strong desire to take up space. To be big and confident in my words and actions. To be loud about my anger, sadness, joy. To shout, sing, write, and create with abandon. To decorate my corner of the world with that which lives inside me, and to stand before it proudly, like a revered painter at her 47th art opening.
    But the dark side of that impulse is a gut-twisting fear that I have said or done too much. That I have knocked over plants and jostled other people in my pursuit. That, once again, I have taken up too much space.
  3. Though I know many people experience these oscillating emotions, regardless of gender identification, I believe the too much/too little space conundrum is very female in nature. We get such mixed messages. From the madonna/whore complex ("Be maternal! OK, now be sexy! Wait, not at the same time!"), to the way angry men vs. angry women are received.
    Consider, for a moment, how the American public reacts when Hillary Clinton raises her voice vs. when Bernie Sanders does.
  4. In my 34 years on the planet, I've had plenty of therapy, read too many self-help books, and have surrounded myself with supportive, loving family, friends, and a partner who loves me exactly the way I am. The people in my life encourage me to take up space. They applaud when I do and attempt to soothe my mishegas afterward. And yet, it persists.
    This is how is how i know that it's probably never going to go away.
  5. I have 2 choices: I can give in to the fear and stifle my expressive impulses. Or, I can learn to reason with my corrective inner voice.
    I know I'm never going to succeed in the former, so the latter it is. I also know I'm never going to succeed in anything if I let my inner voice drive.
  6. My inner voice can be an asshole, but I think it's because she wants to protect me from the world. She knows it's prickly out there for women who take up space.
    Anyone who has perused any comment thread anywhere on the internet can attest to this.
  7. So when she tries to shut me down, I have to do what I would do with an overprotective friend: I have to listen to her concerns, carefully consider each of them, and make her feel heard. I can't just block her out, because that will only make her louder. Instead, I have to thank her for looking out for me, but then respectfully decline her advice.
    And I have to remember that this is her schtick. She is always going to do this. The only thing I can control is how I deal with it when she does.
  8. The more I practice saying thanks but no thanks to her, the faster the process goes. I see her coming now. I'm prepared.
    Whether I like it or not, she's a part of me. Wherever I go, she's coming with. But whether she likes it or not, we're going places.