Seeking space

by Kristin on December 28, 2010

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by earlycj5

I’m not really into resolutions or predictions or big life changes at this time of year. I mean, I definitely take a step back and reevaluate my life, but with caution—I think I’ve been burned by January one too many times.

But I really shouldn’t blame New Year’s Day. Probably the better way to put it is that I’ve burned myself too many times, thanks to the hopes and ideals attached to the New Year. My expectations are too lofty, my self-critique too harsh, my goals too impossible. A week or two in, and I feel like an utter failure and throw in the towel.

Almost as good as a do-over

Even though I know better, this year I’m feeling an exceptionally strong pull toward the idea of “turning over a new leaf.” There are so many things about my life right now that I’m not happy about (as I’ve written about a lot, lately, it seems).

Last night, as Jason and I traveled home after spending a few days with his parents, we talked about the things that were getting in the way of a happier life, like the one we remember from our first two years of marriage.

For starters, the house always feels on the brink of disaster, and each night when we should be relaxing we’re frantically cleaning the kitchen, paying bills, folding laundry and making lunches. The kids aren’t helping out enough, and they’re going to bed too late, which eats away at our precious couple time. I’m not using my time efficiently, which means I’m working in the evenings more often than I’d like. Jason is traveling a lot and going to a lot of meetings in the evenings and on weekends, which wears him out and leaves little time or energy for home maintenance or fun. We don’t do enough family activities and outings, we don’t get enough exercise, and it seems like we’re always worried about money. Ugh!

Gathering so much longing up into a single word

In past years, I would have turned that self-critique into a to-do list of resolutions, looming ahead of me like an insurmountable range of mountain peaks.

But this year, I want to take a different approach. I want to find a single word that represents what I want more of in my life, and I want it to become my focal point, my mantra.

And I think that word is “space.”

Like the prairie that surrounds my town.

Like the sky on a clear spring morning.

Like a new notebook waiting for my thoughts.

Like a day stretching ahead without commitments.

Like the warm glow of contentment laced with hope.

S  P  A  C  E

Just seeing it written here—just saying the word to myself—makes me feel calm, like I can breathe deeply, expanding my lungs and my sense of self, just because I’m existing in a more expansive space. Less clutter in my house, more space to move as the spirit leads. Less clutter in my schedule, more space to think freely, and to feed my relationships and heart. Some of these ideas feel like literal interpretations of space, others are more conceptual, but they all have the same effect. <insert peaceful-calm-contented sigh>

If you had to take your longings for the new year and boil them down to a single word, what would that word be?

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  • Alise

    I think for me it needs to be “priorities.” We’ve been pretty much in survival mode this year with my husband in school full time and working full time and that has really turned things around a bit here and not in a good way. I find myself not putting things in their proper place and I need to straighten that out.

  • ThatGuyKC

    Great post! Thank you for sharing the idea of one word.

    I’m also approaching the new year with a bit of caution when it comes to resolutions because, like you, I’ve burned myself too many times.

    However, if there were a single word for me this year it would be “words”. I’m wrapping up an MBA this summer and launching a new blog project in the meantime. I want to be conscious of the words I use in writing, at work and in talking with my wife and kids.

    Maybe I’ll tackle “space” the next year. :)

  • Paul Merrill

    It’s tough, knowing the balance between putting enough pressure on yourself and too much. Sounds like you are headed in the right direction.

  • Meredith

    I think, like many people, I put too much emphasis on resolutions and so I feel bad when I (inevitably) don’t stick to them. For the past couple of years, I’ve written down my hopes for the new year instead. They act a lot like resolutions, but it’s harder to break a hope. And this way, I’m keeping these things in mind as I move forward, but I don’t have the same kind of guilt attached to them.

    For 2011, I’d say my word is “progress” – if you think of the word in terms of history, it means the idea or belief that something (someone) can become increasingly better. I like the idea of applying that to my own life – it can always get increasingly better.

  • Tim

    Solid post – thanks for sharing.
    This is my first time in your site (I follow you on Twitter).

    I can relate to a lot of this in terms of the cluttered house and schedule. I also have been “burned by January” as you put it but it’s good to see you still making resolutions.

    I mentioned on my post today (yes, every blogger is writing about this – lol), that for a while I stopped making resolutions because of the constant failure of them. But the reality for me is that I need to be making them constantly.

    Thanks for sharing – see you around.

  • Kirstin

    Are we living the same life? I’ve been feeling exactly the same way about what’s wrong. Everything feels so crunched-up of late, and all the available solutions seem to involve MORE work in the short-term, which is not what I need. So I’m not even going to try imposing on myself any new-start kind of discipline. My resolutions involve breathing more deeply, taking satisfaction in the things that I HAVE accomplished in the past year (in part as a result of being crunched up!), and, what the hell, seeing more movies (both with and without the kids). If I have to put it into one word: “acceptance.”

  • Kristin T.

    Alise, “priorities” is a great word. I often find that when life feels most out of control, I can bring things back into line just by looking at what matters most to me and comparing it to the way I’m spending my time. So much of what I spin my wheels over really isn’t that important, at the end of the day. I hope you find some peace with all of that in the new year.

    ThatGuyKC, I love that your single word is “words.” :) Very meta, but more importantly very thoughtful in the way you described it—both the words you use in your writing and in your relationships. It takes lots of grace, and patience, too.

    Paul, it’s true—that balance is tough! Sometimes I feel like I’m parenting myself the way I try to parent my kids: Providing gentle critique and lots of encouragement to do better, while still being completely accepting and loving where we are.

