You know those times when the calendar is full and you can’t sleep and your husband is working overtime and the kids are slightly psychotic and the lawn needs mowing and you haven’t had a date night in months and tomorrow you have three events back-to-back and your breathing is kind of shallow?
Asking for a friend.
As a family, we try to reserve one day a week for white space. That day is typically Sunday. For the past 1.5 months, however, we’ve allowed the world to encroach upon our white space. Birthday parties and 4H events and family obligations – all great things in and of themselves – stole away our Sundays. The result? See paragraph 1. Some families thrive in an environment of constant activity. Ours isn’t one of them. We get thin. Like, in the immortal words of Bilbo Baggins, “butter spread across too much bread.”
After a rather clipped exchange with my husband, we both had an a-ha moment and broke the metaphorical emergency glass.
My husband put in for a last-minute vacation day, we packed up the van and trekked 45 minutes north to the shores of Lake Huron.
Sure, we forgot the bug spray (I’m beginning to notice a trend here) and the kids argued all the way up and it was too cold to swim and I felt self-conscious in my swimsuit. It all faded away when we crested the final hill and:
We ditched our chaos, spread our blanket beneath the shade of an oak and soaked up the white space. My husband rekindled his love of beach stones, sifting and collecting only the most beautiful or the most ancient. My daughter began to erect a tiny replica of the Great Wall of China (??), and my son just walked, letting the sand soothe his feet and, I realized, his spirit. Me? I reclined on our blanket and let the wave-calm wash over me as I treasured the people I love most.
Later, we lunched out and took the scenic route home. Along the way we discovered a small-town art fair and small-town malted milkshakes. We marveled over found-object animal sculptures and giant metal flowers and hand-woven rugs. Finally, we climbed into the van, both renewed and exhausted, and headed home.
The past months have been packed – a largely happy-busy but, for this introvert and her introvert family, they lacked the downtime we need to function. In a one-day white-space intensive, we managed to reboot our souls. I left home a wound-up ball of anxious and returned with a soul as smooth as a beach stone.
Most importantly, our day reminded me that our weekly hiatus is a non-negotiable, a ritual that must be reinstated and defended against all interlopers. For our family, white space – physical, mental, emotional – is more than a blank day on the calendar; it’s a vital nutrient.
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