Life happens in the beautiful negative spaces

negative space

When I initially started this blog, I was determined that I would write every day. I mean, why not? And really, what was the point of it all if I couldn’t commit to writing each and every day, chronicling our daily lives, my thoughts, and whatever else is going on? Even when Harley first came home, I was committed to writing on a daily basis, even if I didn’t always manage. At the start of this year, I decided to try and plan blog entries, to make it easier to write regularly, to write better posts because I’d have the time planned for each one. Of course life doesn’t work like that.

It’s now over a week since my last post. I had a crazy week at work, and then Harley got a stomach bug and that seemed to consume whatever semblance of time and sanity I had left. Oh, and can I mention that I’ve been fighting off a cold as well? As much as I wanted to write here, there just weren’t enough hours in the day. When I did have some consecutive minutes or hours, I wanted to spend them with Dean and Harley, wanted to relax together, to just be together. But when I thought about the fact I hadn’t written here, I felt so bad, felt like such a failure, until I stopped thinking of it negatively, but rather as negative space.

Thanks to the stomach bug, Dean and I spent a couple hours on Sunday evening waiting in the emergency room for Harley to get some medical attention. It ended up being largely a waste of time… and yet it was also a lovely couple of hours for us to hang out as a family, entertaining Harley with whatever we could while also just enjoying time in each other space. That the joy of being with people you love, isn’t it – it doesn’t matter what the activity is, it’s just the happiness of being together.

Often in art, it’s the negative spaces that are the most beautiful. The empty space that gives the object meaning, that lets us imagine what else we aren’t seeing. It’s the pause in a line’s delivery that makes an actor’s emotion believable. Too often, I feel like we focus on production. What have you done today? What have you made? But what about the time we need to think, to reflect, to pause and revel in what’s there or question where to next?

Negative space has such a, well, negative connotation. I imagine that in the days I haven’t written words here, you’ve decided that I’m not interesting, or even worse, you’ve forgotten that I do usually write. I immediately jump to a conclusion that all is lost, that I’m terrible or a failure. But really, all my best memories, best thoughts, best ideas come from those gaps of time. The negative spaces, like those minutes in the car ride to pick up Harley from school when I decide on my next life changing project. Or those precious moments in the shower when I figure out what I want to write here. Or those times I’m five minutes early for swimming class and spend the time playing with Harley on the swing. Or the seconds in between rushing around when Dean and I hold hands on an escalator.

I want to be productive, to make a difference in the world. I like to reflect on my day and know what I’ve accomplished. But this past week has served as an important reminder to take a step back. To look at the whole picture and appreciate the beautiful negative spaces, the room to breathe and imagine and grow. I’m sorry I didn’t write, and I do plan to write more. But I will also enjoy the times I don’t write and stop feeling guilty about them. I miss all of you when I don’t write, when we don’t interact, but it’s just as important to enjoy the quiet moments when they come and not always feel so compelled to fill them.

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  • Ursula Van Lelyveld

    Can identify, I’ve also had time in hospital emergency rooms over the last week. I once had a wonderful chat with a music teacher, she pointed out how music is all about the pauses between the notes.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      wow, that’s lovely! i think we underestimate the value of pauses and silence.

  • Liezel Malherbe

    This is such a good read! I agree, I think that life happens in between all the deadlines and rushing and craziness, and most of the time we have to stop to see and appreciate it.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      thanks so much! agreed – have to pause and appreciate or all the beautiful moments will pass us by