Celebrating ma

Hi there. My Japanese readers might understand this headline, but those elsewhere who aren’t into design or finding their Zen probably think this post is about Mother’s Day. It’s not😊. But Happy Mother’s Day to those of you in the States who are soon to celebrate! Let the family spoil you this weekend.

Stick with me and you’ll soon know what ma is—and why I think we’re all steeped in it right now.

Isn’t it funny how we are creatures of habit? We humans get our brains and bodies trained in a groove and we just want it to continue. So we know what to expect. So we can plan ahead. So things are “normal.”

Right now, when things are still anything but normal during the pandemic, many people are chomping at the bit to return to life as they knew it, their habits, their routines.

And you know where I fall on the spectrum there, based on my previous blogs. I am all for social distancing to help protect us collectively. I think this is a “we” moment, not a “me” moment.

Today, it was brought home to me just how much we go on autopilot sometimes. My youngest and I were masking up to head to our local bike store so he could choose a bike that fit his growing frame. (And yes—they only allowed us in the store. No other customers simultaneously. And yes—we were all masked.) I told him to text his brother to see if he could meet us there with his truck, so he could get the bike home for us.

He did so, only to receive this reply: “Hmmm . . . if only there were a way to move a bike . . . like a pedal system.” Texted in true Big Bro fashion, dripping with sarcasm but causing us to burst out in peals of laughter. Book nerds that we are—and also as two people used to being short on time with somewhere else to go—we hadn’t even considered him actually RIDING the bike home. A solution fit for purpose, no? Especially during a quarantine in which there really isn’t anywhere else to go.

We are still so programmed for our previous life—pre-pandemic—that we just weren’t thinking.

And now you can guess where I’m headed. Here we go.

Stressful events that change our lives significantly are never fun. I became a bit of a specialist in these about a decade ago when my marriage ended, my parents died, my sister had cancer . . . I won’t go on. I really wanted things back to normal—and fast. But normal was gone. And as I look back, while “normal” had its high points, it really wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

I was not in my “old life” but not quite in my “new life” yet either, at the time. The Japanese have a word for this: ma. It means the space in between. In design, it could mean the space between two structural parts. And in life, it means not things, but the space in between them. Look at the image that comes with this blog. Do you see two faces? An urn? Or do you see the play of contrast and space?

I believe we’re all in ma right now. It’s just not all of us are comfortable with it.

I see all of these people who have decided their foray into civil disobedience will be protesting that they can’t get their hair colored or that they can’t have a party. They’re holding up horrific signs that say things like: “Sacrifice the weak. Open up Tennessee.” And I’ll not elaborate on my opinions there because you can guess them. I’m not handing them a crying towel, that’s for sure.

Ma requires us to sit in a space that is not filled with all of our old comforts. And I have little patience with those who immediately jump up, unable to sit with whatever comes up inside of them. Sometimes ma helps us decide what we are. But first, it usually helps us decide what we are not—generally because we realize what we can live without, what doesn’t work for us, what was just filling a void instead of moving us to the next level of our life. Ma points to the ersatz corners of our life, and gives us a chance–if we sit with the discomfort–to choose something more genuine, more fulfilling.

Ma could be a huge blessing. I don’t know about you, but my life is usually pretty hectic. I often joke that I don’t feel I have time to brush my hair. I’m still very busy with work, but much of the noise in life has lessened. I’m not rushing to be 50 different places at the same time. I’m tuning out the non-essentials. And that leaves me room for–??? Something else. Something better than those non-essentials. Something with more light, more ease, more gravitas—pick your passion.

I am not comparing my very personal trials and tribulations a decade ago to a pandemic. But perhaps my life experience being “in between” has helped me see that if you are very wise and dig for the good at the heart of you, ma can be transformative in a really beautiful way.

Maybe we don’t need to go back to our weekend shopping habit or the friends whose values have proven to be so very different than ours. Maybe reading a good book would feed our soul in a way mindless TV doesn’t. Maybe the flurry of activity every weekend is masking something we just don’t want to face. Or maybe it’s as simple as putting down our electronic devices to have more real conversations.

