I’m a busy girl.
I hate the word busy. Busy translates to running around in circles and filling up the space.
So I’m trying to transition from busy to purposeful.
I’m trying to leave gaps of space to listen to myself. I’m trying to leave the space in-between so that when I am doing something I’m actually doing it—here and now, on this planet, with the people I care about.
This is not an easy thing for me to do. Space has always terrified me.
When I was younger, I would do crunches while watching movies. I would find new ways to better myself all the time.
I can even recall buying my first self-help book at 17: “Life’s short, Wear Your Party Pants.” Did I need help? Besides the obvious yes of teenage angst—not really, but I always strived to be better.
When I was nine, my sister and I were gifted $250 from our grandparents. I asked her, “How should we invest this? Should we enroll ourselves in classes for the afternoons?” At the same age, I’d ask, “Are there any educational channels for kids my age?” My nana would smirk and turn on Garfield.
“What can I do today to be better?” has been my motto for a long, long time.
And it worked. I have a good job which I got prior to graduating college. In fact, I graduated on a Saturday and started work on a Monday. No time to dwell—better, better, better.
During college, I had five internships. In my spare time now, I have between six and nine marketing clients. I teach anywhere from two to eight yoga classes a week (depending on how much better I want to be by subbing for all of the teachers at the studio). During yoga teacher training, I worked as an instructor. Who does that? Before I had graduated, I had a stable class time at my studio. A rare feat for a new teacher. But, hey, are you surprised?
I can do anything I put my mind to. So literally, it’s scary. And, I know you can too. But, what happens when we stop progressing forward at such a rapid pace?
When life moves quickly, as it does for most of us, our feelings get lost in the transition from one self-imposed activity to another.
These feelings get swept under the rug as we continuously distract ourselves. Common culprits of distraction include driving while thumbing through Twitter at a stoplight, or spending the 30 minutes we have free at a shopping center buying things we don’t need.
What happens when we stop filling up this space?
The space between a yoga class and the drive home. No longer reaching for the phone to dial a friend.
The space between morning coffee and our shower. No longer perusing Facebook.
The space between opening our eyes and letting our feet hit the ground: letting that space exist.
Do we swirl ourselves into activity immediately, and always?
Right now, it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting on my bed with a cold washcloth on my forehead. I had to put myself in time out so I wouldn’t scream at my patient boyfriend, because while unloading the groceries I dropped the watermelon and it affected the perfect way I like to organize our farmer’s market produce.
Urgh, it’s exhausting how perfect I try to keep it all, and not just for me.
I wouldn’t have even noticed that I was irritable at a deeper layer had I not embarked on this personal journey four weeks ago today. No drinking, no shopping for six weeks. Two weeks prior to this revelation, I stopped eating dairy during the week and cut out my nightly chocolate. A few days ago, I took social media off my phone.
When we take out that many space fillers, what we are left with is a lot of us—our internal thoughts, and all that we’ve been avoiding. The feelings emerge.
It took about a month for the true, residual, emotions to come out that I typically hide with the aforementioned fillers.
So, what is it that I’m feeling?
I’m annoyed. I’m irritated. Annoyed at chasing perfection. Irritated with past occurrences.
I’m ready to do the work, journal it out, and let my annoyance and irritation go so that in two weeks, when I do allow myself near a Target again, I won’t buy mindless things I don’t need to make me fake-comfortable. And when I do indulge in a bit of wine again, I won’t drink too much and get angry—because these residual emotions won’t be begging to come to the surface.
I might not have them perfectly figured out just yet, but at least I won’t be plastering so much over them anymore.
If we’re willing to cut back on the space-fillers, we can start to listen to how we’re really feeling. If we’re ready to see how addicted we may have become to filling the space, there are a few steps we can take.
First step, figure out what we’re using to fill the space. Food, phone, shopping, drinking, smoking, cleaning, gossiping? The potential list is endless. Whichever ones we find, know that none are better than the others. It’s our stuff and it’s time to own it.
When we do, it’ll be easier to differentiate our feelings around these things.
For example, if no one shows up to our after-work gathering, and we order a hamburger and fries—were we just hungry for the meal, or are we using it to mask our feelings of loneliness?
If we know we have an evening free, and we decide to redecorate our bathroom, is this because we enjoy this, or are we just uncomfortable being alone tonight?
Next, we should be patient with ourselves and enjoy the space that comes with doing less. It will be uncomfortable at first, we will want to reach for our phones and get on social media, text a friend or do anything but be alone. That’s okay. We are human and to change a pattern requires getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Peel back the emotions as they come forward and help reduce their overwhelming nature. If we’re feeling anxiety, we can ask ourselves, “What am I anxious about?” Listen to the emotion, give it a color and really focus on it. It will dissolve much quicker. Our emotions just want a bit of our attention.
Why are we angry or irritable? Why are we sad? What are we willing to do to be there for ourselves and create lives that have plenty of space for us to listen to our emotions so they don’t bottle up again.
I honor you in your journey to create a life where you listen, where you have time to breathe, and where you get comfortable in the space in-between.
“If you want to have a life that is worth living, a life that expresses your deepest feelings and emotions and cares and dreams, you have to fight for it.” ~ Alice Walker
Author: Gabi Garrett
Image: Ally Mauro/ Flickr
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren