Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Beautiful Life

“I am happy when I begin the new year with a few empty file drawers and space on a shelf or two. You need to clear a space for the future.”
          Alexandra Stoddard, Living a Beautiful Life

One of my favorite books is by Alexandra Stoddard, and I got it many years ago when my husband and I bought our first house. Entitled “Living a Beautiful Life,” it is ostensibly about interior decorating, but the reason I have read and re-read this book so many times, is that it is really about creating a space that reflects the beauty of the life we are actually living.

I can trace many of my favorite habits back to this book: my mania for colored paper clips, much preferred over the plain metallic ones; my habit of placing one fresh flower in a tiny vase beside my computer at the beginning of each week; my periodic cleaning and reorganizing binges that keep me sane in my space, usually dominated by piles of papers, books and whatever I had in my hand that I didn’t want to deal with at the moment.

I am currently caught up in one of those reorganization binges, initiated when I realized I needed to clear space for the future. I needed psychological space, for certain, but I also needed physical space—for my yoga mat and props, the yoga books I have started buying for the upcoming training, and for my daily practice. Until this past week, my yoga space was carved out of my home office space, dominated by books, printer paper, ink cartridges, copies of my current work-in-progress and several previous works-in-progress that aren’t quite finished yet.

Since much of my focus in recent years has been on integrating my life, bringing the disparate pieces of it together, weaving the threads of work, spiritual practice, friends and family and home, into one finished piece, it seemed good and right for my yoga practice to take place in among my writing. It seemed to provide visual evidence that my life was fully integrated, of a single whole, even though I’d occasionally knock over a stack of paper with my foot as I swung it through from down dog into lunge.

I realized, though, that another message I could derive from this happy chaos was that I didn’t value my yoga practice enough to give it room. It was actually the new books that started to arrive in the mail that finally tipped the balance. I had no more space on my shelves, and had begun stacking them on the floor, eating even more into my practice space. Something had to give.

And then I remembered Alexandra Stoddard’s wise advice: “You need to clear a space for the future.” I looked around my home office, located upstairs near the bedroom, and wondered: what can I clear out to make room for my future? My desk was actually in the hallway, a nice place for a writing nook, but the hall closet was filled with clothes.

Work clothes. Or former work clothes, actually, since that closet contained mostly jackets, suits and other business wear that I had collected over the thirty years of my previous life as a professor and government scientist. Good clothes, perfectly fine for another woman who might be embarking on a new career in the business world.

So, I’ve now donated those clothes, cleared out the closet—even painted it—and have begun to fill it with shelves for my writing supplies. I’ve tackled those piles and space is gradually beginning to clear in what will become my “yoga room.” It’s a good feeling to see that space open up. Space for the future.

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