None too long ago, my godmother, Anna, shared a memory of my mom that made me laugh.
Decades ago, my mom once led Anna through the perpetual, knee-deep mess of my childhood home to the door of my mid-teenaged self’s bedroom. “Look, Anna!” my mom said as she opened the door to my bedroom. “Deborah’s rebelling!”
Inside my room was … nothing. My room was completely empty, because I kept literally everything I felt was worth keeping (clothing; sleeping bag and pillow; boom box and cassette tapes) in my closet, pulling each item out only as needed and returning it to my closet when not.
While I laughed at Anna’s recounting, and still smile when I remember it, I now also see there was more than simply rebellion in my spartan ways.
What my mom understood as rebellion I now understand as only small part rebellion,
great part something else. Something more fundamentally
I didn’t always know what space felt like.
In my childhood home, there was always, always,
noise (absence of aural space),
clutter (absence of physical and visual space),
and bombardment or potential for bombardment (absence of mental and emotional space)
Living with an insomniac, even nighttime afforded no respite,
so that I lived my first fourteen or fifteen years
without any idea what space—
When I was fourteen or fifteen, my mom spent some time serving as a church janitor. Early in the morning, hours before sunrise, she’d let me take her keys to the church,
at which church I’d bask in the quiet (aural space),
the often vast distance between objects (physical and visual space),
and absence of potential for bombardment (mental and emotional space).
For the first time in my life, I knew what space sounded, looked, and felt like.
Knowing its goodness,
I found I could not
At some point in early parenthood, I stopped remembering how important space was to me. With so much mandatory bustle and a to-do list that never got anywhere close to done, I got too caught up in incessant calls to action to pay much mind to abstractions like “space.”
I was thus shocked when, a few months back, a profound, visceral roaring for space arose within me.
While it then felt like the roaring came from out of the blue, months of working at its untangling led me to understand:
I’d never actually adapted to absence of space.
I’d simply suppressed my awareness
of its importance to me,
going to be
(My once-empty bedroom wasn’t rebellion;
it was a claiming—
For months, I’ve been working on building in space wherever I can.
It’s made a difference, but the biggest space (about which space I have full permission but no inclination to write) is yet to come, simultaneously only days and an eternity away.
The last week or so, I’ve noticed myself on edge in almost my every interaction. I’ve had to dedicate almost all my energy to not enacting that edge, which non-enactment has left me exhausted …
but without much to show for all my effort.
Until this* very, very early morning, I thought I knew the exact nature of that edge—but, no. What I knew was only small part that,
great part something else.
Reflecting on space at the same early morning hour during which I’d have once been walking to my mom’s church,
I considered The Edge and mused, There’s something about it that feels really, really familiar.
It’s almost like, even with all the space
I’ve worked to build around me,
I’m experiencing …
a scarcity of space?
The moment I thought about it that way, everything clicked into place. I hopped out of bed, grabbed the book Scarcity from my bookshelf, and read every passage I’d once highlighted in it.
With each word I read, my heart lifted further and further, for I saw I had indeed understood correctly:
In the presence of sustained scarcity of space,
The Edge I felt wasn’t about me fundamentally, but instead about how greatly my bandwidth has been taxed
by simply trying to survive this particularly excruciating
(In the absence of slack,
there is suffering.)
In my last post, I wrote about my many quests for knowing that I undertake such quests
“not for the sake of abstract knowing,
but for the sake of wiser doing.”
I don’t want to know better just to know better. I want to know better so I can do better.
For me, this morning’s knowing-better about my relationship with space is
my path to doing better,
Better understanding the true nature of The Edge,
I can be more gracious about it—and with myself,
and with others—understanding The Edge not
as something shameful about my essential nature,
but rather, as a temporary function
of a very specific confluence of certain spacelessnesses,
which function will diminish as space and slack expand around me
in the days ahead.
I don’t have to allay The Edge forever—
just for days, and days?
Days, I can handle.
* This post was written off the cuff yesterday morning and posted with intentionality today