Issue 3: October, 2011
“The space for what you want is already filled
with what you settled for instead.”
~ Richard Bach
Sitting down to write this article, I realize that much of my life for the last month could be seen as an illustration of Bach’s idea – I’ve been I clearing away stuff I’ve settled for and discovering what arrives when I do.
At the beginning of October, my husband, my mother-in-law and I invited a friend and band-mate in the midst of a major life transition to come live with us for a few months. She has moved into a “guest room” downstairs — a room that my mother-in-law had full of her out of season or seldom worn clothes, her sewing stuff, and many other things. Clearing out that room to make room for LeeAnn has provided a wonderful impetus to actually DO a bunch of the sorting and reorganizing we’ve been saying we wanted to do for the last, oh, seven or eight years. We’ve cleared out parts of the shed, the carport, two closets, and three cupboards (including, believe it or not, the tea cupboard), put one bed up on risers, put up two new shelf units, sold a few things, recycled more paper and boxes than I can fathom, and given away clothes, arts and crafts supplies, tools, pet supplies, blankets, books, music, toys, and probably other things I am forgetting.
It’s been glorious. We’re creating space for LeeAnn, and, in the process, we are creating more space for us too — space in our hearts for the fun of giving things we don’t need anymore away to people who will need and want them; space free from clutter and chaos, where it’s easy to find things; space for our friendship with LeeAnn to deepen and grow. We had been settling for clutter and the burden of a lot of stuff we no longer needed. We knew we were settling but, until LeeAnn’s need emerged, we had no clear sense of what we might be making space for by clearing that stuff out.
I have had many experiences like this in my life. Sometimes they are relatively small, like the one I just described. Sometimes they are huge, like when my first marriage ended and my health collapsed and in less than one year I found myself without most of what I had been using to define myself — partner, step-parent of kids under my own roof, executive director of a nonprofit, healthy/resilient person… It was a huge upheaval, and it reverberated through my body, heart, soul, mind; every aspect of my life changed.
It was traumatic. And, as I moved through it, I discovered room for a lot of things I’d wanted, but had not made room for in my old life: writing, music, old friends and new, yoga, walking, taking care of my body, a different sort of relationship with my step-daughters. I found a new vocation, and created a very different rhythm in my life.
I wish I had been able to make room for those things before the crises that made up that year cleared out much of what I loved in my life as well as many things I’d been settling for. My life has shifted again since then: new love arrived, my step-daughters continued to grow and are now adults out on their own, my solitary music making has morphed into a band, I’ve moved, my work has continued to evolve — the rhythms are once again very different. And as I settle into those rhythms, it’s easy to settle for things that are not really meeting my needs in the process of accepting the blessings that this life brings me. So I have to keep paying attention, to what I have, and what I want; to what pieces of my life are fulfilling, and what pieces are just taking up space I could use for other things
What will you need to let go of to make room for more of what you want?
Standing here, in this moment of this day, as you inhabit the richness of the harvest time and look toward winter’s fallow quiet, I invite you to reflect for a minute:
- What do you want to gather in from this year to nourish you?
- What do you want to let fall away?
- What overgrowth do you want to prune away to make room for what you want to grow in your life?
- What seeds might you want to plant in the spring, and how will you nurture them into the glories of summer?
Pause and notice what comes up.
As you reflect on these questions, check in: What is showing up? Maybe the energy stirring is excitement, or maybe you’re feeling a bit uncomfortable, or frustrated, or scared. What does your body know?
Sometimes knowing that we want something is energizing, and sometimes it is hard — sometimes we feel overwhelmed, and like we can’t possibly make room for what we want. And, Richard Bach is right, it’s not like there is a whole lot of empty space in us just waiting to be dedicated to this new thing we want to become — that space is already full of other stuff.
So how do we create change?
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself
as I am, then I can change.”
~ Carl Rogers
We start by paying attention to who we are now, and to what our hearts are telling us about who we are becoming. It is this work that allows us to create the path forward.