By Tiffany Sanderson
If you want to witness the Patriarchal Wound in action, take yourself to any theater in Utah County, Utah.
Two nights ago, my family and I had the privilege of attending a community production of Les Miserables. (It was extremely well done. My compliments to all involved!) This particular theater in Alpine, Utah, is quite old. It’s small, but the seats are arranged such that there is plenty of space for bodies to move between rows, with only minor adjustments from those already seated.
We arrived about fifteen minutes early and sat visiting together before curtain. As we were waiting, I began to notice a pattern of behavior from those still filtering into the theater.
A woman would arrive at her designated row, pause to locate her seat, and then begin to shuffle down the row of seats. As she shuffled by, she would apologize profusely, and repeatedly. “Sorry! Sorry! So sorry!” Every woman, without fail, apologized for walking past us.
A man would arrive at his row, pause to locate his seat, and as he shuffled by, he’d smile politely. Every man, without fail, was comfortable taking up space.
This experience is generally consistent with my trips to any of the public spaces I’ve visited near my home, in the nearly twenty years I’ve lived here. Women in pretty much any crowded area always apologize for occupying space, but it’s easily observable in a theater setting.
It reminds me of a Women’s Circle I had the privilege of facilitating last August. I had been invited to facilitate with an incredible group of leaders and was asked to focus on opening the heart chakra through an experience, for my portion of the Circle. I had prepared myself with big words of introduction, undoubtedly meant to stir and inspire the group, but which I can no longer recall.
During the Circle, as I got up to introduce my experience, my inner knowing took over. I found myself off script, asking the women what sorts of things they find themselves apologizing for. I was blown away by the answers. Among them: Breathing. Eating. Not being enough. Being too much. Being too loud. Being too quiet. Taking time for themselves. The way they look. The shapes and sizes of their bodies. Taking up space. And the BIG ONE: existing!
Let that sink in. Women often feel the need to apologize for their existence.
I told these women, as I will tell all women: you do not have to apologize for existing! Things that require apology: when you’ve done harm to a person physically, mentally, emotionally, or energetically, or damaged their property; or when you’ve caused harm to any life. Nothing else requires apology! NOTHING else requires you to be “Sorry! Sorry! So sorry!”
Practice taking up space without feeling sorry for doing it. Shuffle politely down aisles, confident that you, as a resident of planet Earth, are worthy of taking up space on this incredible planet.
Fill your lungs with glorious air, giving yourself permission to breath, and exhale knowing the sound of your breath is the sound of the miracle of life in motion.
Fill your stomach with sumptuous food, knowing you’re allowed to take up space and are not required to make yourself smaller to please others. Give yourself permission and time to savor every bite. You are allowed to eat food for any reason. All forms of hunger are valid. Honor your body and feed it what it asks for.
Run and jump and play with your people. Hike and swim and nap and work, relishing the gift that is your body. Marvel at its ability to do what you need it to. Your body is a good body in every shape, at any size, because it faithfully carries you through this life. Stop apologizing for it! Live in it and love it.
Be confident that you are an excellent arbiter for your voice, as the only one with actual experience using it. As such, you’re the only one truly qualified to determine what level of sound, and which words, are appropriate at any given moment. Don’t ever allow anyone to make you feel small for having the nerve to use your own voice. Be as loud, or as quiet, as you damn well please. How you look is exactly right. No one else looks exactly as you do. No one. Your uniqueness is so ridiculously beautiful, it’s difficult to comprehend. As you fall in love with your self each day, relishing this gift of life, you’ll find that fears about how you look will fade into the background. How you look to others is just not as important as who you are. Let yourself fall in love with every splotch, freckle, mole, and scar. Admire the ways in which the expression of your light shows on the outside. Turn up the shine, because your light is needed in this world of dark corners. You are perfectly, stunningly, incredibly made in Her image, a solitary specimen of what womanhood looks like. You need not ever apologize for that.
You are worthy of your time, and as deserving of it as anyone in your life. Never apologize for taking time for yourself, and do not wait until you’re in crisis to feel as though you’ve “earned” the right to some of it. Your well being matters as much as anyone’s.
Sisters, I release you from apologizing for self. Release yourselves from a cage constructed to keep you captive in your own mind, and fly free!
Tiffany is an advocate for self empowerment and healing, fermenter of foods, writer of streams of consciousness, lover of the human race, and keeper of the old ways, from Lehi, Utah.