What stories does your body want to tell? #6
When I am anywhere but alone at home, I feel like the proverbial elephant in the room. I am all-too-aware of my body, the solid presence in a space, my Being There.
Perhaps this is part of what it means to be an introvert and an empath — this feeling extraordinarily fleshy and physical, a great hunk of a body in a place, any place. I feel awkward almost all of the time, a not-knowing what to say, or where to put my hands, or how to sit and stand and move in a way that is comfortable but not clumsy. I am conscious of how dense I am, a lumbering Thing occupying a Jamie-shaped hole.
If I am talking to someone, I feel extra aware of the space I am taking up, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. I like to talk, yes, but in equal parts I am terrified and embarrassed and horribly, horribly awkward. It’s like watching me stumble over myself in slow motion.
If I am *not* talking to anyone — if I’m just sitting there with nothing to say or desperately scrabbling about my head trying to find something interesting enough to contribute — I also become aware of this space I am taking up; this square bodily form that is just sitting there like a lump. I like being quiet, yes, but in equal parts I am panicking and stricken.
I have had people tell me that I have presence, that it’s hard not to notice me and engage when I’m in a room. I was horrified to hear that — that people can’t help but notice just how much space I have taken up by just being there, a big pink elephant in the room that everyone is trying not to notice but can’t help but see bumbling, fumbling about out the corner of their eye.
Other bodies who navigate the same spaces as me — no matter how small or big or differently shaped — always seem perfectly, quietly confident and able to negotiate the spaces they’re in. They are “there” and happy to be there; they move seamlessly between physical and emotional loci. Most of all, they don’t seem apologetic in much the way I feel when I enter a room — “Sorry. Excuse me. Oops. Um, can I just squeeze past?” I think it’s probably because I feel I don’t deserve the same amount of space as anyone else. Why should I be there anyway? What am I contributing? What am I ‘taking’ by being here that would be better off going to someone else?
Increasingly, I like being alone — I go shopping by myself, I like asking restaurants to give me a table for one, and I find a lot of happiness in wandering through a gallery all alone. I feel then, when nobody is around me or with me or looking at me, that I am ‘allowed’ that space, that I don’t have to apologise for taking it away from someone else. I’m not the elephant in the room then, because there is nobody around to even know of the elephant. Is this strange? Does anyone else know this anxiety?