One night last week, I sat up in bed, turned on the light, and wrote something startling in my journal:
I was just about to drift off to sleep and I realized– I’m happy. That’s what this feeling is. Contentment. Everything is okay, the kids are okay, nothing is on fire– all is well. Wow. What a rare and shining moment.
One week later, I wrote something very different in those same pages:
Gaaaaahhhhhh everything is so HARD and I feel PANICKED and wow I am so VERY, VERY GROUCHY.
Looking at my own handwriting, scrawled frantically all across the page, I felt bitterly frustrated at myself.
What was wrong with me?
Why was I such a princess?
Why am I so moody?
Why can’t I just let things slide off my back?
How did I go from such deep contentment to raging?
Okay, sure, there were some Factors. There’d been some Frustrating Dynamics. Some Annoying Events. Because that is Adulting.
Still, I berated myself, nothing terrible had happened this week! I should be grateful! Everything was still good! In fact a lot of genuinely wonderful things had happened!
I ticked them off to myself, all those good things:
- many deep and beautiful calls with my beloved wonderful private clients
- clearing out and beautifying my closet as part of a Deep Sweep I did with my Queen Sweep group
- an incredible day trip on a friend’s boat to a secluded beach
- watching Ted Lasso as a family
- Nick took our two eldest off island overnight to go to an incredible show
- wrapping up the 7-month Make Art, Choose Joy program with an epic live show
- a beloved friend came to visit and we stayed up late every night chatting and catching up…
All those wonderful things happened, PLUS all the normal things, the baseline of keeping life going, from driving kids to various practices and doing the laundry (in 20-minute increments, yup) and making meals and parenting through big kid feelings and packing lunches and managing the complex chessboard of our lives…
As I began to tally up the sheer quantity of events that week, I started to understand what had happened.
Perhaps I wasn’t a horrible ungrateful brat after all.
In the Queen Sweep we talk a lot about “white space,” or negative space, or a Japanese concept called “ma.”
It’s the emptiness of possibility. The blank space of potential. Breathing room. Buffer. Margin. Space for reflection and pondering.
It’s the blank walls in every art gallery in the world.
Because has this ever happened to you? You spot the most incredible piece of art, one shimmering with beauty and depth and vitality, and so you buy it on the spot with a thrill of how it will transform your home and make you a more spiritual brilliant person, and then you bring it home and set it on your mantlepiece next to the vintage candlesticks and the quirky clock and the stack of antique books and the family photos and the sweet card from your niece and then– somehow– it doesn’t work at all, the painting has lost all its magic, and it just looks a little silly smooshed in with all the other things and your space just feels crowded and a little chaotic?
This is what I had done with my life that week.
I crammed it full of things. Wonderful things, good things, delightful things! But so many of them, so jammed in together, without removing anything first, that I couldn’t breathe.
And then instead of enjoying them all, I just felt rushed and frazzled and out of sorts.
And then because I kept telling myself that I was being ridiculous, that it was absurd to feel anything other than joyful and delighted with my life, I also felt cranky and guilty and nuts.
You see, I had piled shame on top of things, plus tucked a layer of gaslighting over it, and sprinkled it all with guilt.
Oh we sweet, silly humans.
What a mess we are.
Let me tell you something, dear kindred spirit– next week is almost as full.
I want to enjoy it. I want to at least not feel frantic through it.
So I’m going to have to be deliberate about carving out white space. It might even mean I have to say no to something perfectly lovely, so that I have the bandwidth to actually be present for all the other things.
I hate that.
But I also know… that with a little breathing room… I bet it will all feel more beautiful. So here I go.