When I Inhabit Too Much Space

Katrina Willis essays

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I lie in bed on my back, suspended between sleep and waking, and feel the pressure of my own stomach weighing down on my insides. My breasts fall haphazardly, one toward my neck, one to the side.

I want to crack open like a cicada, to levitate from my fragile sleep in a new and lighter form, to leave this shell behind. My kind and faithful husband, I think, can dispose of what remains, can carry it to the trash and roll it to the curb.

I will be too busy being fabulous and winged and made of air.

Don't you worry about your health? My well-meaning friends inquire. About the example you set for your kids?

Yes, I say. Of course.

Here is a partial list of the things I worry about:

My bathroom scale

Buttons giving way and causing bodily harm to another

Stretch marks

The number of trips I make to the buffet


The view of those who walk behind me

Heart disease

The way my stomach undulates when I run

High school reunions

Bathing suits

Running out of Ben & Jerry's Karamel Sutra Core


Underarm sag

The Sirens' Song of the Oreos

Skinny neighbors

Bingeing and purging

Bingeing without purging

A thin, beautiful friend laments the nearly indiscernible layer of skin that peeks cautiously, shyly over her waistband. “I'm afraid when people hug me, this is all they feel,” she explains. I look at my own stomach (reluctantly), constrained by my shorts, resting gently on my thighs. The conversation, of course—because all weight-related discussions eventually morph into self-centered microscopes—becomes about me.

“What do you feel when you hug me?” I ask, awkwardly attempting to smooth my stomach with my fingers, to erase last night's glasses of wine with the mere touch of my hands.

“Hugging you,” she says, her radiant smile lighting the room, “always feels like home.”

I lightly trace the freckled skin that contains my guts, my bones, my heart. Thumb and pointer feel the lumpiness that resides just below the surface. What is hidden beneath flesh—but visible to the inquiring eye as rolls and hills and bumps—has a name.

It is shame.

I want to love me as I am, as precious beloved others do. I want to run on the beach without a care and without Glide to ease the chafing, to accept a pool party invitation without counting the number of days between now and then that are available for fasting, to throw away my Spanx and strut into a cocktail party with my head held high and my kick ass shoes drawing every passing glance.

But I prefer the skinny girls. The ones I am not and never have been.

Skinny = Good

Fat = Bad

Liberal = Kind

Conservative = Greedy

Smart = Successful

Dumb = Lazy

These are the lies upon which a life is built, the bricks and mortar that fashion the houses of our own beliefs. My house is solid and strong. I want to tear down the door. I want to run away. I'm ready for a new place to call home.

There is an intersection of scars at the point where each of my babies first breathed earthly air. They are portals to life and love and fulfillment. I cannot touch them, half-numb and thick as they are. But my belly folds over them, creating a dark, moist cavern. Once life-giving, now avoided at all costs.

A forbidden kingdom.

A paradoxical landscape.

This body has been battered and bruised and loved and honored. It has been taken by those who had no claim to ownership, and it has been held gently by those committed to its care and keeping.

Those people include others… strangers, lovers.

Those people include me.

I want to run free and light and full of nothing, to escape what holds me close to the ground.

But the gravitational pull is fierce.

And there are donuts, sweet and warm.


About the Author

Katrina Willis

Katrina Willis is a Hoosier currently living in Ohio and is married to her high school sweetheart and a mom of 4 kids. An author and essayist, Katrina was named a Midwest Writers Fellow, participated in the 2013 Indianapolis "Listen to Your Mother" show, and is the resident "Mom" blogger for Indy's Child magazine. When she's not reading, running (slowly), or pouring a glass of Cabernet, you can find her here on her site, , or on .

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