This is not what I look like, but this is what happened a few weeks ago: I only got four hours of sleep. I didn’t have enough time to wash my hair that morning, so I put it in a bun, which then fell out in stages, none of which could be considered to be a “messy bun.” I last plucked my eyebrows a week before, but I figured it was okay since I was going to wear my glasses anyways. No make-up either, and there are still red spots under my nose from my month-long spree of nose blowing. My jeans were one size too large. My sweater fit like it was made for a man, and I paid four dollars for it at the thrift store. No "shabby chic" here. Just shabby.
But traffic stopped when I stepped out. Two men waited at either ends of the crosswalk, hanging back by the sidewalk, hoping for a break in the cars. I knew I needed to get home and take a nap, so I stepped out to the edge of the bicycle lane and looked at the driver coming towards me, who stopped.
This seems to be one of those moments girls dream about, but we tend to dream about it in weird terms: terms of sexuality, material wealth, and unattainable dress sizes. I had none of those things going for me. Simply stepping to the threshold and asserting my presence worked. The two men who had gingerly waited for the cars to pass hurried past me, seemingly grateful for my having stopped the cars, but I really didn’t do anything. I only put my foot down and moved confidently.
I have never felt quite as inferior as I did while trying to cross a street in Oxford once. I was a twenty-year old traveler trying not to be a tourist. Normally, I did a very good job of that until I got trapped in a crowd of real-life tourists—guidebooks, cameras, and all. The walking signal turned green, but the stagnant crowd around continued conversing loudly.
Behind me, a woman began to yell. Her thin arms brought her hands around her mouth as she leaned back and called out mockingly, “The Green Man says go!” Annoyed and self-assured, she returned back to her table outside of the café there, laughing with her friends about the herd of cattle polluting their college town.
That moment still bothers me, mostly because I hate how I let it bother me then.
I once had the privilege of observing the local university theatre ballet during their class.
The instructor of the course was graceful and aged, a woman who obviously loves dance deeply even when it has passed beyond the abilities of her body.
“Arrive in your space,” she said with each exercise.
The company was about to put on Cinderella a few weeks later. Even though I have only a small amount of experience with ballet, it was clear to me—and the others observing with me—which ballerina was Cinderella. It was clear when this dancer arrived in her space.
God puts us in beautiful places: a busy classroom of attentive children, our own messy kitchen table, the worn-out and torn-up couch of a beloved friend. These are spaces in which to arrive. We can follow our feet faithfully, dig in with our toes, land squarely, and be who we are: graceful, strong, beautiful, and capable.
The inferiority we might feel in spaces can come from many things, but these are all conquerable things. We are more than we think we are. We are closer to heaven than we think we are.