feelings, lent, Mary Oliver, oneword365, space



I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions although starting last year I decided to pick one word for the year. That word is more of a guiding principle – not a resolution to be better or have a better life. The one word gives me focus when I start to feel off track; it reminds me to pay attention.

Despite not having designated resolutions, recently I found myself needing to create more space in my life and this has come in the form of purging things. Last week I reduced the number of paper files on my desk at work and got rid of one file organizer. I recycled several piles of paper too.

This isn’t just happening at work though. Last month I emptied out the front closet in our house. I made three piles – throw away/recycle, Goodwill and keep. I filled up the back of my car with that purge. And now, when I open that closet I feel lighter. I love seeing the floor. I could barely see the floor before because it was covered with bags and tissue paper and bubble wrap and empty cardboard boxes and shoes… After pulling it all out I realized how many things I was keeping “just in case.” In case of what? I needed to keep my copy of Watership Down because? I read it once in middle school, maybe I thought I’d read it again? If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s safe to say that book can find a new home!

Last week I started going through drawers in our laundry room. How many Monumental Marathon hats does one really need? Random gloves, papers from our premarital counseling sessions… again, more piles. Throw away/recycle, Goodwill and keep. The keep piles get smaller and smaller. I have another load to get to Goodwill. I continue to feel lighter and lighter…

Yesterday I was added to a Lenten group online that will follow along with the SALT Project – they created a Lenten devotional based on scripture and the poems of Mary Oliver. Today the series begins with Ash Wednesday.

Last night I knew I’d want to have plenty of space to sit with this before I started my day. I’m used to getting up earlier than “necessary” – with more than enough time to eat, get dressed and head to work. I get up earlier than “necessary” because I need more space – it is necessary. I need it. So, to make more space I got up 15 minutes earlier. A small sacrifice, one I was willing to make.

Mary Oliver’s poem “Storage” comments on our American tendency to have too much, so we get storage units and fill them with things we forget we even had. That’s how I feel about my closets. If it’s hidden away on a shelf in the back of the closet, do I need it?

After reading, I reflected on my need for space. What is this all about? Space…wide open spaces. I don’t like feeling crowded in. I like seeing things from a distance. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to walking and running and being outdoors. Maybe I need more space to make room for me. For my thoughts and my feelings. These feelings I have aren’t small. They need lots of room to spread out and just be.

Grief can’t live in a small corner hidden behind boxes. Well, maybe some grief can, but mine can’t. Mine needs air to breathe and room to move around.

Joy doesn’t want to be locked away in a closet. I don’t know of any joy that wants that. Joy needs space to dance and laugh and give big hugs. That can’t happen when there are too many things cluttering it all up.

Confusion needs so much space. Space to wonder and ask why and let go. Confusion needs so much space, in fact, that it often just stays outside. In the widest spaces possible. Confusion likes to be among the trees and the snow and wild flowers.

Awe and wonder need the most space yet. In fact, they inhabit large spaces big enough to hold the sky and the moon and the sun and the stars. They float around in spaces so big we can’t even comprehend it.

I’m not going to get rid of it all. I don’t think I could be described as a minimalist. But, I can let go of the things that crowd my life. I can say goodbye to the boxes of books I thought I couldn’t live without. I can pare down my printed pictures and put them in smaller box. I can pass along the clothes and shoes I no longer wear. I can get rid of the extra storage containers we don’t use and the décor that doesn’t belong. I can make some space – more space for me, less space for things.


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