She was a small, delicate Asian girl, modest and pretty. And this was how her body held herself. I held her arm, and it was acutely aware of where it was told its spatial boundaries were. “This is the amount of room it is ok for me to take up and no more,” it told me. “This is as much room as this world has for my ulna, and no more. I've never even thought about taking up more space. That would be greedy and immodest. I am a well-bred arm. I know my place. I don't want to be unfeminine or impolite.”
All that politeness was keeping her constricted into her perceived place in the universe, when really, her body would be so much happier and freer if she allowed it to feel openness and expansion. The mental proprioceptive restrictions we place on the body are much more limiting than the behaviour of our actual bones and muscles, which, at least under my hands, feel like
they're always waltzing around like very slow anemones. And they're not very “smart,” either. You can tell a brain, “what if not just your shoulder joint but your humerus itself could take up more space and be more open and bigger and more expansive,” and the brain says, “that's a load of malarkey, bones are the size they are and that's it.” But you tell the bone the same thing, and after happily dancing out of its socket and making an airier joint, it will do its puppylike best to extend in many directions. It doesn't know that it “can't.”
Take an arm through a range of motion, too, and while the actual muscles go where needed, there's emotional restrictions that show up, sharp and pointy. It's socially acceptable to have one's arm bent in front of one as if typing at a computer desk. But up and out? An emotional charge. Nonstandard, possibly not polite, and definitely taking up more space than a nice
I played a game with her body. I spoke to whatever part I was dealing with at the time in Musclese and said, “I'm going to model openness and breath and expansion and ease inside myself. You hear me and do that. And I'll follow you along. You show me what those things look like to you, and then I'll just bump your ideas up to 11.” As I went along, I felt the muscles and bones obediently waving around under my hands like sea puppies, but where I ran into difficulty was with her mind! The physical body was fine with taking up a ton more space than it usually did, it was like, “yeah, I'm always trying to do this anyway, it's just usually someone has the brakes on,” but her mind caught the runaway body parts and held them firmly in place. “This is the amount of room a hand should take up, this is all you get,” the mind thought. “It's not ok to be bigger than this.”
If ever there were a classic case of “if you can spot it, you got it!”
Not feeling allowed to take up space is going around. Through a miracle, my old therapist called me out of the blue and said she wanted to give me a few pro bono sessions, so yesterday I was sitting on her couch saying, “I am so big inside, and I feel like the world doesn't want to have space for how big I am inside. I feel like the world has one tiny space for me and
doesn't want to let me take up my real space. And when I let out even a tiny bit of that enormous thing, some people don't like it and they go away.”
It turned out I was not the only person in the world with that concern.
I have so much inside, rainbows and fire and cool streams and panther embraces, and I feel like I have to keep it all modestly covered with a black tarp all the time because that's all the world has space for. And when I let out a even little trickle, so many people leave.
But then I remembered, that's them. That's not all people. That makes some people go away, but they are small people. I remembered a place where ordinary people practice letting out all their rainbows at once, every evening: I remembered the milongas of Buenos Aires. Where if you're not letting it all out, all of it, then you should just go home, because that's what we're doing here, man. All the rainbows. All the fire. All the cool streams, the panther embraces, the sadness, the hunger, the peace, the past, and the strength.
Screw the black tarp, and screw the tiny people, I decided. When I am disappointed by people who prefer black tarps to my enormous self, I will just remember, that's them. There's at least one place where people understand about letting the rainbows out. And look at how essential that is to everyone's well-being. A Buenos Aires milonga is the most beautiful place in the whole world. There's nothing more beautiful than that symphony of rainbows. Break-your-heart beautiful
So why keep working so hard to keep everything bottled up into modest, polite, small little packages? Why tire ourselves out just so we can be unhappy, thereby accommodating a largely fictional self-inflicted worldview perpetuated by a handful of irrelevancies? Why not allow ourselves peace? And while we're at it, is it not our cultural inheritance as San Franciscans to enjoy the full flower-child trinity? With our peace, how about some love and understanding too.
Let the rainbows out.
And let the sunshine in!
Hair. Let the Sunshine In
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