Closer to home, space has been a headline in my personal life. In my last blog I mentioned I had pneumonia and would take a week away from writing to help my body breathe. If only it had been so simple. Before the first round of antibiotics could even be finished, I woke up with a burning on my skin, on one side of my torso only. With no medical training whatsoever, it took me absolutely no time to know I had just added shingles to the list of things my body had to deal with. The doctor also took no time at all to make the diagnosis. Despite the fact I was fully vaccinated against shingles, my body, already fighting one infection, had made space for another. How thoughtful:)
So, for several weeks now, I have been making space. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve been trying to hold space. Making space is easier. In the early stages of each virus, I physically removed myself from the space of other people. No one feels comfortable hearing someone cough, even when it is not contagious, so I chose to not add stress to an already stressed world. Shingles aren’t particularly contagious but the mention of them has people standing well back, so I stayed home with my two unwelcome companions, until all possibility of passing on the viruses had passed. We had plenty of space around us.
I also found I needed to, and continue to need to, make some space even closer to myself. My shingles do not like any contact, even the contact of clothing, so I’ve been trying to put some space between my skin and the softest, most loose-fitting shirts I own. When I drive, I remind myself of a person of a certain age who doesn’t feel safe sitting back against the seat, but needs to lean toward the steering wheel as she drives. From now on, I’m going to be less judgmental of these people; I’ll just assume they all are recovering from shingles:)
These of course, are just the practical parts of space I’ve been navigating. The more challenging part of my space research has been not making space, but rather holding space, for myself, and for these two frustrating viruses. It has not been lost on me that as usual, our little micro-lives are great petri dishes for understanding life in a broader sense.
Making space, is easier than holding space. Most of us have quite a bit of practice at making space. When we make room at our table, be it professionally or at home or in our friendship circles, we are making space. We all squeeze together a bit, or add another chair, or welcome a new perspective. We make space for someone else, or for some new idea, to fit into our already well established order. When we hear ourselves say that someone fits well with our group, what we mean is that we didn’t have to change much on our end for them to join. We simply stretched the edge of our circle a bit, but really didn’t change the dynamic or shape in any significant way. We made space.
Holding space is completely different. Holding space does not come naturally for most of us. It can be uncomfortable. When we hold space, we choose to do nothing. Except. Except opening ourselves to something or someone, and walking beside that thing or person, without offering judgement or opinion, donating our ears and heart without wanting anything in return. We hold space for them to be exactly who they are. In my case, I tried to hold space, without judgement, for pneumonia and shingles as they ran their natural course. I also tried to hold space for myself, for me to heal, and for my body to do what it needed to do.
And sometimes I succeeded.
I recognized how much I judge myself, and how quickly others are to make judgement. We all love to make order in our little worlds, so judging is really just our attempt to find logical reasons for things. But sometimes there is no logic. There is no blame. There is nothing to fix. There is no magic bullet. What we need in times like this is for someone to simply hold space for us and our circumstance, to make time for us, and to walk along side us without judgement. When we hold space, we offer the opportunity for others to be seen and heard fully. When we hold space, we put our needs and opinions aside, allowing someone, to just be.
Everyone in this world has a backpack full of challenges. Some challenges are easy to see, some are almost invisible. Every single one of us appreciates those precious moments when someone holds space for us, when they accept us exactly as we are and hold no agenda other than to be with us and to see us.
It costs us nothing to hold space for others and yet it’s a priceless gift when we do it well. The gift of holding space, of unconditional acceptance and belonging, is one of the most sought-after treasures in this world. Some people spend a lifetime seeking it.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘How am I holding space?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups and has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to hold space.