A dear friend of mine recently sent out New Year’s greeting cards along with a letter recounting 2021 as she experienced it. As I read the first paragraph, I paused, reread it again multiple times, and then proceeded to read the whole letter. Today, with her permission, I’d like to share what she wrote and chat about why the practice of creating space is such an important and healthy exercise, for entrepreneurs and business owners, as well as people in general…
Jen wrote: “As I reflect back on 2021, it was a year that can be described with many words; however, the idea I keep coming back to is one of creating space. Space in my heart and mind to hold multiple emotions at the same time. Holding space for others in times of hardship and grief. Rejoicing with others experiencing moments of happiness and optimism. Listening to my needs of solitude and my needs of socializing. All of this in the middle of a pandemic none of us have ever experienced or lived through before. It was (and continues to be) A LOT! Yet through it all, I had a year I am thankful for. It was another year of being blessed with life and breath and love.”
As the pandemic wanes and life begins to feel a little more ‘normal’, we have to remember we are all still reeling from the last two years of life and world stress and the unknown. The world is still in unrest and the unknown seems to be a permanent fixture. A reminder that we are not in control of what happens around us.
But this message is all about how no matter what happens around us, we can control how we handle it all. And really, no matter when Jen’s letter might have gone out, we can apply it to all of life.
Creating space is a practice we must implement in many, if not all areas of life. If we don’t create and hold space for the unknown and whatever we are experiencing in the moment we end up stifling, ignoring, shoving out, and flat out denying what is happening in our life and around us.
Creating space doesn’t mean we have to invite in all that is happening around us, but it does mean we sit with and process the feelings and thoughts surrounding it. That space doesn’t have to live there long, but to be healthy, we must sit with what is going on and sort it out.
I’ll give you an example…
I’m pregnant (spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen my updates recently) and it is a known fact that when people find out a woman is pregnant they will offer unsolicited advice and tips and even well-wishes. At times those pieces of input may seem, well, off, or even scary as we consider what we want or don’t want and how we might experience the same. But those talking are eager to share. Their own experiences rise up in them and sometimes they can’t help but project or scoff at what may be innocent but could be taken as negative input.
At the age of 41 I am so glad to have more wisdom today to create and hold space for people’s “well-wishes” and “advice” while also having the experience to do what I, personally, need to do with that input. I can listen and appreciate, thank them for what they likely intend as help or even humor, and then decide to hold it and use it, or let it go. All the while giving them grace and understanding that we all desire to share our experiences, to be heard, and to belong.
If I didn’t hold space to do that processing, to be grateful and happy, or even confused or sad in different moments of life, I might find myself resentful, bitter, and even angry. And none of that is helpful to building strong relationships or living a healthy life where my body is not holding onto garbage – which BTW, has been proven to have the ability to cause physical sickness.
Creating and holding space is a discipline and sometimes you may not have capacity to hold one more thing, one more emotion, or one more thought. I get it. As entrepreneurs and business owners, we carry a lot and must wear all the hats our work holds us responsible for.
Sometimes I can’t contain any more information. My brain just shuts down after overload. In those times, knowing when to walk away and practice self-care is vital. Otherwise, my work and relationships may suffer.
But during the last two years, I’ve also found that what comes at us and we hold doesn’t have to define us. It will likely add a layer of complexity to our personality and more depth to our life experience, but not everything we process is meant to stay with us.
And yet, Jen’s words ring true for relationships, which (IMO) are the most important purpose of life. People matter. You matter. Your relationship with your clients, vendors, team, and even your family and friends is and should always be priority. Holding space for their hardship or frustration doesn’t mean you absorb that, but rather you can sympathize with and support them through it. And your relationship with yourself is just as important, which is why Jen’s words of listening to needs of solitude and socializing also carries so much weight.
In a world where the impact of decisions, words, and actions can reveal true character, the world has turned to canceling or dividing. People are ‘breaking up with’ people who don’t share their same beliefs, or who they are no longer willing to tolerate, which saddens me. Every single person on this planet is different. If we can’t hold space for others who aren’t just like us, or who are struggling with their own ability to process confusion or the unknown, those who might lash out and project without just cause, aren’t we throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater?
Yes, sometimes we’re supposed to release people. Relationships do have seasons. But can’t we endeavor to hold space for others who are walking down similar paths because of a global situation none of us have ever seen or gone through? Can we have grace, forgive, and show kindness to others, and to ourselves as we try to regain our footing? Can we not just throw away a relationship or an emotion, but rather hold it, process it, and respond with compassion?
Staticians are saying it may take years, if not a decade for most of us to recover, in part or in full, from what we have gone through during this pandemic. People need to process and release or grow. Let’s give them, and ourselves, grace to do that. Let’s create space and hold that space for whatever comes our way today, tomorrow, and in the years to come.
Thank you Jen, for unleashing this important thought process. Your words are having a ripple effect.
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