    Meredith, I love thinking about “hopes” rather than “resolutions” or “challenges.” Just changing the word changes the whole feeling around the action. And I love the way you’re using the word “progress” in your life. May you make the progress you’re hoping for in the new year, whether in baby steps or big leaps.

    Tim, I’m glad to know I’m not alone in my disappointment with January! Maybe the key is to not stop making resolutions, as you pointed out, but to give ourselves more grace as we strive toward them, fail, and pick ourselves back up. Thanks for stopping by my blog and sharing your thoughts. I’ll definitely check out your New Year’s post, too.

    Kirstin, well, our names are very similar, we live in the same town and we each have two daughters (one of whom plays cello). Maybe we *are* living the same lives! I’m sorry about the less pleasant ways our lives have been similar, though. I can relate all too-well to this: “Everything feels so crunched-up of late, and all the available solutions seem to involve MORE work in the short-term….” I’m all for the breathing deeply and seeing more movies resolutions. :) Here’s to more acceptance of our lives and ourselves in the new year.

  • Tanya

    Great post, Kristin. I’ve been thinking all day about a single word I’d like to characterize my coming year. At first, I thought ‘serenity’–and it’s a good word, but unfortunately I can never hear it without hearing Frank Costanza’s (from Seinfeld) voice shouting, “Serenity NOW!!!” (Did THAT episode ever tap into a common human experience…) I also resonate with your desire for space and a more clutter-free existence, on so many levels.

    I think the word I’m going to try to practice or move toward embodying is the richly-textured Jewish word “shalom”: peace, wholeness, balance, well-being. And I wish the same for you. Shalom, and Happy New Year!

  • Sarah@EmergingMummy

    Gorgeous post, K. Just made me exhale to read it.

  • Susan

    Yay. I love this. Reminds me of the things I’ve been thinking about lately. Why are we rushing? Why aren’t we prioritizing each other more? Why aren’t we inching towards where we say we want to be but don’t seem to be doing anything about it? I always think of it as ‘simplifying’ but I love the idea of space more. It speaks volumes to our whole self, and not just the action behind it.

  • Anita

    Hello :) I just found your blog and I’m loving it already!
    My one word for 2011 would be “fearlessness”. I have spent way too much of my life doing things just because they were “the things that you do.” It’s always easier to drive in the ruts than across and out of them. I want to focus on my own path, where I should be going, not where everyone else is telling me to go…
    Look forward to reading more of your blog!

  • alece

    space. i love it! even just reading the word in your post felt like a much-needed exhale for my heart.

  • Kristin T.

    Tanya, I have always loved the word “shalom,” and I love the idea of “richly-textured” words, in general. Such words can actually mean different things, or they can move away from exact meaning, entirely, and just become a feeling, a sense, an image. Thank you for pushing that image back into my line of sight. Shalom to you in 2011.

    Sarah, thank you! I love that you said the post made you exhale. The word “exhale” reminds me of two things: first, I have to take in a deep breath, and then I have to let it go. I need more of both in my life.

    Susan, this is a great question: “Why aren’t we inching towards where we say we want to be…?” Sometimes we really do know where we want to be, and we even know how to get there (it usually has something to do with clear priorities), yet we don’t take the steps we need to take. I think you touched on something when you said “inching towards.” We want to just leap there, and have it be so. We don’t have the patience to inch towards anything, even though that’s the surest route. Maybe we need to encourage one another more? (You can do it!)

    Anita, I’m so glad you found your way to my blog! I can definitely relate to this: “I have spent way too much of my life doing things just because they were ‘the things that you do.’” That actually has a lot to do with the post I wrote this morning, about my “muffin disaster” on New Year’s Day. Those muffins (or the idea of whipping up perfect muffins) represent the person I think I’m supposed to be—the ultimate hostess, the Renaissance Woman. I need to be more fearless about who I really am. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m looking forward to checking out your blog!

    alece, I’m so glad the word had that effect. After I wrote the post, I actually worried that the word “space” might be taken wrong—like it’s the thing you say to a boyfriend when the relationship is fading, “I just need some space.” Words are so complex! Here’s to finding the right ones in 2011.

  • The Modern Gal

    That’s a great word! I agree that so many resolutions set us up to fail. I’ve adopted the one-word mantra method like you, and my 2011 word is ‘balance.’ My life and priorities were so out of whack last year that I’m striving for balance this year. This way the hard-and-fast rule-like resolutions I might have made — workout more, eat better, spend more time with friends — are the means rather the end result.

  • A Folkes

    “Space” and the descriptions you gave for what you mean by that word is lovely! I’ve been thinking a lot more about what I think means something similar: quiet time. So I appreciate you touching on this topic.

    When I look at Jesus (Mark 1:35-39), I see how in the midst of His business, He goes to a solitary place to pray–and how even He can’t get away. His very friends search him out!

    I also see how Jesus never had a “messiah’s complex”. In Matthew 14:23, I read the four specific words “sent the crowds away”, and I realize: someone was next in line when Jesus did that. And yet, he did it anyway. He knew how to stop the daily grind. And rest. (Another word for “space” or “quiet time”.)

    Some of us are naturally lovers of life! That’s evident with how full and exciting we keep them. But sometimes we have a love/hate relationship with ourselves for doing that. I’m reminded how we all have to make hay on the contemplative side of life too. We all need periods of stillness in our soul.

    I’m thankful to be learning the value of time alone with Jesus. And I’m excited we can draw upon His ability to be still. It means we get to be more like Him, in the long run.

    I believe God wants to do a new thing in our nation in this area.Let’s be diligent to pray for one another in this area. Whatta you say?