I’m not a person with a very large personal bubble. I’m not brave enough to reach out and touch just anyone, but I would hug everyone I met if I had the courage. I love being crammed in the backseat of a car with two or three of my closest friends, because I like the proximity.

I also don’t have many personal boundaries in the less literal sense. It’s pretty difficult to make me uncomfortable as far as conversation topic, and ever since I came out, I don’t really have anything to hide.  I love to talk and I’m my own favorite topic, so ask me anything and I can talk until I feel like you’re getting bored. Then I’ll talk a little more.

That being said, sometimes I still need space.

My elementary school went from Kindergarten to 8th grade. We had recess every year, and the dynamics of it changed dramatically over the course of time. Kindergarten through third grade there was a lot of yelling, laughing, screaming, falling, playing. Sixth through eighth was a lot of cattiness and choosing the coolest group to stand with and being generally over it. What ever it was.  I remember a lot of eye rolling.

Somewhere in the middle, though, there were transitional periods. I’m not sure exactly what year it was, but it was during those years where you were too young to admit that you still wanted to run around and play on the swings (mostly because after a certain point we weren’t allowed on the swings anymore) but not old enough to know that everyone in the class couldn’t POSSIBLY be friends with everyone else.

Our class was small, I’m not sure if we ever hit 25 kids in any given year, and there was only one glass per grade. We were it. So there was a period of time when recess consisted of the boys doing boy things and the girls standing around in a big circle and talking about God knows what.  We would laugh and argue and just talk. Some days, however, it became too much for me. The circle we started with would get smaller and smaller until it was more like a blob. I would start to feel a little overwhelmed, so I would subtly take a step or two back, trying to ease the circle to open up a little. Instead, the blob would just start to subconsciously shift back in my direction. Growing increasingly overwhelmed by this, but not wanting to draw attention to myself by saying anything, I would take another, less subtle, step backwards. Sure enough, without breaking the conversation or even realizing what was happening, the group would drift towards me again.

At this point, I have lost the conversation entirely. I’m mentally coaching myself through the breathing process and weighing my options – I could say something and have everyone look at me and I really hate being the center of attention and it would be interrupting whatever they’re talking about but on the other hand I have reached the fence and I cannot possibly back up any more and we stand like this every day so I don’t know why it’s bothering me or why all I hear is a steady buzz I mean they must be saying words right why can’t I understand them anymore and oh my God I just can’t TAKE IT.

And I’d snap.

“OKAY!” I’d say, as loud as my panicked voice could manage. “BACK UP!” I would thrust my arms out, gently forcing the two people directly beside me to be at least that far away from me. I would say, “We need to spread out.”

When it didn’t seem to register that what I was saying was pretty much life or death, I would just start to spin. I would say, “If my arms hit you, you are standing way too close.” And I would spin with my arms locked at the elbows, thwacking anyone in my way until they got the picture, stepping away slowly while looking at me with raised eyebrows. When I stopped spinning and put my arms down, I would meekly say, “Thank you” and avert my eyes to the ground. The space between us made me feel calm, and gave me clarity. My face would flush, realizing how ridiculous I must have looked in my moment of insanity, and I tried really hard to disappear on the spot. Luckily, the attention span of pre-teenage girls is short, so someone quickly started up a new rousing conversation about the newest Mary Kate & Ashley movie, or whatever it is we talked about in those circles.

These outbursts of mine were few and far between – in fact, they might have only happened twice for all I know, but the embarrassment of realizing what I had done was so strong that it remained burned in my memory.  But that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel like that ever again.

Not necessarily at recess – by 6th or 7th grade, we had learned that it was impossible for 12 girls to possibly hold a conversation that interested all of us, so recess consisted of three to four clusters of girls, and I hopped from one to the other. So that issue of physical space didn’t really come up again.

But emotionally, I still sometimes feel my world closing in on me. When I start to feel like a person, project, hobby, job – anything, really – is asking more of me than I find myself willing/able to give, I shut down. I usually go to avoidance, entirely ignoring  it until it goes away or until I’m in a better headspace to deal with it. Sometimes I metaphorically push my arms out and spin, forcing it away from me.

I’m trying to learn to be more mature about it. To be able to look the thing in the eye and admit I need it to be at least arms’ length away from me for a little while. But until then, I’ll just do things like disappear and not post anything on my blog for over a month with not so much as a “brb” before I do so.

This was all just a really long-winded way of saying sorry for being gone but I needed breathing room. I’m back now, though. So come on in for a hug.

~ by Valerie Anne on 04/11/2012.

3 Responses to “Space”

  1. I liked this post. I know exactly how you feel about growing up, writing, everything. It’s good that it’s kind of an exploration and open-ended. And I will hug you. 🙂

  2. *hug*

  3. Thanks, guys! 🙂

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