As we’ve driven, and flown across this amazing country, I’ve been reminded of how lucky we are to live in a place where we have some of the most beautiful and abundant spaces. We have seen Redwood forests, vast prairie lands, lakes, rocks and oceans. In a time when we are watching millions of people driven from their homes because of weather or unrest, it’s hard not to appreciate the sheer amount of beautiful safe space that we get to enjoy in this country of Canada.
This word ‘space’ is used differently today than it was in years past. Previously when we talked about space, we were speaking about outer space, or if we were talking about earthly things, it was often a reference to the size of an area. Now, we hear comments like, ‘They’ve created a beautiful space’. Or a decorator might say, ‘I have a great idea for this space’. Or a person may say, ‘I loved sharing this space with you today.’
This week as we’ve been witness to lots of spaces, I have been thinking about this word in terms of how each of us occupies space and how each of us uses the space we have access to in our lives. I’m working on a theory about space (just in my mind). In my theory, each of us has a chance to use the space we have been given to it’s maximum. We can choose wisely, and fill our spaces with our gifts, our thoughts, our ideas, our kindnesses, our braveness; our best selves. Alternatively, we can choose to only use a portion of the space we access, or we can fill our space with things that detract from the overall good of the world. I have a feeling that while I have tried not to be a detractor, I have not always used the full amount of space that was available to me.
Last week I was taking a class and one of the newer participants was speaking out quite freely as the instructor was teaching. She would interject little comments while the instructor was guiding us. The instructor masterfully wove her way near this person and reminded her that her job was to listen and do (not necessarily to comment). Everyone’s dignity was kept in tact and I’m guessing that many people did not even notice the interaction. In this case, the participant was taking up more space than was her ‘fair share’. This instructor was at least offering the possibility that everyone should have equal access to the information. Had the instructor not intervened, the other participants would have left the course feeling less good about their involvement; even if they could not pinpoint why. The reason they would not have felt as good as they normally would is because they were not able to fully occupy their share of the space in this learning environment. The space was being absorbed by someone else who felt the need to fill it, or perhaps has just gotten in the habit of filling it.
Some people take up a lot of space. This has nothing to do with physical size. It has to do with the amount of energy they either put into or pull out of an area. They may do this unwittingly or very purposely. If they are afraid of, or threatened by, innovative ideas, or perhaps by feelings, then by filling the space themselves they never have to deal with this discomfort.
There are other people who also do not take up their fair share of space. In this case however, these people take up less space than is available to them. These people have clever ideas and good opinions; they can be thoughtful and have valuable insights. They often, however, choose to keep their thoughts to themselves. While this is not a bad quality on its own, in a group setting, including a family setting, this creates a situation where other people end up having more power, simply because they choose to fill the space with their own thoughts.
Every time people are together, space is created. The space will be filled. If only one or two people share ideas in this environment, the space will be completely filled with their thoughts. There will be no room for other thoughts. The tendency is for the thinking in this space to be narrow, and there will be less creativity. If, however, each person shares their thoughts, while not everyone’s thoughts will be acted upon, the simple sharing of the thoughts will give the group a better chance of seeing many possibilities.
In my theory about space, we each have certain things to share with our world that are unique. In my theory, it would be a terrible shame to come to the end of our lives and to die without at least exposing our thoughts and gifts to the world. I have sometimes, not proudly, kept thoughts to myself that I feel I should have shared. I have stood by when inappropriate comments have been made and I have not voiced an alternate thought. I was very willing to allow others to fill the space with their thoughts; by doing so I gave silent consent that what they said spoke for me.
In other cases, I have wished I would have joined in with activities, when instead I chose the safety of the sideline. I purposely pretended that I was ok not to be the principal actor in the play about my life. I played it safe, instead of being bold.
As we drove through British Columbia, we couldn’t help but see the after effects of a summer of fires. In these places where fire has torn through forests, spaces have been left. These spaces will be filled by nature. For a while, small plants and grasses will grow and these will fully occupy the spaces left by the fires. Eventually, the forest will find her voice again, and the space will be filled with the beauty of trees and shrubs, providing homes for countless other life forms. The grasses and small plants will also have a place; they will simply not have the only voice.
In my life, I am trying to fill fully the space I live in. I am noticing my values and becoming more conscious about aligning my life to them. I am recognizing the preciousness of time and working hard to use it well. I am using my actions as part of my voice, but I am learning also to make sure that I bravely use my voice.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘How fully am I occupying my space?’
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