Last weekend, the Cool Kids were hanging out in the deep end of my pool. Floating there on foam noodles and drinking wine out of plastic cups with girlfriends–a little hour in heaven. Wise Heather shared the news that her new job was pretty much a done deal. Good for her, but sad for us who were hoping that she would work someplace close enough to meet for lunch.
I asked, “Is the drive going to bother you?” and she dropped a truth bomb: “It’s nice to have 30 minutes in between BAM and BA BOOM to think my own thoughts.” Ain’t that the truth?
She got me to thinking about the space between things, the moment when we’re going from Point A to Point B (and if you’re like me, using that time to anticipate out all possible problems that might arise between Points C – ZZ). I think my days have left me short of breath lately because I’ve shoved more and more work and worry into the space between things.
This little gem floated into my Facebook feed last week:
Well, hell. I haven’t observed Items 1-4 since my kids were born. Trying to, but…damn. I pride myself on answering emails while I’m on the phone and checking Facebook while I’m walking the long way to a meeting so that my Fitbit will approve of me. Multitasking is supposed to be a good thing, right?
Not so much. Not when it’s ALL THE TIME.
Today at 4:55 p.m., while I adjusted user permissions on a site and posted news stories and sent an optimization idea to the developer and questioned the life choices that have led me to use words like “optimization,” I also texted G to see who was picking up Vivi from day camp. Ding! He was already on the way. OK, I could get a feeeeeeew more things done before fetching Carlos.
But I made the mistake of glancing at my desk calendar and seeing BLOGHER in big yellow letters next week. NEXT WEEK? Shit, I need business cards. So I flip over to a website to design and order something fresh and amazing that’s going to be The Ticket To Next….but the logo I want to use isn’t the right dimension and the website warns me that my design will have “possible white space.” No worries. I can fix it with some clever cropping in this other application over here…
Next thing I knew, I looked up and it was 5:25 p.m. and the Mom Guilt kicked in. “Please don’t let my baby be the last one waiting in the room, sitting over in the book corner while the teacher mops the floor.” I grabbed phone off the charger, chugged down the last of my 100 oz of filtered water, slapped the Fitbit to see how many blinky dots I racked up, sighed in disappointment, shoved the stack of bills that I meant to pay on my lunch break back in my purse for another day, I turned to the whiteboard behind my desk and crossed of ONE DAMN THING from the long list, even though I kept the hammer down for the last seven hours, since I got to work after my early morning dentist appointment for a filling.
I turned out the lights and locked up the office, Mom Guilt squeezing my chest until there’s no room for breath. Turned left to take the stairs and walked past the scale that stands in the hall. Checked the Fitbit again. In the stairwell, I held on to the railing because no one would find me there if I slipped and fell. Last one leaving. Then the “You’re going to die alone!” fears stop in to say hello because why not? All my kids will remember is that they were the last ones picked up from daycare and the smell of mop water will trigger depression for the rest of their lives. As I stepped out into the sunlight, I tallied all the phone calls I need to make…that I never seem to have time to do. Like to check on my own parents.
Two minute walk to the car. Just enough time to catalog all the things I meant to achieve between last year’s BlogHer and this year’s. And I forgot to lose fifty pounds. AGAIN.
Got in the car and the gas light came on. I need to find a way tomorrow to drive across town to the place where I can save 50 cents a gallon on gas with my fuel points. That’s like eight bucks. That matters.
It’s a three minute drive to get Carlos. The first thing I see is a note taped on his cubby, and it’s not just a note, it’s a note with a STAPLE in the corner, a multi-page record of his transgressions. He’s been fine for months…now this shit AGAIN in the last month before he starts Pre-K.
He beams to see me and gives me a gigantic hug. Four other kids line up to get hugs, because I make time for that. As we make our way to the car, the weight of the note makes me think that I should start the “Good Choice/Bad Choice” speech and break it to Carlos that he’s not going to have screen time tonight, but part of me just wants to have a few minutes of happy with my happy kid while he’s actually happy instead of immediately talking about that time six hours ago when he was angry.
Where is the space between things for a working mother? In music, it’s called a rest. In painting, it’s the negative space. In graphic design, white space. Where is the space between things that gives me room to breathe? That, in its emptiness, gives the heart a place to stand in order to see the life as I’m living it?
Sometimes when I find myself standing in front of the refrigerator, foraging for junk, I realize that what I’m really hungry for is a big gulp of breath. A heaping plate of rest. A space. A pause.
Know what I’m saying? What do you do to maintain the space between things?
IRONIC POST SCRIPT: I looked up the principle of “the space between things” in art. The Japanese have a word for it, and that word is…………..”Ma.” I guess my kids have been yelling at me about theories of Japanese spatial design for all these years.