Tag Archives: writing

White Space

When a counter is clear, it’s not long before it is covered again.  A stray paper here, a paper clip there, a toy needing batteries, a toy that got picked up off the floor.  And wa-la, a pile has grown.  Usually this is what happens in our house.  Yet the unusual has been happening.  The counters I cleared, one more than another, have stayed cleared.  Hmmm.

Two things:

One–I am on a mission to conquer spaces.  This too has happened before.  But somehow something has shifted; something is different.  The idea is to keep a space clear once it has been cleared.  Since there are plenty of other landing places that have yet to be tackled, or cleared, anything that lands gets moved to that spot, or if the offender has a home, gets moved to that home.

Two–I generally don’t like clear spaces.  After all, they hold so much opportunity.  Look at that clean space! The perfect landing spot!  But somehow something has shifted; something is different.

It used to be that clear spaces gave me anxiety.  The why I’m sure is a longer story and an awful tangent and one I’m not addressing at this moment.  But the point is  important.  I didn’t like an open space.  It didn’t seem comfortable.  The counter is supposed to be cluttered.  It wants paper and clips and books and lost toy parts.  It seems so right.  An open space is an invitation to things, as if the things themselves are warmth.  The counter is cold on its own.

And this is true.  I like stuff.  But in recent weeks, I still like stuff, but I’m also liking open space.

The other night, I zoned in on clearing out newspapers that were on the children’s art/work table (that’s how it started and then I cleared that table too), on the coffee table, under the coffee table, in a corner of the kitchen, in a side table.  The next day (Mother’s Day!) I continued the project after dinner.  There’s more to this story and how it evolved, but the point is I have a clear work table for the children, the coffee table is (with my son’s help!) mostly clear, underneath the coffee table is clear and the side table is clear (except for this week’s paper).  And when I look at the coffee table and see the clear space underneath, I am amazed.  Amazed that it got done, that I did it; amazed that I like it.

I’m seeing open space and I’m working toward more.  I have a long way to go and many things to organize, move, store, donate, make decisions on.  It sounds easy, but it hasn’t been.  And the appreciation I have of the clear spaces is a surprise.  I’ve always liked the idea, but living it is another idea.

A third thing:  I’m writing.  Hmm, again.  It has been a long time since I’ve written consistently.  I have heard established writers say that writing is like breathing.  Again today, I read an essay by a writer who said that if something is not written down, it does not exist.  I am reading finally The History of Love by Nicole Krauss whose main character wants to make sure people know he is exists.  He is a writer.

So I am wondering these days.  I am wondering at the connection between my apparent new abilities to both stay focused on my mission to clear clutter and to appreciate and not be made anxious by “white space”.

I also read again tonight (in Oprah’s interview with Deepak Chopra in the latest O magazine) Deepak Chopra saying the soul exists in the space between thoughts.  (Being still and being conscious and present are on the current month’s subjects for the magazine.)  So I am wondering.  I will never forget (perhaps because I wrote it down) an experience I had long ago and more than once where, for example, the laundry seemed like so much work.  But if I would journal, then wa-la, the laundry was just a task and a tedious thing to do but not so burdensome, not so onerous.  I keep this in mind because I know that when I write, more seems possible.  Things that are normally burdensome seem less so.  I’m wondering if I haven’t been breathing.

Perhaps the white space, instead of an invitation to a pile, has become an invitation to the space between thoughts.  Perhaps it is an invitation to be still and conscious and present.  Perhaps it is more simply an invitation to do more of what matters and not be burdened but that which does not.  Perhaps simply because I am writing, I am less anxious and less in need of the warmth that comes from the clutter because in losing that, I have gained the warmth of breath.



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What is Clutter?

Clearly I’m on a clutter roll here… Clutter is anything that is in the way of something else.  This idea struck me last night.

Right now, my book club is clutter.  I love my book club: the friends, the interaction, the discussion, even the dinner–our venue is a casual restaurant which is so fun–no clean-up!  But I’m reading (or not really) books in which I’m not all that interested in right now.  The books are fine, the books are interesting, but right now rather than the latest Pulitzer winner, I’m on the parenting and organizing circuit.  I can’t get my head around much else.  It’s not that I don’t want to read the books.  But actually I don’t want to read the books.

