I often dream about discovering unknown spaces in my house. I find a staircase or a trap door leading to an uninhabited room. I’m always conflicted about how to use the space; should it be a guest room, a yoga studio. How can I integrate the room into what already exists? I wake up with a familiar giddiness, similar to how I felt when we discovered a built-in stepping stool under our kitchen sink (we lived here for a year not knowing the stool was there). During our first spring in our house we were pleasantly surprised to find apple trees outside that had been covered in snow when we bought the house. Or just a few days ago, after mowing the field a little wider than usual, we discovered asparagus. For three years I’ve been buying asparagus not knowing the vegetable was growing in my backyard.
I chalk up the unknown spaces in my dreams to untapped potential and the giddiness as my reaction to the insight, if only momentary, that “it” (whatever “it” we might be looking for or an “it” we don’t even know to look for) is already here, right under our nose. We just have to be patient and wait for it to reveal itself or create the space for it to unfold into.
I started dating my husband the summer after he graduated from our elementary school—for ten years leading up to that fateful summer, I saw him every single day, never knowing he was the love of my life. If I get overwhelmed with grieving what is already in my past (like having babies! Or that HUGE chunk of my youth!) I like to remind myself to think about the experiences and relationships ahead of me that I can not predict or plan for, but know will come as long as I continue to show up and resist willing my personal agenda on life. I love the practice of waking up and wondering what the day will bring rather than assuming I already know the answer or fearing that I don’t.
I know, I know, easier said than done. Having patience, doing less, focusing on the unimaginable with a sense of awe rather than fear—these practices constitute hard work. But it’s our responsibility to shape our lives with space that allows for flexibility, adaptability, and awareness so that we can take more risks, be of greater service, and become more resilient. Being busy and making excuses is on us. Every decision we make, every reaction we have shapes the course of our lives and those around us. We need to take ourselves less seriously and our lives more seriously.
Next time someone asks how you are, resist the urge to tell them how busy you are. Try not to use being busy as an excuse. Take ownership over your life. Change the narrative. Make some choices that allow for moments of space here or there (it’s always a good idea to start small). Suddenly you’ll have the space to be patient and the rest will come. You will slowly build awareness around how to make choices that bring greater ease and flow to your life so that all that busyness can be replaced with more meaningful experiences. Somehow, although you’ll never know how until you do, those experiences will be exactly what you’ve been aching for.
As many of you know, I recently took a lot of the busyness out of my life. I stopped teaching weekly classes for awhile, I stopped commuting to Boston, I didn’t sign up to be a class parent, they stopped guitar lessons, I paused before saying yes. These were hard decisions to make: sacrifices were made, shoulds were resisted and risks were taken, but as a result, space was created. And out of the space so much richness has manifested—being at the bus stop every afternoon to embrace them after their long days…having the patience to wash the dogs a second time that day…relishing a few extra minutes in the shower…honing a new passion for olfaction…starting a supper club…reading two chapters instead of one…driving 10 hours to be there for a grieving friend…joining a new yoga community…collaborating with others on expanding Blue Light…being able to say YES to a last minute invitation to join a past teacher and dear friend in Copenhagen.
I never could have imagined 17 years after being her student, she would invite me to Copenhagen to collaborate on her current research project nor that she would say yes when I asked her to lead a retreat with me in Tuscany. You just never know what’s ahead or brewing under your nose.
Try it. Wake up tomorrow with a sense of wonder. Make some small choices that carve out just a little bit of space, and the rest will come.