She was the wrong size. Everything about her was too much. She’d been told so all her life.
For example, her words were too many and too big.
“Not you, someone else,” her teacher said when she knew the answers to too many questions.
“Nerd,” her classmates taunted when she employed her multifarious, multisyllabic vocabulary.
So she bought a paring knife. She used it to mince her morphemes and then spoke only in abbreviations. She diced her sentences and wrote with hashtags. She chopped up her words, verbed all her nouns, and nouned all her verbs. She cut out adjectives altogether.
But still, she was too much. She learned her feelings were too full, because she spilled them on everything.
“Shut up!” said her brother when laughter poured through her nose about something that apparently wasn’t funny.
“Get over it!” said her sister when tears brimmed over her eyelids because her feelings were hurt.
So she wielded her paring knife and gutted her emotions and excised her gut.
But still, she was too much. Her appetites were too healthy, which despite the dictionary definition of the word, was not a good thing.
“Seconds?” asked her mother looking from her clean plate to her waistline as she helped herself to more.
“Shhh,” said her fiance when they made love, if you could call it that, holding a hand over her mouth if she made a sound.
So she used the pointy end of her knife to prise out her hunger and heart. She set them on a napkin, and they both shriveled up like prunes.
But still, she was too much. Next, she discovered her ideas were too loud and over inflated.
“Hmmm,” her husband said and turned up the volume on the television whenever she asserted her opinion or made an observation.
“Excessive, unrealistic, inexecutable,” said her boss regarding her work proposals.
So she popped the bubbles protecting her creativity and inspiration, their spirits leaking out and floating away, leaving her with nothing but a fistful of dirty strings tied to deflated balloons.
Finally, after a lifetime of paring down, she was no longer too much. In fact, she wasn’t much at all. But now she found she was not enough. What’s a life without words, feelings, appetites, and ideas? she thought.
So she picked up her paring knife for one final job. She would cut short her life. Holding the wooden handle between both hands, she stabbed it into her chest. But after a lifetime of use, the blade was dull. It didn’t pierce her flesh but left an ache where her heart would have been had she not pried it out years before.
So she bought a new knife. A big one. A machete. But she didn’t turn it on herself. Instead, she used it to hack down the overgrown weeds and dense foliage blocking her path.
Then she bought a different knife. A cleaver. She used it to divorce herself from the toxic people in her life.
Then she bought a whole collection of knives:
A scalpel to dissect her feelings, to understand and honor them, not discount and ignore them.
A razor to sharpen her wit, to amplify her laughter not muffle it for polite society.
A bread knife so she could eat all that she wanted, because carbs and gluten are delicious.
An axe to chop wood so she could stoke her own fires.
A scythe so she could harvest the bounty of her imagination.
Two daggers to stare down anyone who dare shoot down her creativity.
And a samurai sword, just because it looked cool hanging on her wall.
As for the paring knife? She found the perfect use for it; she sliced off the pound signs sealing her hashtags, split apart her conjoined phrases, and freed her words to spread out into full sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and stories. She stopped editing herself for the convenient consumption of others. She wrote and spoke, acted and felt, hungered and craved, and thought and dreamed freely without fear of being too much of the wrong thing. She didn’t give a whit or one bit or even a single shit about how other people saw her. They would see what they wanted to see; she only had to be what she wanted to be.
And finally she was the right size, though she knew she’d always been.
Angela Y. Herron is a slightly neurotic (re)arranger of words and punctuation marks. She resides in Rochester, Minnesota, where she shares her writing space with three cats, two dogs, and one human. She’s a retired roller derby skater, budding triathlete, and practicing medical copy editor.