“Staying Small to Stay Safe”

This phrase shows up a lot in healing stories and healing spaces. I just read a story that had this exact phrase. And this morning when I read it, my body recoiled.

So as I went about my morning, I let myself be curious. Not to “figure it out” but simply to be with my body’s wisdom. To connect with my passion and my anger, and just let them be with me.

Let me start by saying, in general, what is meant by this phrase seems okay. Because of various identities and realities, we all to some degree, hide in order to stay safe, maybe to very literally survive.

Then the healing narrative takes a turn where someone takes a risk and shows up more fully as themselves, vulnerably and in their power. Don’t get me wrong, I too believe this is a good thing.

And yet, there’s more resistance in me still, because I believe that more nuance can exist. In the spiritual plane I do believe that there is enough to go around when we all show up in our power. There is enough and we are enough.

And. On this physical plane-racism. classism. sexism. homophobia. transphobia. ableism. capitalism. etc. We all hold differing identities, and some of us are more marginalized than others. Some of us will be more protected when we show up BIG in this world (namely, white people).

But, who defines what showing up BIG even means (usually white men)? Sure, each person can define what showing up BIG means for themselves, and yet to pretend that we aren’t influenced by white capitalist patriarchy would be the BIGGEST lie.

So the questions I’m wondering about this morning is: (and this is for my white friends) could staying small actually mean power? could backing up actually be liberatory? could listening transform our outlook? could speaking just mean one voice among many, rather than THE objective voice? could quietness backed by action be revolutionary? could rest mean that we are left to notice the dominance we hold in our bodies, and to ask new questions so that healing can take place?

Simply put, I think “staying small to stay safe” is ableist. I think that “staying small to thrive” can be a deep, robust reality.

I am a white person who lives with a chronic illness & has tons of internalized ableism I work through every day–and will continue to. It’s difficult to conceive of the healing journey other than “getting better”-where someone else external to me has defined what “getting better” means. And usually that means healing for the sake of being more productive, and being less of a drain to people who can be more productive than me, who take on more work.

Being sick for half my life, has meant that I have done deep thinking and acceptance around the reality of limitation. To the point now where my limitations are a source of joy. And because I find joy with limitation, I don’t equate “staying small” with “bad” with “not enough” with “there’s so much more for you.”

Honestly, staying small has transformed my life. It brings me to the present moment of “enough-ness” no matter how I feel. Staying small disrupts the messages of capitalism, even for a moment–and just says, “rest, you deserve it. yes, even if you’ve been resting all day. rest some more.”

I believe my growth so far in this life has been lingering in the smallness, in the hidden spaces, not needing to showcase it, but at various moments sharing freely. And a lot of the time, spiritual transformation businesses and courses are just about capitalism, disguised with “spiritual” language.

Doing more. Showing up more. Extending more. Even being more.

Yes, sometimes these are what is needed. I completely agree. If we are stuck in paralysis and guilt and overwhelm, moving to action is healthy. And sometimes the quiet work is unacknowledged–or assumed that the quiet work needs to have a certain public element at some point. And all I am saying is maybe not. And maybe the quiet work is showing up in how I relate, even if there is no “production value.”

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3 Replies to ““Staying Small to Stay Safe””

  1. Wow. I never made the connection with capitalism before – and it’s not because I don’t spend my time thinking about that enterprise and the havoc the unfettered form has wreaked. But is there a fettered form of capitalism? Some would call that socialism! Okay, I’m going off on a tangent here. It’s so refreshing to read that your limitations are now a source of joy. I’ve begun to accept that being an introvert is cool, but I still have a ways to go with my other “limitations” (not that being an introvert is a limitation, but I sure was convinced it was). Thank you and I’m so happy to know that your thinking beyond “productivity.” I agree that sometimes we need to sit still. We need rest as much as we need to work.

    Liked by 1 person

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