My trip was still a few days away but I was set to travel light. A small duffle bag and a handbag for the four day weekend in Portland and Seattle. As I packed my toiletries into my TSA clear quart sized bright pink zippered pouch I went to grab my daily skincare products to make sure they would fit. While I would use them each of the next three mornings I would also use them while away. I wanted to make sure they fit in my little pouch so I snagged them from the cabinet in my bathroom. I had to hold space.
It was a simple thought really. Yet as I said the words aloud they were simple and yet profound. Maybe it was all the Brene Brown Rising Strong reading that I’d been doing the past couple of days, but in those few short words- there was a crystal clear reflection of me. I didn’t walk away from that reflection, I didn’t deny it, I leaned into it and owned that I’d been holding space. Holding space for people, things, ideas, and a past that was actually taking up space. Too much space.
It didn’t take me long to mentally run a tab of all that was taking up too much space in my life. It took even less time for me to identify when I started making space, saving room, making myself smaller and these other relationships, ideas, circumstances, jobs, much much bigger. My body metaphorically detached from how much I had stretched myself and held myself away to hold space. “I gotta stop that” I told myself, carefully arranging my skincare and cosmetics into the little plastic pouch.
I don’t think I’m alone in holding space. Correction, I refuse to accept the idea that it’s my #Blackgirlmagic or any super power or God given talent that it’s just me who’s exceptional at a rhythm of dancing around, finagling, sucking it all in, standing on my tippy toes, to hold space for things and folks who are just taking up too much space and would heartily laugh in my face if I asked them to do the same. I know I’m not the only one who has ever passed up on an awesome social event in t name of a job I loathed but overcompensated (thus missing the super fun times) so folks wouldn’t catch on. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in having friends who sob on your shoulder about any number of things that they are dealing with but are “busy” when you want to share any news with them, downright awful or amazing Huffington Post newsworthy. I bet I’m not alone in showing up for any number of family functions that inadvertently reminds you the dysfunction in the family is just as generous and deep as the three lasagna sized pans of hot gooey Auntie’s mac and cheese on the dining room table. And I bet you stay or keep going because part of you needs to believe that the dysfunction will dissipate and the other part of you thinks maybe you will manage to tactfully get people to talk about the “elephant” in the room that’s hovering right by those three pans of mac and cheese. You haven’t considered divorce because they don’t mean for the infidelity to happen- the other person just happened to be around more than you and you get it because you know you work almost 70 hours a week. You grin and bear it as your cousin gets married for the second time and you’ll do it again the following weekend when Tiffany gets married making you the last single girl in your squad, but it’s alright because you know Anthony just wants to finish his second Masters before settling down, just like he wanted to finish his first one, just like he wanted to launch his online marketing business, just like he wanted to figure out how to break things off with Leah before you two could be seen in public together. That’s a lot of space holding for a lot of unnecessary stuff, which means- the necessary stuff i.e. you boo, gets squeezed out. Insert the emoji with the wrinkly face, arched eyebrows, and gasping mouth. You know the one. The one that says this is exhausting, oy vey!
I knew before I could even think about stuffing a variety of blushes and mascaras in that little bag I had to get the necessary stuff in there first. I had to make sure my Epi Pen got in there. I had to get the skin care products because make up is not about good skin and I don’t need to carry products to cover up unhealthy skin and skip the products to keep it healthy. These and a few other items made it into the pouch before the mascara, second option for a perfume, and hair product in case I decided to go from straight chunky curls to my natural wild bouncy ones.
Well friends, the same goes for our lives. At least that’s what I’m learning. The necessary is what deserves the space. We take the day off to go to our own annual gyno appointment, physical, and/or mammogram. Not to go watch the kids that aren’t yours who were suspended from school for fighting because the on again off again partner you’ve been with for the past three years didn’t want to miss out going to the casino for the day and trying the new slot machines. #Nope We save that extra $100.00 a month so we can go visit our friend who married into the military and moved overseas not because your sister needs it to get her hair done for this party in Vegas that she maxed her credit cards out on. #LoSiento We find time to rest so that we have energy to enjoy our spouse and children now, right now, not one day when, or if we can squeeze it into random half hour chunks of time that our iPhones and androids remind us we have until we are on to the next thing- the next thing that we know in a day, week, and year will have no profound meaning or impact on who we are or are striving to become.
I’m changing up my dance routine. I’m learning the steps to the one where I don’t hold space for the unnecessary. Where my feet are not buckled and back is not bowed from the weight of that which doesn’t serve purpose in my life. I’m unclasping fingers, and removing the hand from the small of my back from the partner of unneeded and no longer welcome.
Now, it’s not easy. I’m just gonna put that out there. But with time, commitment to my choice to no longer hold space for the unnecessary, and openness to the journey of this process of what this means for me, what people I create some space with and which ones I allow closer, what places I frequent less or not at all, how consistent I am with seeing my therapist (sometimes I really hate it because I just want to be well already and no one goes to therapy cause they are well, I’m just sayin’), I’m making headway and I like it . I really do. I’ve been surprised but the that which I’ve been pushing out that I don’t miss, and that which I’ve given more space to like early morning walks on the trail behind my place, and reading one entire book of the Bible at a time, and getting books from the library instead of buying them, or afternoon tea when I get in from work as a way of transitioning from the professional to the personal, that’s been nourishing my soul and allowing me to exhale.
LIVEd lives are gracious and wise in space. They don’t revolve completely around us nor do they completely revolve around others. They simply have room and space only for that which we choose wholeheartedly, generously, authentically- necessarily.