No, this post is not about Star Trek, although I admire the show and the committed fan base. It's about spaciousness, the thing I've been cherishing in recent years. Spacious days, in fact, where I have just a few things on the calendar and gorgeous swaths of unstructured time to enjoy. As I coast into middle age, I find that I need this spaciousness to...just...be.
I didn't used to be like this. I used to be an activity junkie.
my twenties I was all about social life, cramming every moment that I
wasn't in class (during college) or at work (post-college) with friends,
drinks, parties, concerts, dates and hanging at the neighborhood hang.
Heaven forbid I spend time alone or have any white space on my
calendar. In my thirties, I was an ambitious career woman, working a 9
to 5 and freelancing on top of that to climb the public radio ladder. I
still fit in my social and love life pursuits, but work filled in the
other available hours.
As I entered my forties, my schedule was filled with experiential workshops, self-help groups, singing and drumming circles and personal growth classes that I hoped would provide the answers I sought and the solutions I desired to my recurrent “issues.” Friends and work were still on the list, too, leaving me scheduled to within an inch of my life.
But here I am at 50,
married, self-employed, not much closer to enlightenment and yet daring to
under-schedule and under-commit myself. It's one of the few things that I
haven't tried in my life—doing nothing. A few things make this easy: I have no kids, we live in a smallish rental apartment that
requires very little upkeep, my client load is light in summer, and many of my
formerly nearby friends now live far away.
I spend a lot of time with my self, my family, my cat and carefully selected companions (trees, plants, flowers and birds included). During the weekdays when I’m mostly alone, I take walks or poke my head outside when I want human company, and my neighbors provide it. I’m lucky that I live in a town where I can walk to libraries, coffee shops, parks, banks and stores, taking my time and avoiding the stress of driving.
When I first "arrived" in this condition two years ago after leaving an office job full of people to chat with, I felt lonely and uncomfortable. I tried filling up some non-work hours with yoga classes and coffee or lunch dates. But eventually I stopped doing that and just relaxed into my new rhythm. Now it feels luxurious, this space I’m in. It's like swimming in a vast ocean where the things I mostly bump into are my own thoughts, perceptions and reactions.
I’m very protective of these waters,
too. When I do initiate or say yes to an activity, it’s because I really
want to do it, whether for myself or for someone (else) that I care about.
It keeps resentments and crankiness to a minimum and builds a
sense of trust that I don’t have to be in constant motion to live a
meaningful and valuable life. I once saw a bumper sticker that said "Stop the glorification of busy." Indeed.
I’m not saying that I don’t feel the
old pull sometimes, like when my in box is flooded with tempting emails
about things to do, read, watch or attend for greater wisdom and plain ol' fun. I just know that, for me, doing a few things with wholehearted enthusiasm is better than doing too much with halfhearted presence.
And that's why white space on my calendar no longer begs to be filled. It asks to be treasured, like the wealth that it is.