I recently left a job that required so much of my time and energy Monday through Friday that I spent Saturday mostly recovering. On Sunday morning—blessedly—a sense of spaciousness would return, and I would exhale yes. Why couldn’t I cultivate this spaciousness during the week? Believe me when I say I tried.
I’m not the only person who’s sat in meetings from sunup until sundown. I tried to block off a few hours in my day, sometimes more, for quiet time (filled often with work) but this did not cure a scarcity of spaciousness that left me weary to my bones.
So much has been written about the soul-crushing busyness of modern life. In American culture, the word “busy” does not carry a negative connotation; we don’t question it much, as if the condition is intrinsic to a day’s work.
This tradeoff—making a living by giving away natural rhythms and time—didn’t result in a soaring corporate career for me. If it had, quitting might have been more difficult. I saved a good chunk of money, planned my exit, tied up loose ends, and resigned. I’m taking some time to think carefully about my next step, and I know how fortunate I am to do so. There were times when I couldn’t leave without another job, particularly when I was a single mom. And even now that I have a little more freedom, the decision wasn’t easy.
When you separate from a career (or relationship, or way of life), you step away from what is familiar and comfortable. You step off a paved road that was your life, wave goodbye to the people still there, and begin to look for a new path. The way forward may appear as a sunlit opening in the brush, or something that catches your attention or engages your curiosity. The new way rarely shows itself in its entirety. This incremental wayfinding feels scary because it requires oodles of trust—in oneself and in possibility.
Transitions happen throughout a life and as I get older, I’m less fearful. I’ve been here before. Today I desire less pushing and pulling in my work—to meet a deadline, to achieve a goal. Instead, I’d like more allowing and appreciating. I’m aware that with any new line of work, even creative work like the writing and promoting of this blog, busyness can creep back in.
The Japanese concept of yutori captures the essence of what I hope for now, which translated means “a state with sufficiency and ease.” The concept encapsulates the opposite of American work culture, and what I love most about the definition is the word sufficiency. How much effort, time, and money are sufficient? What recalibration is necessary to allow me to wake naturally each morning? To lie in the sunlight that falls on my pillow, to experience the morning with my husband and pets curled next to me?
To notice, appreciate, and increase the pearls of life requires spaciousness. The resonant notes of a song, a line of a poem, a bright daffodil after winter. How do you make room for spaciousness in your day, especially amidst the busyness? I’d love to hear.
Lisa Groen is an author, part-time mountain monk, and instructor of Figuring Out What’s Next, a course of self-discovery that can open a window to your imagination, and if you’re ready, steer you in a more resonant direction.