So last night I walked into my bedroom and caught sight of my desk, which I cleared off and relocated (that’s another story), and an unexpected and involuntary jerk of joy swam across my face.  There resting on my desk was a copy of a book I wanted to read! And there was nothing beside it! You see earlier in the day I forced myself to accept that I did not want to and would in fact not read the current book club selection and I made myself return it to the library.  That book had been next to the book I was given recently from the World Book Night USA list (The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, if you must know), a not so demanding read that pulled me right in with the first page. The book I was Supposed to read was telling me that I was not Allowed to read the other book because I was Supposed to be reading that one first (In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, if you must know).  And I did want to read it.  Really, I did.  And I started it too.  But with so little time, did I really want to invest all those hours (I am a painfully slow reader) into a book I didn’t really want to read right now –as good and great as it might be– instead of doing something else I’d rather do–say read a different book, or maybe -gasp- some poetry – or write in my blog? How could I?

I did.  I stopped reading the book.  I accepted the loss and future challenge of returning to it when I was ready.  I returned the book.  I am going to hang up my book club hat for now.  I am going to read other books.  I am going to write in my blog.

When I saw my desk and only the book I wanted to read, I realized then the other book was clutter.  The other book was reminding me of what I was supposed to do rather than what I wanted to do.  It was a distraction.  It had to go.  It was a relief and a joy to see that it was gone.  In that moment, I understood clarity.  Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do.  But sometimes you don’t.  Some things are elective even though they feel like they’re not.  If the elective becomes clutter and not joy, it has to go.

In that microcosm I saw the macro.  Is my general house clutter a distraction from at the very least my writing?  Yes.  Is it easy to get rid of?  No.  Am I ignoring it to write right now?  Yes.  Will I address the clutter?  I am.  But at least for now, not at the expense of writing.

What is your clutter? What can you let go of to make room for what you really want?  It can be as small as a book you don’t want to read.

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Did You Give Yourself A Valentine?

First Happy Valentine’s Day! Second, did you give yourself a valentine today?

It occurred to me at the end of this heart-filled day that I didn’t and haven’t taken the time to make myself a valentine.  I remember my son in kindergarten making valentines for everyone in his class and then making one for himself.  To Aidan, Love Aidan.  I thought that was funny.  But maybe he had the right idea.

A valentine is a show of love or appreciation or at least acknowledgement.  My husband in a very hectic work week with painfully long hours remembered his tradition of handwritten notes and chocolate for the kids.  They found their note this morning and devoured the hearts for breakfast in the most silent morning kitchen I can recall.  The children exchanged valentines at school, bought goodies at the bake sale.  My daughter even bought me gluten-free cookies! I was very impressed at her thoughtfulness.  At the end of the day–well, the children’s day–I was still helping with a report due tomorrow.  After they go to bed, I still have dishes and laundry you can’t dream up. And then where am I?

So I decided I would write.  That’s my valentine to myself.

In a busy house with four kids, I always have something to do for someone else.  And I don’t make time for the things I love.  You might have more or less or no kids.  You might have dogs or cats.  You might have someone who depends on you and who you take care of.  You might have a job that keeps late hours.  No matter your circumstance, you are in there.

What have you done today for yourself? What special thing can you give yourself as a valentine? It could be a kind word, an acceptance, it could be something you’ve been neglecting (like writing or art or just being still).  Somewhere in today, find yourself and give yourself a gift, a show of love or appreciation.

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What Gives You Motivation?

We make time for the things we want to do.  We prioritize what is important to us.  Or do we? What about when we are avoiding things?

I love to write, but more often, I love to talk.  I love to teach.  Writing comes naturally to me, but posting, publishing, and that world do not.  If I’m talking, I’m definitely not writing.  I started this blog, and just as soon abandoned it, because it didn’t seem right (write?) to me.  I heard my inner voice saying, is it the right voice, is it the right angle, is it the right anything?  So I stopped.

Tonight I took time to read some blogs and found them inspiring and enjoyable–just to hear other stories, to appreciate that other people suffer the same happinesses and failures.  But I knew that.  It’s seeing it in print that makes it different.  It’s actually seeing the details –it is like having a cup of tea with someone and just talking about funny things, sad things, idea things. It’s this new way –new to me!– of sharing that I’m not used to.

I am motivated often to help other people.  But I am often not motivated to help myself.  Reaching out to people in talk motivates me.  I’m wondering about writing.

What I want to know is what motivates you? What inspires you? How do you make time for the things that matter?  How do you decide what matters?




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