Monday, September 21, 2015

The Cure for the Common Frenzy
I am generally an upbeat person, but lately, I've been feeling tired and a bit like I need a life preserver. I'm used to being busy, and although I'm busier than normal, that didn't feel like the whole problem.

Never satisfied not to analyze, I kept wondering and working at the knot, trying to figure out what tangled threads were at its core. Then last Friday, a beautiful, sunny day on the cusp of the weekend, as I drove down route 83, my endless to-do list scrolling through my head, it finally dawned on me.

I don't have any white space.

No, I haven't gone over the edge, or gone under completely (glub, glub). White space -- that beautiful stretch of calendar page that is blank and free from all scheduled obligation -- is my cure for the common frenzy. And while my days for the past couple of weeks have had patches of white space -- enough for a nap or a maybe even a decadent night of mindless television -- what I needed was a meadow-sized space. A whole day where I didn't have to be anywhere. I could have a to-do list -- no problem.

I just needed an entire 24-hour period full of white space to carve up as I saw fit.

While diagnosing my problem was a relief, looking at my calendar curtailed that excitement pretty quickly. I'm optimistic that I can stitch together a patchwork of white space in the week ahead, but my meadow is still a ways off.

Still, knowing what the problem is, now I can tackle it. The first step is to find the first white space day on my calendar and plant my flag. My day. My time. Nothing scheduled here. A big old X on the calendar, and that step is done. Yes, people can ask me to do things, and I'll be happy to add them to my list, and maybe even comply. As long as I don't have to be anywhere else to do it.
The next step is to take a look at the things that are eating up my white space and decide if they've earned the right to gobble it up. Which commitments truly enrich me and which are simply white-space eating habits? That step is a lot more challenging, but it's the one that's likely to lead to a long-term solution.

Finally, I need to get from here to the X on my calendar. Knowing what's going on is a big relief -- a half-inflated life preserver, if you will -- and knowing my white space is there, waiting for me, helps, too. Until then, I have to protect my patchwork, and, barring emergencies, I think I can do that.

And finally finally, I need to accept that this is something that I need. That it's not selfish or childish or ridiculous. Yes, a full schedule with responsibilities is part of being an adult. But my goal is to be a happy adult, and that means that an honest assessment of what I can and cannot do is in order. And what I cannot do is operate indefinitely without white space.

How about you? How do you capture and preserve your white space?

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