There’s a lot of good in occasional asceticism. And this is coming from a woman who’s an admitted hedonist (read: good craft cocktails, good parties, good food, good sheets, good shoes—oh, I could go on but I won’t). It’s only when we pare back what we think we need—or it’s taken from us—that we have the opportunity to determine the essential, joy-bearing gifts in life from whatever we were filling life with because it was easy/there/popular/fill in the blank.

So I’m choosing to celebrate ma. I’m enjoying small moments as I can and preparing for the next chapter, whenever it arrives. I am just brave enough to face ma without flinching—and believe me, that is hard-earned. But maybe this is your inauguration into it. Take it from me—embrace it. Put your little ‘ole arms around ma and welcome it into your life.

It cleans house like nobody’s business. And when it’s done, if you take the time to slow tango with it, you may not recognize yourself. In the very best way.








33 Comments Add yours

  1. Hello… I’m a little shocked at finding I’ve missed so many posts😟 what have I been doing in this quiet retreat that has become a welcome part of my life! Painting, writing, cleaning, reading, listening, cooking, eating and sleeping is my luxurious day❤️ AND love the word ma! In fact it actually fits the space I create each time I sit back and consciously relax into consciousness, spirit, love that part of us that has no location but is a holding space for us to be in to feel the love we are and allow ourself to relax and observe everything, our thoughts, emotions and circumstances. A place to digest everything, acknowledge fears and release everything that no longer served. A place to allow to become so bright with our own loving light, that opens the doors to more and more knowingness and harmony. A place I shall now call ma❤️ Thankyou Kristine for your beautiful and caring stories. Much love x

    1. candidkay says:

      It’s good to hear from you, Barbara! And so glad you like the ma concept. I know from your blog that you’re familiar with it, even if not calling it such . . . hugs to you and I hope all is well.

  2. We are indeed riding the same wave Kristine. When others press for things to return to normal, I cry ‘no’, let us sit here a little longer and appreciate the in between!

    1. candidkay says:

      Why does that not surprise me? ❤️😉

  3. srbottch says:

    I really like the 4th paragraph from the bottom. I think that we really do need to slow down a bit. As a kid in New England, we had ‘blue laws’, nothing but essential we’re open on a Sunday. Life was calmer. Be safe, Kristine.

    1. candidkay says:

      I have never heard of blue laws, Steve! You taught me something new today :-). I’m sure that was nice.

      1. srbottch says:

        As Sarah Caldwell said, so succinctly, “Learn everything you can, Anytime you can, from Anyone you can…there will always come a time you will be grateful you did!” So glad I taught you something, Kristine. 🤓

  4. mydangblog says:

    I’m fine with the new normal for the most part–I just miss hanging out with my colleagues instead of only seeing them for virtual meetings:-)

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m sure you do! Your office always sounds like a lot of laughs.

  5. Masha says:

    It’s not easy to be in the ma, but I’ve been practicing how to be in that space between end and beginning. Love this blog post Kay.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Masha! It doesn’t surprise me that you are already on this. 😃

  6. Hello there. I only hope that, in the overall societal picture, things don’t get worse than what they are. Massive breakdowns in food supplies, for instance, would precipitate events that I don’t want to think about.

    Be well. See ya.

    Neil Scheinin

    1. candidkay says:

      I hear you, Neil. I think so many supply chains have done an amazing job of staying solid. And thank goodness, because otherwise panic would have ensued. I’m saluting all the frontline workers who keep showing up–and hoping they’re being given the protection they need.

  7. “Ma requires us to sit in a space that is not filled with all of our old comforts.” What a fantastic word! I’ve experienced a few times of this including the past three years. Like being tossed into the air and haven’t landed yet. It’s fascinating to watch how everyone deals with the current pandemic, including those in deep denial who refuse, kicking and screaming, to make adjustments to their lives.

    1. candidkay says:

      Yes, I agree on the fascinating part. And I’m a big believer that life first whispers in our ear, then taps us on the shoulder if we haven’t paid attention–and finally, gives us the one-two punch if we still haven’t heeded its quiet, wise voice. Am wondering when the kickers and screamers get theirs:).

      1. I hold the very same belief. The kickers and screamers are waiting for their one-two punch… unfortunately the “two” may mean death.

  8. Nice tips and ideas Kristine. I would love to embrace more ma. Sadly I’m fairly busy during this mess, but I carve out a little time for me and m as I can.

