White space is for slowing down.
When I was a young girl, I remember riding on the back of my Uncle Buddy’s motorcycle through the Louisiana woods fast and furious. We were on the verge of out of control and I loved every minute of those wheels eating up the forest floor. Dirt was aflying! Shhhh, don’t tell my Mama.
I admit it. I like to go fast. I walk fast, talk fast and read fast. If I am honest with you, I know I eat too fast and drive too fast. Then for Pete's sake, why am I talking about slowing down?
I do know the value of slowing down, but it has not come naturally. I have had to learn it, sometimes the hard way. Slowing down helps me think decisions through, do things well and attend to details. Slowing down awakens my other senses; I can breath, see, feel, taste and hear more deeply. I can be more fully.
When I slow down, it seems as though I create space and time. But only God does that, so I realize that space and time was always there. It was just that I was flying right by it leaving little dirt devils in my wake.
We all have work to do and I think God created us to add our endeavors to our community, but when we consistently go to the very edge of our strength, our time or our patience, we are practicing brinkmanship. We are living a jam-packed, hurried life. Not only is the hurried life stressful, but we miss things, important things. That’s what white space is for, to give us room to breath, to stop for a while, to rest, to recover our strength and perspective.
the technique or practice of maneuvering a dangerous situation to the limits of tolerance or safety in order to secure the greatest advantage, especially by creating diplomatic crises
Brinkmanship is an old fashioned word, but the concept is one we know quite well today. Brinksmanship teeters on the edge, the brink of disaster. In foreign affairs, it is the kind of maneuvering that leads countries into war.
When I became a mama myself, I always tried to squeeze in one more errand before getting to my destination or back home again. I was pretty consistently about 15 minutes late wherever I went. Being late bothered me. I wasn't proud of it, but if I'm honest I guess I loved getting that one more thing accomplished even more than being on time. What I really wanted was both being on time and getting more done. Look what God had on his hands!
Eventually I felt the pinch of being 20+ minutes late if anything else slowed me down, like traffic, waiting for a train, a child’s lost shoe or misplaced keys. You know, the usual stuff of life. I hate to admit it, but what really cured me (mostly!) was having beautiful Kyle. Even in the carseat days, you couldn’t pull one over on Kyle. If I told him we were going to the grocery store and the park, I could not add the dry cleaners on my way home. It was too much for him.
Somehow he had already counted the stops and calibrated his tolerance to two errands. Eventually we learned that one of the challenges of his Aspergers was sensory overload and a sense of being unmoored in time. It is a frightening feeling for any of us, much less a little guy in a carseat. His mama needed to slow down, plain and simple. But OH SO HARD for those of us who like to book it.
I am forever grateful for the gifts Kyle and his Autism have given me, the
push chance to slow down and do less. When he was a boy, I had to step back from many activities I dearly loved because Kyle needed less noise, less demands on his senses and more one-to-one interactions with people he was comfortable with within his circle. He also needed lots of therapies in speech and language, social skills, sensory integration and emotional connection.
Of course, at the time, I saw the stepping back as a loss and a limit. And sometimes it was real loss like when our other children had a concert or play that was important to them and one of us had to stay home. We all wanted to be together. I was frustrated, both for him and for us that he didn’t go with the flow. And leaving him with even our best babysitter was stressful as we came home to tears more than once, hers. He was a handful back then. Thankfully, he says he doesn’t remember much of it, but he admits from the sound of it, he was a hooligan.
Oh how I love that boy!
That slowing down turned out to be a blessing even while I resented the boundary. So many aspects of my life found room to breath, my heart, my home, my marriage and all four of our children. There were still plenty of going places, but there was a bit more space to create, to dream, to pay attention to each other, to explore.
Ironically, now I’m the one craving down time, deep one-to-one friendships and big smooth stretches of clean white space. I have discovered I like time at home between activities. I don’t want to go from thing to thing to thing. I need to breath, to listen, to process the last thing, maybe even pray before the next one, and not in the car. Kyle taught me well, but I am still learning to seek out a slower pace of life.
I am looking to do less out there, on the go and more inside my soul. Finally, my heart is beginning to say I might be missing more deep down inside when I'm on the go.
A few things help me slow down. Most of these make me sit down or stay home or both. They are small and simple, so maybe they will help you too.
Coffee with a good book alone or with a good friend.
Lighting a candle or building a fire and then hanging around to watch the flickering flame and enjoy the glow.
Playing cards or a board game with my family or snuggling up with a good book. Reading anywhere, anytime!
Sitting in my porch swing visiting, rocking one of my grand babies underneath twinkle lights or looking at the moon and stars with my husband.
And last but not least, sitting with my bible, pages to write on and coffee early every morning.
I want to say, I have learned to slow down and I’m done with brinkmanship. Thank you Kyle! But knowing me, I will likely need to be reminded again.