“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship” – Yoda (The Empire Strikes Back).
In this scene on Dagobah, Yoda challenged Luke Skywalker to use the Force and lift his X-wing Fighter out of the swamp where it was crash landed. Luke tries and at first seems to be succeeding and then he backs off and the X-wing sinks back in to the bog. “I can’t. It’s too big”, he says and then watches mouth agape as Yoda effortlessly lifts the fighter up and places it on dry ground. Luke has that look you get when you have just seen someone in the gym who is half your size easily benching twice your maximum weight capacity for more reps than you could imagine. “I don’t believe it!” Luke says.
“That is why you fail” – Yoda
A Short Tale
I’ve always lived by the premise that “size does not matter”, although it was a facade. At a modest 5’6” I would be considered short for a guy and indeed one of my many frustrations in life was trying to see what was going on past everyone in a crowded pub; everyone else being taller than me. Being short can suck, being short and skinny is worse.
Shorter guys usually get ignored by girls, get passed up for jobs or promotion and bear the brunt of “short guy” jokes. A mere few inches makes a world of difference in one’s self esteem and standing in society. We are as a species programmed to appreciate and admire what is tall, it is a ubiquitous fact with few exceptions. Short guys get the short end in life.
Since I first started getting conscious of my height in “High” School (no pun intended), I found ways to compensate. I played Rugby in my senior year because in my book Rugby was a man’s game played by real men. It was in my view the only true football code, soccer being a distant second because of skill. What better way than to prove my manliness than by playing Rugby?
The Pocket Rocket
My speed and agility on the field had me playing on the wing and I was also used as a Scrum Half and egged on by my team mates, “go for their ankles Pocket Rocket!”. My aggression was noted and in the last games of the season I was moved to Full Back as I was fearless in taking down much larger guys or picking up a ball and taking it all the way for a try. I was by far the smallest guy and weighed around 127 pounds, yet I was warned on several occasions to tone down my aggression or face the sidelines.
In the Army I chose the Infantry despite the jokes about my height not being adequate to get over the wall on the obstacle course. I was recommended for the Armor Branch where short guys are stuffed in to Tanks and Fighting Vehicles. In order to pass the Infantry course you had to negotiate a grueling obstacle course with weapon and webbing within a time limit. No small feat when you are shorter than everyone else and have to scale walls. I figured being a Grunt was what real men do.
In my unit I worked as hard, if not harder than anyone else refusing to let my size be an excuse. Coupled with my growing taste for alcohol I became immersed in the culture of “train hard, play harder, fight easy”. This was all to compensate for my insecurities and fears. I needed to feel accepted and fought the cruel joke God had played, handing me a sorry childhood and adding a small body as an insult.
Never to be outdone by my taller and bigger peers I would hit on the hottest and tallest girls in the bars and night clubs. Mostly my advances would be rebuffed but short guys know they can’t win the “tall gene” stakes so we go play the “hearts and minds” game. Fueled with alcohol and a cocky self confidence, I would either charm or amuse my targets in to submission. My friends would stare in wonder. Women would call me “cute”, it drove me nuts but who cares? All is fair in love and war. “Good things come in small packages”; I used that line more times than I care to remember. It worked.
“Look at me. Judge me by my size do you?” – Yoda
Doesn’t Measure Up
As an alcoholic however I was no good at appreciating proportionality. For me it was “all or nothing”. Moderation was not part of my vocabulary, not in drinking or in anything else. There was no such thing as stopping at one or backing down. Drunk and faced with a larger opponent, I would go for the knees, never letting my size dictate my fighting weight. I would compensate by fighting dirty.I would more often than not be beaten in to the ground.
When I tried to stop drinking I would find that I needed to take out my excesses elsewhere. Addiction has a wide scope and rather than seeking temperance in all things I would simply seek to substitute one vice for another. In any case I would soon return to the booze and drink volumes that belied my stature and eventually left me drinking alone.
There is nothing more pathetic than a drunken fool. The image is even more pathetic when that drunken fool happens to be pint size. Like my father before me I started to lose weight and muscle mass as my drinking progressed and I neglected my health. My clothes hung off me, my skin tone was unhealthy and I regularly sported a three-day stubble and pair of blood shot eyes. I was lecherous and repulsive. My personality became progressively worse. I was bitter, angry and hateful and mostly with myself.
Learning to Stand Tall
One of the wonderful facts of recovery is acceptance. Not only do we accept that we have a disease and see the need to surrender our attachments and let them go, we also begin to accept ourselves, warts and all. We learn to accept and appreciate our entire being, mind, heart, soul and body.
In accepting who we are inside and out we also accept other people. We stop condemning ourselves and we stop comparing with others in order to feel better. Our focus becomes more inward, we lose the need to rely on external factors to make us feel complete. In short, I stopped feeling inadequate for being short. I started to accept and learned to embrace it. I learned the true meaning of “Stand Tall”.
“And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.” – Yoda
I started to realize that my body is not who I am. This body is a temporary cloak, an organic structure designed to carry me for a few decades on this Earth. I have learned to respect it more and utilize it mindfully and care for it. My body is on loan to me, invested for a time and it will grow old and one day it will die and return to dust.
In the meantime I treat it with the love and dignity it deserves and maintain it for the gift that it is. Why should I care if I stand shorter than anyone else? Within me resides something which is far grander and far more magnificent than can be imagined. That magnificence resides within all of us.
I still dress to look taller though ;).
“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter” – Yoda