The Space of a Woman

Don’t apologize to him.

These words run through my mind as I pant and sweat my way through a workout of my own design. I’ve set myself up at the gym in front of a couple of pull up bars in a small square of a relatively large room. There’s only one other person working out in the space, a guy, and plenty of other pull up bars, but nonetheless, I’m worried I might be in his way.

I’m not sure whether it’s Midwestern politeness or a wariness of making territorial claims I’ve internalized as a woman, but the question “sorry, am I in your way?” is desperate to escape my lips.

Instead, I repeat this to myself: you’re allowed to take up space.

It worked at the time. I avoided apologizing! But in retrospect, my use of the word allowed is suspect. Who exactly is allowing me space? Me? Society? Whose rules am I trying to follow?

I’m using a new productivity journal that has a daily affirmation section. You write one each day for yourself, and I’ve discovered this is a tough task for me. While I believe in the power of positive thinking for other people, I feel like I should already be good enough without practicing it.

I shouldn’t need to repeat to myself in the morning, “I am productive and motivated to crush my goals.” The evidence should be there. The goals should be accomplished. What’s all this magical froufrou change-your-mind, change-your-life stuff anyway? (Sidenote: it’s worked wonders for me so I shouldn’t knock it.)

There was another time recently I was afraid to take up space. Again I was working out–running on the BeltLine, Atlanta’s major mixed use path. I was using a timer to go back and forth between running and walking, and at the start of each interval, the timer would make a loud beep.

There were a lot of people out on the BeltLine, and I was tempted to turn the timer off. Who was I to occupy their aural space for my workout? Forget that the people I passed were talking and skateboarders were rolling by and dogs were barking and bikers were calling out, “on your left.” Who was I to make a beep that would contribute to the BeltLine cacophony?

A woman who requires space.

Maybe that’s the affirmation. More factual than inspirational except in its truth.

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