I’ve been contending with empty pages for a while now. Empty journal pages—pen poised in my hand for 30 minutes and the page still blank. Empty word documents—cursor blinking and not a word to type. Empty pages sometimes feel like failure.
In a few days, I will be staring down another blank page. For the first time, all of my kids will be leaving for school, and I will be here at home. I feel a little panicky. What will I do with my time? Will I actually start writing in earnest? What would I write about if I did? What projects will I actually have time to tackle? What will I volunteer for? What kind of jobs will I seek out?
When I look into that emptiness, I find fear. Fear of not being enough. Fear of wasting my time. Fear of being nobody. Fear of losing my purpose. I fear the emptiness.
This fear of emptiness might compel me to fill all of the empty spaces as quickly as possible with work, volunteering, social outings, organizing, and all sorts of other things.
Emptiness begs to be filled.
I have started to think about this blank page in another way though, a way that settles me and inspires me.
What if this blank page isn’t an emptiness? What if this blank page is actually a place of spaciousness?
Emptiness and spaciousness can look similar. Blank. They can both be unsettling places.
But where emptiness seeks something to fill it–approval, attention, validation–spaciousness makes room. Spaciousness is a place of grounded possibility.
Space is opening up before me. Space that is full of possibility and promise. There will be space for something new to grow. Space to find a new rhythm. Space to tend to what is growing in me. Space for deepening relationships. Space to discover my unique way to contribute to the world at this time. Space for living creatively and intentionally. Why rush to fill up all of the blank spaces?
One of my key tasks in this life is to discover what it means to be a spacious person.
Henri Nouwen describes this spacious quality in his book The Wounded Healer:
“When our souls are restless, when we are driven by thousands of different and often conflicting stimuli, when we are always ‘over there’ between people, ideas, and the worries of this world, how can we possibly create the room and space where others can enter freely without feeling themselves unlawful intruders?
…. [W]hen we have finally found the anchor place for our lives within our own center we can be free to let others enter into the space created for them, and allow them to dance their own dance, sing their own song, and speak their own language without fear.”
I think this is what it means to be a spacious person. This kind of spaciousness requires time and intention. It requires leaving room in my actual schedule to tend to my own soul and to welcome other people. It requires intentionality in the things that I do put on my calendar and in the way that I use my time. It requires an open heart and a mind that is willing to unlearn and learn again.
When I look at these empty pages as a place to practice living spaciously, they no longer frighten me. I welcome them.