Years ago, I was watching the Oprah show. This episode showcased a professional organizer who helped families tidy up their houses. (The problems of living with prosperity, I know.) This was about the time that a hyper-awareness of ‘stuff’ began. The kind of stuff that we buy, accumulate, and hold when we don’t really need any of it. According to the Story of Stuff Project, we began to realize that “We have a problem with Stuff. We use too much, too much of it is toxic and we don’t share it very well.” So, our living spaces, our natural environment, and I would add our psychological interiors filled up. Our lives are bursting at the seams. In response, there came about a small flurry of effort to clean up, pair down, store and organize in order to reclaim lost spaces.
So, this professional organizer described clearing out a room in someone's house to rid unnecessary stuff. While the organizer did her job, the owner was panicking. Even having signed up to purge her home, she had a tough time letting go. The suspense was perfect for TV, of course. But, the part of this story that I love is that while all the stuff was being hauled out of the room causing anxiety in the room, her children were delighted. When the room was finally an empty space, the kids started to dance in the music-less way that kids do. They bounded around the empty room, laughing and enjoying this freedom.
Can you think of the last time that you were presented with an empty room, free time, or any other open space? Did you decide to dance? We must also ask ourselves if we have ever created or allowed space for ourselves?
First, I want to speak to the difference between space and place. According to Wikipedia, space is abstract, without any substantial meaning whereas place refers to how people are aware of or attracted to a certain piece of space. Places have associations and are locations, whether physical or psychological, with which we already have a relationship. My interpretation is that space and place are not mutually exclusive.
How do you create space in your life? Do you carve out the time for a morning walk or a sitting meditation? Do you keep your day jam-packed until the moment you close your eyes to go to sleep? Or anything to invite the possibility of the unknown?
When we encounter open space, like an empty room, it allows for more curiosity, solitude, intimacy, and contemplation. This helps me understand why space can be scary, so scary that we have an urge to fill it up with things we are more familiar with. In a bizarre way, we are more comfortable with plastic things that will live longer than we do.
When a room opens up, can we rest in that space or perhaps even dance in it? Can we avoid the urge to fill it up with stuff? Can we be content with this openness and be okay with being lost in this space?
In A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit says that “Lost is a state of mind” and that “There’s another art of being at home in the unknown, so that being in its midst isn’t cause for panic or suffering, of being at home with being lost.”
This is why I am so enchanted with this memory of the kids on the Oprah show. Their immediate reaction to the newly open space was not anxiety or panic, it was joy and movement. What if our initial reaction to the unknown or unexpected was to rejoice and dance? The possibilities, I’m sure, are endless.
Image via Wallflower Friends