Do you ever feel like you are too much?
Too big, too messy, too emotional, too loud, too enthusiastic? Too boisterous? Just too much?
I certainly do. Sometimes it feels like I just take up too much space, and the world would prefer that I fold inwards as small and as crumpled as possible.
In times like that, however, we would all do well to remember Tracy Turnblad.
In the much beloved musical Hairspray, Tracy is a heavy set girl with dreams of dancing. She goes to audition for a dance show but is told by the evil woman in charge that she is “just too much.” It’s done with a patronizing flick of the finger towards her girth.
Fortunately for Tracy and for the audience, her joie de vivre is not crumpled. She dances even bigger and more scandalously, and manages to make strides in attacking all kinds of prejudice, including racism.
Cheers always erupt when her also-big mom comes out on stage and sings “you can’t stop my happiness ‘cause I like the way I am, and I just can’t stop my knife and fork when I see a Christmas ham. So if you don’t like the way I look well I just don’t give a damn…” The song it comes from is “You can’t stop the beat,” a hyper-peppy ode to open-minded progress.
You may never find a better champion for the loud, proud, and deeply weird than John Waters, who directed the movie on which the musical is based. The controversial iconoclast has made a career of celebrating those that trumpet the taboo. When I went to a camp last year with Waters as the guest of honor, that was certainly true. The stranger the bent of the camp-goer, the better, and the costumes alone were enough to give the whole weekend an NC17 rating.
It wasn’t always my cup of tea, exactly, but as even the most proper of the attendees could attest, the world’s a lot more fun when people let their freak flags fly.
The camp was also a good reminder that it isn’t the whole world that wants to diminish you. Sure, maybe it’s some people, who are dismissed by one wonderful character in the show as a “a whole lot of ugly coming at you from a never-ending parade of stupid.” But there will always be people who will be a Tracy for you – willing to cover the flab with sequins and just own it, people who realize you are valuable when you are you, showing your muchness.
Those people will not define you by the space you take up, they will define you by the light that shines in the space.
You can decide for yourself if you want to lose pounds or be quieter or refine who you are. But you are not your fat or your noise or your mess. You shine above and beyond all that ephemera. And if someone can’t see that light, then maybe you need to dance on a different stage – in any case, don’t stop or muffle the beat.
To remember all that, I get into Locust pose. You lie on your stomach and lift up your arms and legs. In so doing, you balance on just one area of your body that usually isn’t involved in that sort of role. It feels neat in that it is strange but it also reminds you that you have a powerful core that that is you, and you can rely on it – a core without boundaries, a core free of others’ judgement.