white space is for going nowhere 1

Do you ever just want to stay home? Not just because you’re meeting the furnace repairman, have messes to clean up, you don’t feel good or one of the kids are sick,
but o n p u r p o s e.

Pico Iyer calls this going nowhere.

When my kids were all finally in school, I left the house everyday in a rush, gulping air and marveling at the world outside my home. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my home, my little spot in the world, Mike and our children, but with four whippersnappers it had taken fourteen years before my house was quiet after the breakfast rush for even just a couple of hours.

I loved the new quiet and my introverted self needed it, but I chose scrambling out the door to do and see what was out there. I felt I must have missed alot. I took the kids to school, met Kyle’s bus and hit the road. I didn’t do anything spectacular. It was just the ordinary stuff of life, grabbing a cup of coffee, grocery shopping, browsing a thrift store, getting my haircut, picking up prescriptions or buying birthday cards. Some days I worked drawing plans for clients, went to Bible Study or mentored younger women from my church. The marvel at this season of my life was that I was doing it all alone without interruptions.

My pattern was to leave the house in a whirlwind to get the kids off to school and then roll into the garage with the door going down and the bus pulling in the driveway at the same time. Not a single second to spare. That felt like using my time to its best advantage.

But I soon realized, I was still frazzled buy the end of the day. Slowly, reluctantly, I started getting home fifteen minutes before the bus, just enough time to unload the groceries or move a load of laundry from washer to dryer. There was a sweetness to those few extra moments, but I still felt I was missing something. It seems silly now, but at the time it was real. Maybe I could have gotten one more errand run or picked up dog food from the vet or grabbed the dry cleaning. I was coming from a time-is-scarce way of thinking, so I’d better grab it, stuff it, hoard it.

I think what changed my behavior, besides realizing even with my own alone time I had frayed ends, was my oldest son Sean. Sean wasn’t a big talker during his high school years. Details of his teenage day rarely spilled out over cookies and milk after school or even later after soccer practice. I was always ready for that, but he had me on a need-to-know basis and in his opinion, I rarely needed to know.

However, every once in a blue moon, when I’d pop my weary head around his doorframe on my way to bed, he’d be ready to talk. It was what I had waited for, longed for and prayed toward. But guess what? I was bone tired with an empty tank.

I listened, but it wasn’t good listening. I did not like the feeling of not being fully there or the reason why. One more errand? One more thing bought? Please! I had not set everything aside to pay attention to these four beautiful hearts to lose steam on the home stretch. My teenagers needed me as much as my toddlers, maybe even more.

I resolved that night to trim my day back and get home with more time to spare. At first it was fifteen minutes just for starting dinner or doing chores. Soon I added 30 minutes so I would actually put my feet up, say a prayer, read a book or close my eyes and rest. I’m pretty sure my Mama may have mentioned this novel idea before, but who could hear her for my blazing a trail through the city?

The next time Sean or any of the kids or Mike wanted to talk or suddenly remembered a last minute item needed the next day, I would be rested up and ready. I might not jump into the car and run to the store for the needed item and thus come to the rescue. I might let them figure it out a bit, but I could come alongside with grace and patience to spare.

Staying home for white space started back then, but it has taken years to lean into it as a pattern in my life, to recognize my body and soul thirst for rest and re-fueling. I do not miss that dangling from the end of a frayed rope at the close of the day. I have seen brave and beautiful things come of carving out time for soul keeping and soaking up stillness.

Next time someone asks, “Where should we go?”. Consider going nowhere and be glad about it.