Space in the Space (Center, Part 4)

Space in the Space (Center, Part 4)

At the end of this post, I’m going to take you to the beach.

It’s a beautiful beach, too…

…and I, for one, will be glad to get there. We all need something to look forward to. So there’s my promise: Beach trip. Very soon.

In order to get there, though, first I need to tell you

the origin story
Pussy Hat Totem Power Angel.

In last week’s installment of this Center series, I wrote about a line of ancient poetry that kept appearing to me at a time when my head was a little too crowded. It spurred me to thin out the noise and voices and cluttery commitments. I felt lighter, freer, more able to focus.

What I didn’t tell you: A few months later, that space I was creating got a lot more spacious than I planned. Something I cared about very much suddenly fell apart, and it happened on the verge of a milestone I’d been working toward for years. It came out of the blue; it was beyond my control. (“Spacious place” indeed. Be careful with the poetry you meditate on, is all I have to say.)

Now, I am lucky in that my livelihood didn’t depend on this project—unlike, say, the farmers whose crops were just decimated by Hurricane Michael.

But money, obviously, is not the only thing human beings live for. There are also things like vocation and love. And whatever the scale or sphere, this is part of everyone’s life story, right?—The Gut-Punch Loss.

Ravaged cotton crop. Photo: Alabama Farmers Federation.

The business crumbles,
the relationship dies,
the illness advances,
the job evaporates,
the home is claimed by foreclosure
(or fire, or war),
the limb or organ is lost,
the pregnancy doesn’t go to term.

What then? 

One impulse, for me, was to fill the space. Shake it off and get back to work. Don’t be a slacker. Make things happen.

But I was also detecting another little transmission—something that felt like it was genuinely from the center of me. A directive. An odd directive, but it felt like the right thing to do.

I started making more space.
I started going through my house and throwing stuff out.

Was this an act of reclaiming control? “I see your gut-punch loss, Universe, and I raise you ALL THE CRAP IN MY CLOSETS.” (Confession: I have been known to rage-clean.)

I didn’t know why, exactly.
I just knew it was the right thing to do.

I would go into a room, take anything that looked like it was building its own mountain range in my house, and dump it in boxes. Everything. I immediately carried these boxes outside to the yard.

Only then, when I’d emptied the room of excess, did I look through these boxes and decide what got the privilege of coming back into the house.

It was a real instant-gratification method because the room felt drastically better in ten minutes. And it was procrastination-proof. I knew couldn’t postpone the outdoor sorting process very long, or spiders would move into the wedding albums.

Kitchen. Office. Bedroom closet. Bathroom cabinet. All the closets. All the cabinets.

Oh God, the toy boxes. (I have written before about the similarity between editing and toy purging.) We poured it all on the grass, that bottomless plastic hell, and I let my kids fill a few boxes with good toys (i.e. intact things they actually use), which they were allowed to rescue back inside. Then I put out some rolls of duct tape and pipe cleaners, and with all those broken, orphaned pieces, we sat in the yard with some friends and their kids and we built robots. You’ve already met mine. She’s the wallflower on the right.

Upon reflection, I can list a million possible reasons why this Great Purging of the Dwelling helped me get centered again:

  • Moving my body is generally a surefire shortcut to sanity. (Ditto for small, concrete accomplishments).
  • This was one aspect of life under my own control. (That thing, I lost. But these things, I gave away.)
  • Maybe this is just a human response to grief? Wear sackcloth; rend your clothes; throw away seven bottles of expired salad dressing?

Okay, that wasn’t a million possibilities, it was three. This fourth one is the biggest, though, and it’s the one I want to offer you:

Much of what I’ve learned about getting centered
relates to letting go of things.

As I said in that first post: clearing the litter and leaves off the labyrinth. And being that we are not floating heads, or disembodied spirits:

Our physical space matters.
It has a real and profound relationship with our inner space.

Again and again, I have found that creating physical space is profoundly clarifying for me. The end is rewarding, yes, but something happens in the process, too.

It’s been three months now. I’m still purging. I walk around my house now and I cannot believe how much easier it is to hear myself think. I never realized that my own living space contributed to me feeling distressed, distracted and dispersed. It’s like all these objects were giving off noise that my ears couldn’t hear, but my soul definitely could, and my soul is now relieved for the silence.


If you decide to try this,

I humbly submit that you might
1) start with a small space, so you get a nice little reward right away. And
2) perhaps approach it with an intention, rather than household drudge-dread:

This is not an act of escapism.
It is, in fact, the opposite.
You are not just getting to the depths of the closet.
You’re getting a little closer to the center of you.


I promised I’d take you to the beach, and now I am.

I’m lucky enough to live a mile’s walk from a humble, rocky beach. The sunsets are something else. While writing this installment of Center, I got stuck, so I walked there (it’s good to move your body) with my notebook.

Such great fortune, so close, and free: a horizonful of rainbow. I took this picture for you.

Also, I figured out what to write about.

Physical space matters. I hope you create a good one this week.


(PS Comment and tell me your physical-space story. The space you cleaned out. The thing you might clean out this week. The time you were clearing space and realized something. I love this stuff, fo’ realz. XOXOXO)

Onward to Center, Part 5…


7 Replies to “Space in the Space (Center, Part 4)”

    1. Yay, I’m so happy! Desk cleaning always feels so invigorating to me, like I’m doing an act of respect for my work. Plus I usually find scraps of paper with ideas. I mean, sometimes they just have cryptic strings of unrelated words, but I’m grateful for whatever I get…

    1. Aww! Thank you, April! I didn’t feel particularly inspiring when I was unearthing bags of melted lollipops and old nursing bras from the closet… but my whole life does feel lighter now. Happy cleaning! 😆

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