empty spaces

amores,

it’s finally warming up outside, and i feel like i’ve been calling spring into my life since the pandemic first started a year ago. i’ve been waiting and aching to soak in sunshine and florals and rooftop mimosas. but, as we know, New York came to a full stop last year. i visited the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens once in may or june with my mom, and the experience was eerie. and not spring-like at all. for the first time i can remember, the gardens were almost completely empty, desolate. we were told that, like the rest of the city, the gardens had to close because of the pandemic, and so a lot of the seasonal planting and cultivating that normally takes place didn’t happen. it was surreal.

does spring still come even when there are no flowers to bloom?

and what exactly happens when the seasons don’t arrive the way we expect? as my mother and i made our way through the dormant gardens, i thought to myself: does spring still come even when there are no flowers to bloom? what is spring without flowers? and that’s exactly what 2020 often felt like for me; a lot of: “can this be without _____?” without. without. without. can NY be NY without Broadway? without restaurants? without brunches? and tourists? who am i without…a job? school? a romantic partner? a specific friend?

at some point, my piscean tendencies led me to this conclusion: in order to confront the without, i’d have to look within. but that’s so esoteric, it’s painful. i found my attention wandering constantly, and because i was home, i found my sight settling on all of the things around me.

i was Sisyphus and all my clutter was my rock.

is there a better way to bring spring energy into your life than some spring cleaning? personally, i prefer sundresses and mimosas, but i’m always down to try new strategies. like so many others, i was and am OBSESSED with Marie Kondo. i’ve read her books, binge-watched her show. but no matter how hard i tried, i just couldn’t bring myself to implement her methods. i won’t tell you how many times i’ve piled all of my clothes on my bed, asking myself over and over again “does this spark joy for me?” the process is difficult. and exhausting. and honestly, some days tidying up just felt like an insurmountable task.

most days, i felt like i was Sisyphus and all my clutter was my rock. no matter how much time and energy i dedicated to “the life-changing magic of tidying up,” the clutter always seemed to re-appear, bigger and more suffocating than before.

i couldn’t quite put my finger on why i was having such a hard time. and then early this year, while i was visiting with my mom, i noticed a book on one of her shelves– The Abundance Project. i’d never noticed the book before, and my mom has no idea where it came from. i don’t know why this impulse rose up in me, but i decided that i needed to read that book.

you see, here’s another thing i’d been struggling with: i barely read in 2020. anyone who knows me knows that reading is a must in my life. books follow me everywhere. there was a time when i chose to read over sleeping…and i LOVE sleeping. but mix a pandemic with job hunts and ADHD and anxiety…and well. my books started collecting dust. fortunately, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche had recently blessed us all with this gem: “if you want to read, then read!”

and so The Abundance Project made its way to the top of my to-read list. i’m not familiar with Derek Rydall’s other works, but this particular book felt enjoyable, i won’t do a full book review here (maybe another time), and i’ll also admit that i did have some qualms with some of his ideas, but i will share a few bits of wisdom that especially resonated:

much of [the clutter we keep] is unresolved emotional material; a futile holding on to your lost youth and better days; an act of self-preservation for some future lack when you’ll need those twenty boxes of sterile wipes you bought at the Dollar Store! it’s also a form of control, a way to feel like you exist–a means of giving weight, literally, to your existence.

Rydall (2018), The Abundance Project, p. 93

Derek Rydall read me for filth. but he doesn’t stop there. he goes on to talk about the process of clearing away the clutter. he talks about acknowledging that our things carry energy too. and when they just sit there, existing as monuments to our pasts or the dreams we’ve abandoned, they prevent our energy from flowing.

when we clear the clutter, we’re breathing new life into our spaces. but here’s the trick: because we live in a capitalist, consumer society, our instinct is to fill our spaces back up again. because we’ve learned to identify ourselves with the things we own. think about it…everyone is selling something these days. it’s easier than ever to get everything delivered directly to you. and we’re all buying. whether it’s cars, clothes, subscriptions, plants, books, degrees, stocks, environmentally-conscious straws, masks, games, furniture …(i could literally go on for days)…we’re all buying. so Derek invites us to resist that urge. to instead learn to sit in and with the emptiness. why? because an empty space is very much a blank canvas…a place where possibilities become endless: “There’s a reason the Bible describes the promised land as a desert, because it’s not filled up with a bunch of old stuff. It’s pure potential, where anything is possible” (98).

embracing empty spaces has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

on their own, these passages ignited something inside of me that i haven’t experienced before…something akin to desire. i deeply wanted to experience emptiness, expansiveness, possibilities. and so i emptied. i started with my closet, and soon found myself reimagining all of the spaces i exist in. (even the virtual ones.) and let me tell you, embracing empty spaces has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. because suddenly, i’m engaging with these spaces. my imagination comes to life. i’m able to open myself, to expand into these spaces. i am vast.

i can feel potential and possibility swelling all around me.

and now, dear reader, i’d like to ask: do empty spaces scare you?