“Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question…” ~Brene Brown
This week we had three large trees removed from our backyard. They were dead and we have been discussing removing them for awhile now. I never anticipated the physical space this would create in my yard. I’ve been looking at my yard since I’ve lived here and grown accustomed to the way the branches touch the sky; to how the trees shape the boundary of my yard from my neighbors. As I watched them fall, I cheered (mainly because they didn’t hurt my Dogwoods). When I gazed at the space, I was surprised at how different the yard appeared. I can now see into my neighbors back yard a little better. I can see how the space allows for something new and different and good. How ironic that I couldn’t see the space prior and now it seems empty.
This is directly proportional to the space in our lives, too. Sometimes the things we choose to fill up the space in our lives becomes too much. Sometimes we hang onto things that have lived past their value simply because we are used to them taking that space. Other examples of physical space hogs: old clothes that I no longer wear, books that I’ve read and loved and just can’t seem to let go of, my children’s school work (how much do they really want to see once they’ve grow up?) furniture that was given but doesn’t really fit well in the space it lives. Then there is the mental space that we fill. It is either filled with thoughts that lead to gratitude, hope and joy or the thoughts lead to fear and worry and sickness. The choice is always ours.
The field of education is unique, because the school calendar provides built-in space. Naturally, each Fall and Spring Break, Thanksgiving and Winter Break, and summer break is an opportunity for space-space to relax or clean or travel or simply be. Because of this inherent space, the daily space during the school year feels less available-everything feels more urgent, more time sensitive, more jam-packed, which leaves less time to think. I cringe each time I hear someone talking about wishing it were already the next break or longing for the last one (and sometimes, I am that someone). I don’t think the vacation or being away from school is what we long for – I think it is the space.
Because to think things through, you have to have space.
My calendar can take up all the space in my day if I let it. If I’m not careful, the time I do have during the day to utilize the space in a useful way can get swallowed by meaningless talk or unproductive email cleansing. On the best days, that time is spent in classrooms, talking to students, teachers, parents, or creating something great.
With this in mind, I’ve taken Daniel Bauer’s and Cal Newport’s advice and built my calendar this year with appointments of “Think Time” or “Deep Work”. I actually make it a point to build in time and space to think and reflect on the day or the project or something that is meaningful and requiring more than just a checkbox. And while I may not get that much time, the time I do honor I’m better for it afterwards. I feel I’ve done something that is mine.
I’ve also scheduled space to do the things I need to do at home in order to be at my best. I’ve begun to purposely put on my calendar time for reading, writing, yoga and meditation. All of these activities create space in my life. Yoga provides space I can expand and move in ways that respect and honor my body. Meditation creates space in my mind for me to think. Writing allows me time for reflection; and, reading creates mind space for new perspectives.
And, you know what has happened as a result? I have found I do have time. I’m not too busy. I have space for what matters most – my sanity. We’ve all heard that if we aren’t taking care of ourselves, then we aren’t doing much for others, either. With this intention, I’m better at all of the other things I have to do. It seems as if my attitude about those things is more positive, too.
This week, I paid closer attention to what my children do while I’m usually cooking or cleaning. And wouldn’t you know it, they CREATE SPACE for themselves to do what they enjoy doing the most-being creative, thinking about something they find exciting, and doing just that. They are unencumbered by responsibilities yet, and easily, naturally, seek ways to find space to explore what peaks their interest.
By writing this blog, I’ve created this new space in which to reflect on the values and principals that I have deemed important. It is also the space I get to have more empathy, gain more clarity, and ultimately connect to more joy. This space can feel so scary; because the space is unknown and therefore as exciting as it is terrifying. But I have found that the risk is worth the reward. Not knowing exactly how the space will add value is the risk of the human experience. Allowing love in doesn’t mean it will stay; embracing vulnerability doesn’t mean there won’t be some hurt; facing challenges doesn’t mean there won’t be failures – in fact, by daring risk, guarantees failure according to Theodore Roosevelt, Michael Jordan and Brene Brown. My willingness to be present in this fear is the first step to seeing the joy within the pain.Thank you for reading this blog. Please let me know what you think and ways you create space in your life which adds value to it.