true joy rests on strength and firmness within, manifesting itselfoutwardly as gentle and yielding. Three pennies laid in front of me echo this advice, and at once I understand that softness does not require

smallness. I used to face life with my teeth bared, and I had a knack for

figuring out the exact combination of words to kill the people I loved. I

was rarely spanked as achild because my parents could never catch me. I knew

what it was to have my blood on fire with the adrenaline of fierceness. As

I grew up, the world taught me it was in my best interest to be small. At

fourteen, my breasts were just mosquito bites, but men still stared at the

silhouette of my nipples through my shirt, so I started hunching my shoulders

forward to bring my chest in. Once the tallest in my class, my shoulders

began to slope until my head was lost among my shorter classmates. I learned

that "no" was not a word I had the privilege of saying. I learned it the 

hard way. Every woman knows what I mean when I say "the hard way." Here, I

am years later and still using euphemisms because I cannot call it by name.

The world said, "Be small because we want to keep you in a cage. You rare,

beautiful bird, we want you to sing for your supper. We will hover so close

to the bars you can feel our hot breath on your neck, and know how much we

want you. It's a compliment." I did not want to be seen sometimes, didn't

want to be noticed. I perfected the art of walking around on marshmallow

feet, startling my mother with my sudden presence in the room. My father

started chiding me for mumbling. I wanted to be small. But the thing about

being smaller is you get stepped on a lot. Some people are like animals, 

it's like they can smell it onyou. They can sense how easy it is to convinve

you you're small. Theye can't help but take advantage of it. I'm really good

at nurturing, everybody says so. My aunt says, "It's a thing that runs in

the family. People used to tell me, 'you are too kind.'" My best friend says,

"You are supportive to a fault." The world says, "You are SO nice." And I

did want to be nice. I am so softhearted but the world is full of vampires

that drain you of things more vital than your blood. I thought I had to kill

my softness if I was going to survive. Tenderness was weakness. But trying

to be hard, to deny my nature, killed me in a different way. I felt stuck 

with no answers. Desperate for advice, I cast thre pennies into the air

and consulted what their pattern meant in my Book of Changes. They said,

"True joy rests in strength and firmness within, manifesting itself outwardly

as gentle and yielding." Softness is not smallness