I long for a day in which nothing clamors for my attention. In which the things I must attend to stand patiently by, like good little soldiers, and await my gaze.
I’m feeling the overuse of the word “important.” I get many “important” or “urgent” emails that, in the larger scheme of things, are not really all that critical. I receive emails from my son’s school claiming “important” matters deserve my attention, only to find that the contents are nothing I’d consider even of mild importance.
Intentional white space is the name of the game at my house lately.
It began on a day I heard a woodpecker while walking the dog. On a quiet street, forcing my preoccupations to flee my mind at least temporarily, the tap-tap-tap of the woodpecker caught my attention. I remembered walking with my parents as a child, my mother teaching me which bird call was which.
And I began to think—do my sons ever hear things like this? Do they ever go long enough without earbuds or a screen or a class or work to hear a woodpecker? And if they heard one, would they even know what it was?
On that day, I began to work on our white space. While working long hours, there are days I resolutely close my laptop and unplug at a decent hour. I continue to clear anything unnecessary, no matter how small, from our home. I make sure my son has books to engage him and fewer scheduled activities.
It’s old school. It raises some eyebrows. Do we not want to be the next Olympic gold medalists/Rhodes scholars/wealthy country club members?
Turns out, we don’t. We want to love one another, pursue what lights a fire within us at our own pace, leave room for daydreaming. Make space for the laughter that rarely comes when we are cranky, overscheduled and full of our own importance.
The older I get, the less patience I have for ego. For self importance of any kind. For people who feel the need to tell me of the other important people they are connected to. I’ve interviewed CEOs and celebrities. It is rarely different from interviewing your average citizen for a man-on-the-street piece. At the end of the day, we all need sleep. And love. And none of us gets out of here alive, regardless of how many accolades we have to show for our days.
Perhaps, if we all make a little more white space for ourselves and our loved ones, we will discover that trying to race against and impress each other is really oh so silly.
And that the sound of a woodpecker in the still morning air is one of the truly important things in life. One which will not clamor for our attention, but will go patiently about its business whether we have the wisdom to take note or not.
I am choosing to take note.
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My kids are blessed with long tech-freev stretches each summer at camps. At home we try and largely fail. I agree with you; we need empty space and open moments, as hard as they are to come by these days.
Oh, that is so great for your kids! Wish more had that.
I sit here reading this holding a yin yoga posture in my bed on a Sunday afternoon, while the soft glow of sunlight brightens my already yellow room. I feel guilty knowing I have work that’s behind and made a plan to catch up a little on my weekend but here I sit, not doing it. I didn’t work yesterday either. This is me every weekend, and the work gets more behind. But I can’t resolve using my time to do what I do all week. I want not to feel guilty for my white space but other things seem more “important.” I know I am a procrastinator, but this feels like something else. It feels like rebellion. Though, the stress of begin behind is eating me alive
I am hoping the Europeans win the culture wars :-). I hope that our obsessive compulsive work habits do not rub off on them but rather, we realize their capability to enjoy life trumps ours:)
Lately, I am realizing more and more how important rest is. I heard a podcast about a woman whose family decided to go on a “sabbatical” of sorts from all of their extracurricular that kept them so busy and seeking status. It was a game changer.
I bet it was a game changer! So few of us try this experiment but the few I know who have done it have been really pleased with the results :-).
I’ll never think of white space the same way since reading this post. As a teacher, I used to look out at adolescents drooping in their seats sleepy-eyed and over-scheduled and do my best to engage them with books and give them time to listen to one another and relax into conversation about things that mattered to them. Then, of course, it would be time to whip them into shape for the state test, and they would droop again. You’re a good mother.
Thank you:). I get it right on a good day!
I so agree with you on this one! We have done the same thing in our lives… created white space. Moving to our home in the country, away from traffic, noise and “see-able” neighbors has helped! 😉 But we still can be overscheduled with the importance of the urgent… which like you said.. is not really urgent at all.
I have found with my kids, as well, that giving them space to just be, imagine and off-screen helps in their mental health and in our family dynamics.
I was just thinking about this tonight as I was washing dishes and gazing out the window.
As a kid, we used to play our evenings away and spending many nights just sitting together on the front steps talking about nothing and everything all at the same time. Those were important simple times and shaped my family and relationships with my siblings more than I realized at the time.
Creating white space and taking notice.. it’s a good thing! Thanks for sharing these musings!
I bet your move helped! My sister and her husband live on a Christmas tree farm :-). Whenever I visit, I feel so very peaceful. Just being in nature and away from the hustle and bustle, as you said, is the ticket.
Yes! I love your philosophy of white space and time to see and dream. The best thing about being a young person was all that time to play and dream, but we can still do some of that as adults too 🙂
Oh, I agree 100%. And I’m feeling more and more like it’s my job to protect my sons’ childhood. It seems we put them straight to work with hectic schedules . . .
I read a simple sentence a few years back – ‘it’s ok to be bored’. When kids say ‘I’m bored’, don’t go finding them stuff to do. They will learn to inhabit the ‘white space’, think about stuff, see things differently, discover other aspects of ‘being’. Not only kids, but I’ve learnt to do nothing sometimes, laze about, recharge. And life becomes less stressful and more meaningful. Nice wisdom Kristine.
Recharge. Now there’s a nice word:). Yes, I need some moodling time to get my creative juices going again. And I would think it’s even more necessary for kids!
Very nicely expressed, esp with the anecdote of the woodpecker and your mother, the memory of early experiences visiting you amidst your hectic life. Reminds me of a saying by the psychologist Erik Erikson:
The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work
Oh, that’s a quote I have not heard! Love it when that happens. Working on the rainbow time in our house:).
Kristine, prior to reading this post, the rush-rush of an 18hr day with no end in sight had me feeling overwhelmed. This piece, like a moment alone with Vivaldi, forced me to take a much-needed pause.
Thank you for the white space.
18 hours! Oh my goodness. You deserve a blank canvas with no noise for at least a couple of days :-). I’m glad this reminded you to take a breath.
I believe more white space — or quiet time free from electronics — makes people more creative and more likely to break away from environmental cacophony to do great things. Or important things. Or things that matter most to you, which makes them great and important. You are lucky you have discovered this and are wise enough to act upon your discovery. I sometimes give myself “email-free days.” I often have to explain that to people because they tend to think I’m ignoring them. I also tell people they can’t expect to contact me by phone during the weekend because I put it down, sometimes turn it off, and nearly always let my home be a refuge at least some of the time. Again, though, I must let my friends know that because so many people have become accustomed to having immediate access to people on their contact list. NOT ME. If someone needs to get me, they can text and I’ll call or check an email when it works for me. To write and to properly analyze or interpret information, you need space for reflection and consideration. And to read without interruption if necessary. Grab that space! You deserve it now and forever.
Love that you set firm boundaries. I agree that if we all got more in touch with quiet space, the world would be better off!
Well done Kristine, to reach that place that finally has meaning in our lives, and usually something that, as you say, is in between the so called important bits…the white space of our lives.
I had one of those moments last night…over ‘my’ lake I could hear the swans calling to one another. That sound was like nothing else in this world, but the love of what is so natural in our world. Listening to them almost brought me to tears, such a soulful call.
But in ‘our’ world we are too busy, too far ‘out there’, to many ‘important’ bits all around…and as you say…’for what!’.
Glad that your heart is opening and hearing what is in fact your ‘truth’, in what is real and what is just us avoiding that place through our fears.
May the calls in your world always be heard Kristine, whether knocking on wood or the call’s of a heart…especially your own 😀 ❤
Thank you, Mark. Hope I never stop pausing and listening:).
You have hit the nail on the head, Sister!
I wonder about my sons ability to stop and listen. I know I work on it regularly. I need to. Connecting myself to nature, to quiet… breathe….
Right?! I think we are going to have an entire generation that will be adults and still need to learn to pause and listen.
Oh for sure!!
Thanks! For reading and for the kind words:).
“…the sound of a woodpecker in the still morning air is one of the truly important things in life. ” Right on the mark! Thank you.
Right?! Just brings everything into clear focus. Kind of like hearing loons across the lake at desk :-).