Just The Right Size



I have often joked that I’ve never been small in my life. Trouble is, I’m only half-joking.

I am a large person—always have been. I have baby pictures with my cousin where I am gargantuan compared to this tiny peanut of a babe. I was the tallest in my class until the boys started to catch up. I was awkward and uncoordinated with difficult skin issues and stick straight hair that my mother tried to curl with permanent wave solution. It did not work.

I was also loud, bossy and usually anxious about something—not the best combination for developing a strong sense of self. All these things made me feel overwhelmingly large in any social situation, so I decided that I might as well BE big, the biggest of them all.

I worked hard. I studied, got great grades, and learned a lot of different things. I became a master at cooperation and learned to blend in. I did what was expected of me, trying not to stir up the dust as I worked. I kept it up for decades.

I was the quintessential “big girl” absorbing everyone’s expectations, their grief, neuroses, demands, anger, neediness. Somewhere along the way—about the time I started to have babies—I became a really, REALLY large woman. I enveloped myself in a layer of extra pounds that kept me safe, well-padded and sturdy in the midst of the turmoil around me.

I remember successfully losing about 60 pounds one year and going for a dip in the pool at a friend’s house. She turned to me with a surprised look on her face and said, “Wow, Diana, you’re actually quite a small person, aren’t you?” Can you guess how fast those pounds came right back on?

Small? ME? No way. I was repulsed at the thought and shocked to think she might be right. I could not be small, you see. I could not. I did not know who I was as a small person. How would I possibly manage all the pain I carried if I were small? So I made sure I was big enough to shoulder the load.

And at the same time, I agonized over it. Incessantly. I tried to lose weight. I kept daily journals, counted calories and used new fat burner supplements. I lost weight with Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, but gained it back. Every single weight loss remedy out there went on my list. I tried all the special diet foods and the dance went on and on and on.

I have a hunch it always will, on some level. This is my albatross, my nemesis, my story. But as I’m living it, I am slowly coming to grips with some important core truths. At the top of the list is this one: the willingness to be small—to own my insignificance—is not only a good thing, but also a necessary one.

I am not God. Seems obvious, right? Well, yes and no. With the rational part of myself, I can readily admit this truth. But with the deeper self, the in-process pieces of my soul, it’s much more difficult. I can speak and teach and preach the truth, but living it? That’s another story entirely.

I slip into ingrained patterns too quickly—taking charge, being strong, offering care/advice/support/ encouragement/help. Very quickly, I start to believe the lie that it really is all up to me. I’m the big person in the room. I can handle this.


Talk about a vicious cycle! At this late stage in my life, I am learning to stop earlier in the spiral, to pull back from the pattern I’ve etched so firmly into my life and breathe. I breathe the Jesus Prayer, that beautiful, ancient reminder that what I need is mercy, not bigness:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Saying this simple prayer reminds me that I am very, very small. Only God has shoulders strong enough to carry the load, only God is big enough. I cannot do it and I don’t have to.

When I acknowledge my smallness, I tell myself the central, life-giving, core truth: smallness is a good thing, not a handicap. It is a gift, not a curse. When I let myself sink into that truth, I can let go of my unending quest for significance, for size. I welcome my truest self. I can touch that small girl inside, say soothing things to her, and turn her eyes to the bigness of the sky and the sea and the God who made them.

And in that moment, I am exactly the right size.