Making Space, Part 2 (Let’s be practical here.)
So on Tuesday I wrote about the idea of . As I go through this series on , I can assure you that I’m just trying these ideas on for myself.
Sometimes my posts can be super abstract. If I were a reader of me, I’d probably complain that I’m always all talky talky and never practical. So let’s try being practical for a second. Here’s what Tuesday’s post looks like for me right now.
First of all, the idea of “making space” relationally came from the counseling class I’m taking at my church. One of my instructors uses that phrase all the time to refer to a specific sort of listening: the kind where we are actually willing to sit in the hard silences with one another. Where we don’t offer answers, only space to be together in the difficulty.
That’s the sort of relational space I mean. I’m not exactly sure how I can pursue that in a practical way. For now, I asking God to help me be aware of the needs of the person in front of me. I know we can’t do that all the time, but I’m hoping I can practice a warm sort of invitation in the way I listen, the way I ask questions, and even in my body language. I know if I am frantic in my spirit, my presence with people will come across as frantic to the person in front of me who is looking for care. So I think it has to begin in asking God to daily give me an inner stillness, an antidote to the wild rush of our culture.
That kind of relational space has become significant for me as a mom as well. Last month I wrote a Deeper Family post about how I’ve been seeing my own anxiety . We have experienced so much progress for him in the last few months and most of that has to do with the way we communicate with him. It also has to do with his routine. My poor children were born to two people who love to avoid routine whenever possible. My vainest self likes to think that my lack of organization makes me “fun.” I’m the mom who says on the way home from school, Let’s just go to the zoo instead! Or, Sure we can do this super awesome craft and put off homework for another hour!
But my son is not a kid who needs last minute blasts to the zoo. He’s a kid who needs to do his homework at the same time every day, immediately following his snack. For me, making relational space for him has been learning to recognize what he needs as opposed to what I like. That means I’m no longer scheduling after-school play dates. He’s only doing one after-school activity once a week. The rest of the time we go home. Then we read on the couch, have a snack, do homework, play together, read some more after my youngest son gets up from his nap. And then they watch a show while I cook dinner. Every single day.
In our circumstance, making space has meant making a routine. Making space has meant protecting that routine, even at the cost of fun and adventure and kindergarten-friendships. That, y’all, is not my style. But it’s working and it’s slowing us down. Time itself is always a challenge for me, something my personality and my value of hard work and taught me throw myself against. How much can I get done this afternoon? How many memories can I make with my kids? Can I play with my son and respond to this important email at the same time? Making space has meant assigning times and categories for parts of my life. I’m learning that social media belongs in one part of my day and not in the other. I want my play with my son to be wholehearted. And it turns out he’s wanted that as well.
The other way I’m learning to make space right now in my life is to draw a line in my day for when work is done. “Work” is something that’s confusing for me. Because being on Twitter can be work. Facebook can be work. And during my daytime working hours, I may be doing so much administrative work around my writing, that I don’t write at all. That means writing for this blog often takes place on the couch from 8:30 till 10ish at night, and it’s done while I’m exhausted and cranky. I’ve been doing that for so many years and I’m just getting older. I don’t want to exhaust myself anymore. I want to rest and read. I’m realizing that my body isn’t made to work like this, even if my ethic says it should.
Also, I want to read. And I’ve been writing so much that I haven’t been reading enough. As someone who believes that you cannot possibly be a good writer if you aren’t reading good words, I know I need to make space for books in my life. So, for the last two weeks, I’ve begun a new rule at my house. My computer closes at 9 pm. No matter what. Whether my post is finished or not. Whether I have more emails to respond to or not. Hard work does not equal reckless work. And if my book release suffers because I work an hour less each night, so be it.
And can I tell you? Closing my computer at 9 has been wonderful. I read. I talk to my husband. I do some yoga. Monday night, Chris and I took some tea outside with our telescope and he showed me his favorite little patch of stars. It was like a little date, except for the part where I was wearing an eight-year-old hoodie and orthopedic house shoes.
So that’s how I’m practicing Making Space. What about you? What steps are you taking to make space in your life? What does making space look like for you?
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