Empty

Empty CalendarIt has been decades since my calendar is as empty as it appears now. No more breakfast or lunch dates, no more doctor’s appointments, no more art workshops to plan for or facilitate, no more dinner engagements with friends. No more deadlines to meet.  There has been a emptiness to our days – an open expansiveness that has been both expected and unexpected. It has been a welcome breath of fresh air and it has paradoxically taken my breath away.

As we brought our life to a close in California our schedules were jammed packed with packing and moving details, business affairs, and farewells. Our beginning days in North Carolina were filled with placing furniture, emptying boxes, and learning our way around a new environment. Even in the midst of unfamiliar heat and humidity we worked at a ferocious pace the first week. Then weariness and a shred of sanity set in. We, by necessity, settled into working at half speed, quitting by three or four and resting the rest of the day. By week three an amazing amount of our house was put together and I moved to an even slower puttering pace. There was a slow internal dawning that if I pushed to finish yet another project that day there’d be nothing left for tomorrow. An uneasy emptiness of days was before me.

But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. How many of us ever really take the opportunity to purposefully slow our lives down, to constructively face the uneasiness, to purposefully ask what do I plan to do with my “one wild and precious life” as poet Mary Oliver would ask. It’s an emptiness that leads to mindfulness. An emptiness that invites listening…listening to the rhythms of a newly unfolding, uneasy, unfamiliar life. Listening to the God-centered plans that have taken us this far. And plans to take us a bit further.

Over the last few weeks I’ve met a lovely assortment of people who’ve graciously referred me to others who might be interested in the work I do using the arts for healing and transformation. On one level, there’s quite a temptation to fill the unfamiliar emptiness with familiar activities and commitments. While my calendar is empty of commitments, there’s something appealing at the moment about ordering the emptiness of my calendar as a daily, weekly opportunity to make space for others, for the unexpected, for the serendipitous. To be surprised by the fullness of emptiness.

If you’ve experienced emptiness in the past, what were you tempted to fill it with? How did it make you mindful? If you’ve ever experienced emptiness as an opportunity, what did you learn from it? If you were to create an art piece entitle “The Fullness of Emptiness,” what would it look like?

12 comments to Empty

  • Lee Hodges

    That is a thought-provoking question. I love the sound of the “fullness of emptiness”. I suspect that we avoid it at all costs, filling our time with activities,reading, and entertainment. But just hanging out listening to my thoughts churning around? I know that this month as I faced a two week span after being scheduled for surgery, where I was either going to just wait, or fill the time with a whirlwind trip to New Jersey and Chicago to visit an aunt turning 100, and to see cousins I have not seen in 45 years. Guess which one I chose? I leave tomorrow.

  • June Veith

    ah ,I know the activity that goes with a move to a new place and life. I am intrigued by your comment of “The fullness of emptiness !” My word that comes to mind is “explore!”

  • For years, “busy” was my excuse for avoiding reflection…I now have unstructured time , at nearly 70, to look both backwards and forward. I am trying to think more about what I could have, (or should have) done differently, and perhaps to communicate my regrets to those whom I affected, primarily my children. I hope to take stock of what I have learned by writing about my life, and thus hopefully leaving some sort of legacy for my grandchildren. I wish my own parents and grandparents had done that, so that I would have known more of their life stories. Basically, I want to know and forgive myself, and to pursue what is left of the future, unemcumbered by regret….to act consciously.

  • Deanna Bowling

    It’s time for me to turn off the TV for awhile. Everytime I see something about Robin Williams, my tears start to whell up again.

    Emptyness – or what I see to be emptyness – can be either a friend or an enemy. It all depends upon how I view the “Vacancy” sign at any given time. Last night, after I left my friend who was watching TV and came upstairs, I filled some seemingly “unoccupied time” with some reading. I am reading a book that you Lynne recommended, a book that seemingly somewhat “patiently” waits for my return, just to restart our conversation in mid-sentence when ever I sit down for a few minutes.

    Other times, like this morning when Dede was out of town, it felt weird to not have things to do to help her moving through her morning.

    Right now, my day’s to-do-list is just about done, and I am going to start working on my projects again until it is time for us to gather for another evening.

  • the fullness of emptiness. I am interested in that. Thinking of you.

  • Karen Mikuls

    As someone who lived in Ventura for 62 years and in the same house for almost 40 years, I say EXPLORE! Pretend you’re a tourist! We have looked at our “empty” days as opportunities to explore our new environment, explore new people and friends, explore new interests. It’s invigorating and exciting! I have seen so many people that seem to fill their days with activities – always feeling that every minute needs to be scheduled. Never a moment to do something spontaneous. It is wonderful to realize that you don’t have to be scheduled every day and can just ENJOY your new life! I love my “empty days” now! Means I’m FREE to do anything I want! I find myself researching and “scheduling” new day trips, lunch/dinner at new restaurants, cultural activities, entertainment, all in a new, stimulating area that we haven’t even begun to discover. I now want to go over to Point Reyes and go to Cowgirl Creamery now that I’ve tasted their Brie!!! Like Buttah…..

  • Erin

    Let your calendar remain empty for some time. Perhaps God will lead you to use your gifts in a completely new way. Be open to the promptings of the Spirit. You will know the right way to go in time.

    Blessings on your new location!

    Erin

  • Ray Ulmer

    had a small bike accident a week ago and have been “forced” to do nothing… pain and very….slow… walking. nothing to do but sit, wait to be healed.. TV get old. Can occasionally practice piano for short bursts.. Tempted to be depressed, but choose to take the time to REcreate. Quiet time can be good.

  • Steve Sallee

    I have never chosen this sort of “emptiness of days.” I am not sure I have the courage to, although I guess I have chosen something similar, as I leave one ministry post without knowing what the next one is. Many of the people who have filled my days are going to disappear from view in a couple of weeks. Even at that, we will remain local (until God calls us somewhere else), and I will have the full contingent of lifelong friends nearby.

    All this to say that I can only imagine what you are feeling. Thanks for sharing those feelings with us as beautifully as you always do. We know that God will slowly fill some of the empty moments with the things that he already has lined up for you. We also know this: There are a bunch of people in North Carolina who are about to find out how lucky they are to have the two of you in their lives!

  • Kay Galloway

    Please send new snail mail address. Please say “HI” to Karen and her family for me. Kay

  • cynthia Hashbarger

    Dear Lynne.. Always good to hear from you.. and I smiled when I read of you r thunder storm.. I l love them. and they
    always signal rain a’comin.. By now you probably have checked out a few churches.. had a picnic or two with Karen
    and her family.. and are starting to “settle in”. .. I love the south and the slower pace and the lovely folks.. Check out
    the local Chamber of Commerce and put your walking shoes on for some fun exploring.. .. Thinking of you with love Cynthia

  • Sharron Luft

    A smiling hello to both you and Robert. I loved your writing as I always do; I find your expressions to ignite my own thoughts – “the fullness of emptiness” could be aka for the Holy Spirit, and that’s about as exciting as one could hope for. I do get the times for you as I am celebrating very much the same. I have worked for the past 56 years; up early and at site by 8:00, 5 days a week, is a strange pattern to break. This week I’ll be at the gym for an hour two mornings and at an art class for four hours. Can you believe that’s all that’s on my calendar? Wow! So, I’m catching up on reading and writing, and I’m about ready to complete a piece of art. I’m enjoying every minute. Blessings, Sharron

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