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Needing “Empty” in a Time of Fullness

“I’m sure you are feeling a need for some ’empty’ space about now.” It’s what a wise woman, who has herself been in the trenches with littles, wrote to me this week.

She was right.

This pandemic? It’s so very full. So full of new things, like working full time while parenting full time. Full of concerns, anxieties, fears. It’s full of people, four of us, in our one not-large house, without a break. The house is full too: full of messes, full of chores, full of to-dos.

Then, a coworker of mine spoke up about needing to get out, looking forward to all this quarantine ending. I’m totally okay with staying home, I told her. I’m an introvert and a homebody–I’m MADE for this. But…

I’m ready for empty space

I think I’m ready for my family to not always be home with me.

Ready for empty. For quiet. For white space.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. We “homestead” as a way to spend time together, productively, slowly. My kids mean the world to me, and I am absolutely relishing the time that I am getting to spend with them (a luxury for a full-time working mom).

During Virginia’s stay at home order, I have watched my baby learn how to sit up, crawl, pull up, cruise, and say his first word (“Mama” and it melts my heart). And the bond that I see forming between brother and sister? It’s precious and still tenuous but growing stronger every day. Truly, I cannot be more grateful for this opportunity.

But I’m touched out, crowded out, noised out, *needed* out.

I need some empty.

Just as white space is so often what makes room for a great design, the empty is what helps make the full so sweet.

And this introverted homebody needs some quiet, alone time in my house.

As the messes pile up–the unfolded laundry, the plastic Easter eggs, the dishes from lunch, the cloth diapers waiting to be sprayed off, the dirt the baby pulled out of the seedlings we started–the pressure mounds. And when pressure is high, it needs a release.

It’s okay to need empty

One thing I had to realize was that it’s okay. It is okay to love my kids and feel overwhelmed. It is okay to know that I want nothing more than to spend time with my children and to also shove them out the door with Daddy to go to the drive-thru ATM. It’s okay to be so desperate for quiet that I put the kids to bed early, then spend the next hour looking at photos of them on my phone, missing them. I’m a human being, contradictions are part of the deal.

I have every right to insist that I have at least enough “me time” to use the bathroom when I need to. Because it is not possible for me to pour 100% of me into other things (children, marriage, career) without ever replenishing my reserves.

And I do need some empty to replenish. I need those 20 minutes of overlapping nap. I relish the 5 minutes of walking out to the mailbox BY MYSELF. I rock the baby just a little bit longer than necessary at night just to soak in the stillness before taking a deep breath and getting the preschooler to bed too. As I write this, the 4yo is jumping off the guest bed about 4 feet from me as she “learns to fly” and the baby is banging blocks together about a foot from my desk…empty, space, quiet are not in their vocabulary yet.

Finding some empty in the midst of quarantine

So over the weekend, I sent the 4yo and her daddy out to the camper in the backyard for two nights. I put the baby down early. I showered without interruption. I listened to an audio book. I drank a cup of tea. I was just…me. It was refreshing and needed. And I might do it again next weekend.

Meanwhile, I’m purging and creating some calm empty around me: an empty shelf, an empty drawer, an empty counter. Reducing the visual noise. Removing yet another thing I’m responsible for taking care of. Simplifying.

Outgrown children’s clothes are getting swapped for a wardrobe that fits this new season. A whole car load of perfectly useful items we no longer need have gone off to new homes. A truckload of scraps that have been hanging on for far too long are off to be recycled into something new. A bonfire worth of limbs and yard waste turned into an evening of family fun. Slowly, ever so slowly, empty is appearing.

Pressure–and a disease of pandemic proportions that causes weeks-long sheltering in place is certainly pressure–can teach us a lot about ourselves. It can reveal the rough edges, the struggles, and the failures. (Just how much patience to I really have? Just how gentle are my words?) But it can also show us where we’re strong, what we need, and reveal how we want to live. (Together, always together, but maybe a little social distancing is in order here at home too.)

What might it be revealing and teaching you?

Are you looking for a little white space too?

By BarefootMama, May 18, 2020
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