    1. candidkay says:

      Glad you’re able to. I’m still very busy with work but I find that easing up on other obligations has really helped me feel more quiet inside. Which is a good thing :-).

      1. Agreed. May the ma be with us. 🙂

  9. Beautiful post dear lady, a ‘little’ halt to life and actually smell the roses so to speak 😀
    And as you have said, just by going through this it will change us…but the direction is up to us. Dare we take a step beyond normal…it has already swept us past normal so now that we are ‘here’ we may as well really look within and ask ourselves ‘what do I really want, what has meaning for me’, and by doing that we begin to clear the air…our air.
    The one thing that became so profound for me was that nature began to return around me. Many birds that I hadn’t heard for a long time began to sing again and it was actually quite a profound relief as I smiled in hearing them again. I actually realised that this world had slowly pushed them away and I hadn’t realised they were gone. Like so many other things in our lives.
    So what can I do to make a change in myself so that this and many other things can be healed, your ma sounds like a very beautiful place to start Kristine. Find us first, hear what inside of us truly has to say and become that change. And let that ripple begin…

    1. candidkay says:

      Yes! The birds, the quiet. So wonderful. And now if we can just keep from mindlessly going back to the old ways. Glad you’re staying well, Mark! Keep it sane Down Under😃.

  10. Dale says:

    I am so with you on this, Kristine. Ma has been forced upon many and it’s beautiful to watch the families cycling/walking/playing/cooking together. We are always so busy doing we forgot to just be. Shopping for groceries only every two weeks forces me to be more creative and to use what I have. Missing an ingredient? So be it, we modify the recipe! I still feel like I’m wasting more time on the blogs and TV than with a book but have been working on distancing myself from the easy fix. The yard – I can actually work on it. That garden I wanted to make? Going to happen because I have the time and can get the boys to help – still not an easy task 😉 But I’ll try anyway!
    I am in no rush to return to the real world, to tell the truth – even though I am looking daily for a new job.
    Love this post.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Dale. You’re always so honest and kind. I agree with you–there are parts of slowing down I hope we keep. And while it’s sometimes hard to wrap my head around what to do next, I don’t lack for projects:). I am loving seeing the pics of what you make each night–and that’s just as creative as reading a book. So don’t beat yourself up!

      1. Dale says:

        I’m just me!
        And I don’t doubt you lack for projects (I don’t either but right now am just too lazy to start them!)
        I am enjoying cooking, that is or sure. But still… I haven’t immersed myself into a book in ages.

  11. What a beautiful concept. I have to say that I related to so much of it. I, too, am learning to live in “ma” and for the most part – as scary as the world is – I’m in so much gratitude. I truly feel this time has been an opportunity to surrender what I thought life was going to be and see what my higher power would have me do. I have been challenged as I face my demons head on (I do too much at a time … that’s a problem!) but instead of backing down I ask for guidance. My tuition does not steer me wrong. Thank you for a beautiful post.

    1. candidkay says:

      “I truly feel this time has been an opportunity to surrender what I thought life was going to be and see what my higher power would have me do.” Amen, sister! I would like to be open to this as a door to a larger change. But I can’t even picture what that is yet. I do believe when people say God has bigger plans for us than we could imagine, they are correct. Trying not to muck up the works:).

  12. markbialczak says:

    I’m contemplating what comes next a lot right now, Kay. I think I will appreciate the ma some more. Thank you for this point of view.

    1. candidkay says:

      I hear you, Mark. I am trying to be still and see what bubbles up. Whatever it is is usually far wiser than whenever I cook up in my head. 😁

  13. An excellent concept, Kristine. If more would embrace ma we might be better off. Thanks for the new learning.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, John! It’s not easy for all of us–but what’s necessary is rarely easy, right? 🙂

      1. Necessary = Hard Superfluous = Easy

  14. aprilgarner says:

    I have experienced this, but now I have a name for it – ma. Having quit my job at the end of February, I planned on some ma, but social distancing gave me more than I’d bargained for. I embraced it at first, but I’ve begun to get impatient with it. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh wow. Nothing like the Universe saying, “I see your card and up the ante.” I hope it’s been positive and not too much to handle. Kudos to you for taking a brave step.

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