Every fire's flame needs space to be visible. Even you.
Fire – Judy Brown
What makes a fire burn
is the space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.
So building fires
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood….
Each Sunday, I spend 15 minutes planning the upcoming week. I assess "active" time spent coaching or facilitating workshops. Then I turn to the open space that exists outside of active time. I decide what to place in the space. The commitments I make to myself. I take on no more than 1 to 2 things per day, beyond the active time. I am intentional to make my goal possible. I want to feel accomplished. I walk away from my Sunday session with a solid understanding of the week ahead.
Until things change.
My schedule this week had two big fluctuations. I pushed a half day workshop out by several weeks due to unexpected absences at a client. I freed myself from my weekly drive to coach in Mountain View because of a change in client's schedules. Immediately I found myself struggling with what to “do” with the open space.
I felt guilty about having two half days suddenly available. So many of my clients and community struggle with “finding time,” and here I had time.
I told myself that I should finally “get ahead of my schedule.” I could review the workshops booked at the start of July and plan them now to create more space then – out in the future.
I feared that slowing down would mean the end to my business. That I would pay the price later for my laziness now.
I spent the first two hours of my morning finding ways to be busy and tie up loose ends. I replied to the not urgent and not very important emails in my inbox. I hung pictures on the wall that I had been meaning to do for months. I re-seasoned a new cast iron skillet. Anything to fill the space that existed before deciding what to actually do with the time.
I paced back and forth between every room in my apartment. I didn't notice my partner watching my discomfort. I was too distracted. As he left the house for work, he grabbed my arm to force me into a pause and poked at my dis-ease with unplanned space. “Maybe you could actually take the day off and enjoy the warm day in the sun,” he joked. I laughed knowing he was right.
I had an evening hike date with a friend who happened to be self-employed. I called her to make the case to move our date up by a few hours. She agreed with little hesitation, having just submitted a big deliverable. We broke our usual routine, venturing to a park we rarely explore. At each junction on the trail, we revisited if we wanted to go forward or turn around, each time pushing a bit further. We meandered for 9 miles. Arriving back at the car, I gave myself permission to resist checking email. I didn’t plug back in until I was home from our post-hike Taco Tuesday dinner at a nearby restaurant.
The 2 or 3 hours away from work felt like an entire day. I needed the space. Upon reflection, I realized it had been more than a month since I had even unplugged for an entire weekend. I love my work which makes it harder to allow the space.
My flame feels bigger today. I gave it oxygen to breathe. I decided not to put another log on the fire. I tended to the open space between the logs – just for a few hours.
We trick ourselves into believing that adding more logs to our fire will produce a larger fire. This is a lie. It does not. Logs without space will suffocate us. They will dim our fire.
This week’s invitation is to allow for space between the logs.
Trust that your flame needs the space.