Spaciousness is a word that has come up again and again in recent weeks. I have been thinking how I need to be more “spacious” in my relationships with others and with me, like the sky is with clouds that pass through. Giving them lots of room, without constricting their nature or pouncing on them. Staying its’ vastness. A metaphor that lives in meditation language — letting thoughts and feelings pass through you.
Spaciousness in my relationships amounts to giving people the room to be themselves, to accept them as they are, not trying to rope them into being who we think they should be or would like them to be. We can let them know how their behavior affects us, be open to how we may have a role in that, and choose to change or not. The other has the space to choose change too. But taking on the mission of changing another is to crowd your own and the other’s spaciousness with little chance of succeeding.
I was raised within a closet of what is appropriate and acceptable. That’s how Black people lived for centuries, in tight boxes of expression and behavior. Stepping outside of them risked torture and death. So in private, we created music, art, sing-song speech and loving community. We mourned and danced, freed ourselves. We created space. I created space by rebelling.
How else can we give ourselves space? For those of us who pack it in, not an easy task. Our hours stacked with things to do, meager time to freestyle or just be. To breathe. Unscheduled, task-less time feels wasteful or scary, so we sew it up. And we miss so much. Sitting with the new moon in the sky, being present for the shower jets beating heat against our skin, the comfort of silence, aimlessness and being. Getting in touch with pain that needs our attention. We cannot depend on others to create space for us. That is our job.
In recent months, the words of Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams ring in my ears, “Rest is radical for the Black body,” for which rest was never envisioned. Rest is space.
We also give ourselves space by not being our own jailers. By granting ourselves compassion, room to be human and imperfect, and to learn over time. To be vulnerable to self-doubt, unraveling, and hurt, to be honest with ourselves and others. By loving ourselves through the mud and starlight.
The amount of space we each need varies. In relationships, it can be a crucial negotiation to honor differences in the need for space, and to cultivate a togetherness that can support that.
Spaciousness is where love breathes, where bluejays fly.