August 6, 2019

A Big Man in a Tiny World: What being Large has taught me about Braving Shame.


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At 6’7 and about 250 pounds, I spend a good bit of energy trying not to break nice things or inadvertently elbow strangers (or loved ones), folding my body into narrow airline seats, and exiting the app-based vehicles that cart me around on my adventures.

Yesterday, a silver Accord pulled up to retrieve me from a hotel near Washington, D.C.

You have got to be kidding, I thought. I had summoned a comfort vehicle.

I had learned my lesson about selecting a larger ride when a MINI Cooper pulled up to retrieve me in Dallas. On that adventure, I folded myself like an origami masterpiece and somehow inserted myself beside the astonished driver. My exit from the car is best described as something akin to a newborn giraffe trying to escape a net.

As I emerged from the car, I realized I had a bit of an audience who greeted me with knowing smiles and a few chuckles. So I rose to my full height, gave a little hop, and announced, “Stuck the landing!”

I’m a big man in a tiny world. Because of that, I get to experience a bit of discomfort on occasion.

But being uncomfortable isn’t only a product of our size or surroundings. We can be uncomfortable in a crowd, and we can be uncomfortable when we’re alone. I suppose that’s because we are never really alone, because wherever we go, we bring ourselves—our thoughts, our fears, our victories, and our defeats—along with us.

Being uncomfortable is, I think, mostly a state of mind. Overcoming my discomfort requires me to notice what’s happening inside of me, rather than trying to avoid what’s happening around me. I have to remind myself I’m not entitled to be comfortable all the time. I have to be willing to drop my expectations about things (in traffic, on planes, around rude people, in my business) if I’m going to avoid the suffering that clinging to my comfort can cause me.

None of that means I don’t experience pain. But I can notice that, too. And I can try to release it.

It isn’t always easy. But it is pretty simple.

The next time you feel uncomfortable—awkward, out of place, embarrassed, afraid, or worried about the future—maybe you can just notice those feelings. Maybe you can ask yourself what expectations of comfort might be their source. And maybe you can let go of them, if only for a while. And when they come back, do it again.

I’ll admit I’m far from perfect when it comes to this practice. But when I think about how much what goes on inside of me has changed since I began, I know it’s worth the effort.

I have to go now. My plane is boarding in a few minutes, and I need to start limbering up before I start the duck, tuck, and fold routine.


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