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Chapter 1. Too Big to Play

As far as I know I was normal at birth. No one ever told me otherwise. It wasn’t until that one spring day, after I’d just turned 5, that I discovered I wasn’t as normal as I might wish to be.

It was a rare moment, looking back. We were up in the neighbor’s back yard. The moms were visiting, watching the kids play in the grass. This time, though, my big brother was there, along with his good buddy Riley. Riley Larimer was a good natured, freckle-faced 11-year-old, whose presence meant fun for everyone. He and my brother were wrestling with the little kids. Us little kids, of whom I was one.

I was the oldest of the little ones that day – the ripe old age of 5. Ready to rough and tumble with my brother, whom I adored, I was taking advantage of a rare gesture of sibling generosity. I was carefree and exuberant.

Have you ever been there? Wrestling with a pack of juiced-up kids, jostling and tumbling, tickling and tackling? If you have, then you know that occasionally one of these exuberant bundles of energy can body slam you something fierce. That was me that day, with Riley.

I wish God would at least install some sort of signal, an alarm that sounds in life’s pivotal moments. The fact that we only realize the significance of certain events in retrospect is one of those design flaws I’d like to see corrected next time around. Had there been an announcement “Alert! The life of this little girl is about to be permanently shaped by misunderstanding. Take care,” I might have had a different relationship with my body.

But then again, nah. It was inevitable.

Riley took me aside, and with excruciating kindness, informed me I was too big to play that day.

Too big to play.

So innocuous. Such innocent words, delivered with such kindness. Who knew they would move right up into the core of my being, guide my perceptions, control my emotions, and split me right in two? Who knew? And who could have stopped it?

47 years later I am astounded by the impact of that moment, as I take inventory of the transformation I’ve been through this year. Stunned by the import of one little incident, awed by the fragility of the human spirit. And its strength.

Too big to play became my life script, the play book for my relationship with myself. And I didn’t even know it.

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