I think I have my life in pretty good balance. I run my company, have time for my family and friends, exercise, garden a little, travel – and even blog with some regularity. It can all feel wonderfully balanced. Imagine that the week following Christmas, we even threw together a little wine and cheese party with some friends and it was completely lovely. “This life-balance thing really works!”
And then come the interruptions. For me, there have been three major life events in the scope of a couple of months – my father-in-law’s last days (watching him die with dignity was an experience I wouldn’t trade); the untimely availability of exactly the right house to purchase and yes, it is a step towards simplifying; and most recently, my own father suffering a massive stroke thousands of miles away.
This is life, interrupted. Or is it just life? In our little family at the office, we’ve experienced parents hospitalized, an uncanny number of car accidents, a cross-continent move, and even divorce. All in the scope of a few weeks. I’m sure you don’t have to look far to know someone experiencing similar life interruptions.
Which is why creating what some call “white space” is so necessary. I’ve known for a long time – and only recently taken real steps to remedy – that living at the top end of what I can reasonably handle will leave me with nothing left for the interruptions that are absolutely going to come my way.
When my father-in-law entered his last weeks and days, I was rested, healthy, and had emotional reservoirs to be supportive to the family, and have my schedule interrupted. My husband and I were able to fully be there, not zapped of strength until it was over, relatives were home, and mom was cared for.
White space. Time where productivity, fast thinking, and constant communication are put on pause and space in your mind is allowed to just breathe.
I don’t pretend to be the expert – but I know that my home office days on Thursdays are an essential element of white space in my life. I love my office time – but Thursdays gives me the chance to be creative, write, rest a little, or meet with people I don’t find the time to do on the other days. White space.
Yoga and walking, though they take time on the schedule, are essential elements of white space. They create physical and mental strength and give my brain a rest. When staying for hours a day at the hospital with my dad, a one-hour walk in the brisk Kansas winter cleared my mind and refreshed my stiff body.
I’m convinced that our minds need a pause button. Our electronics certainly do. Machines, when run constantly overheat, lose battery power, freeze up, or need a restart. Somehow, we think we can keep our minds turned on constantly and we get by with it – until the interruption comes. And then, we find ourselves short-tempered, crying, impatient or grumpy – often at the time when someone really needs just the opposite. Patience, kindness, and clarity of mind.
I am headed into an exciting and busy week at our industry’s biggest event of the year – Intix 2012. I have numerous meetings scheduled, am presenting a seminar, and love to be with my team at the booth. I’ll be “on” for sixteen hours a day – and I’m entering it with barely a gap between leaving my dad’s side and closing on the new house. You can be sure I’ll be squeezing in some white space this week – extra rest, sneakers are packed, a quiet dinner tonight before the conference begins.
Funny – if you don’t create your own white space, I think it finds you. This week, I had scheduled a 2 hour direct flight home from Kansas. Flying with my brother, we arrived to check in, and discovered in my haste, I had booked the flights for the wrong day. Instead of getting home and jumping right back into life, we had 3 flights and 2 layovers. Tons and tons of white space. Forced to do nothing. Though I wanted to get home so bad I felt like crying, the uninterrupted time and the quiet you can only sometimes get on an airplane slowed me down.
Life has a way of self-correcting us. Sometimes it’s much less pleasant than a flight detour. In that spirit, I’m gonna keep finding my own white space, so it doesn’t find me at thirty-thousand feet.