Posts Tagged ‘space’

A blue-walled loft bedroom in an old church converted into condos. A wide leather couch, piled with blankets, in a cramped but comfortable house. A two-level, wood-floored apartment filled with abstract art, dried rose petals, and light. And a cozy guest room in a college town that I still think of as home.

Most friendships involve a balance between space and attention, with both parties weighing the needs of the friendship against the other obligations and people in their lives. During the winter and spring leading up to my divorce, several friends gave me the gift of space in a very particular way: opening up their homes to me, whether they were physically present or not.

My essay “Space to Imagine” was published last week over at the HerStories Project! Click over there to read the rest of it, if you’d like.


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“Is there a word for when you wait three weeks to do something, and it takes five minutes?” I asked a few girlfriends the other day.

“Being human,” one friend responded wryly. Another came up with the brilliant portmanteau you see in the post title: procrastiminutiae, or putting off the tiny things.

I’ve been deep in a post-holiday, endless-pandemic funk of worry and frustration, unable to motivate myself to do much besides run and read and wash dishes. (All of which are good things.) But a few days ago, I decided to tackle one small task I’d been putting off for weeks: calling the gas company about an inspection. I’m not sure why: maybe it was the sunshine, or my inspiring run playlist (heavy on the badass female ’90s country singers), or just the general sense that it was time to stop avoiding this one little thing.

It took (less than) five minutes, in the end, and I got so inspired I tackled a few more minutiae: taking down the Christmas cards and stockings (I know it’s mid-January; don’t @ me), dropping some clothes off at a donation bin, making a bank deposit, ordering more compost bin bags. Each task took just a few minutes, by itself. But the mental space they cleared felt so expansive – and so good.

We have little control over our lives at the best of times, and lately, with so much disease and upheaval everywhere I look, I’ve been feeling particularly helpless. But it felt very satisfying to exercise some agency over my life for just a few minutes. Bonus: my apartment is a bit clearer, and so is my head.

What are the procrastiminutiae on your list?

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book apple bench sunlight

And just like that, it’s June. I’m still catching up from a very full May – so here are the books I’ve been reading lately. It’s a short list, but a good one:

The Chelsea Girls, Fiona Davis
Hazel Ripley is expected to follow in her actor father’s footsteps, especially after her brother is killed in WWII. But a USO tour to Italy sparks her budding creativity as a playwright. Davis tells the story of Hazel, her fellow actress and friend Maxine, and the legendary Chelsea Hotel in NYC. A solid historical novel about female friendship, ambition and secrets. (I like Davis’ work.) To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 30).

Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past, Sarah Parcak
Space archaeology sounds like a cross between Indiana Jones and Star Wars – but it’s a real thing, and it’s changing the face of archaeology. Parcak shares stories from the field and explains how high-tech satellite imagery can make a real difference to the future of her field. Engaging, smart nonfiction. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 9).

God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America, Lyz Lenz
America is divided: we hear this all the time, and many of us are living some version of it. Lenz, a journalist who’s lived in the Midwest for years, saw her marriage and her church fall apart in the wake of the 2016 election. She’s spent time with many Christian pastors and congregants to try and understand what’s going on. The story, as you might imagine, is complicated. I’m a Texan living in New England and I have small-town Midwestern roots, so Lenz’s reporting and her personal experience resonated deeply with me. So insightful and honest. To review for Shelf Awareness (out August 1).

Sherwood, Meagan Spooner
Robin of Locksley is dead, and his people – including Maid Marian – are devastated. When Will Scarlet is thrown into prison, Marian impersonates Robin to help get him out. But her actions create a ripple effect, and while she loves her new role as Robin, she must keep it secret for various reasons. A clever YA take on the Robin Hood myth – though I didn’t love a couple of the plot elements. (I did love the Merry Men, especially Alan-a-Dale, and Marian’s maid, Elena.)

Unmarriageable, Soniah Kamal
Literature teacher Alys Binat, the second of five daughters, has sworn never to marry. But when she meets one Valentine Darsee, that may change. Kamal’s Pride and Prejudice retelling, set in early-2000s Pakistan, is funny and fresh. I especially loved Alys’ relationship with her best friend Sherry, and a few scenes between Alys and her father. Recommended by Anne.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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Over Labor Day weekend, inspired by an article in the (massive) September issue of InStyle, I spent an afternoon cleaning out my closet and dresser drawers. I’d intended to do this for several months, but the time and the motivation didn’t converge until that day. I didn’t think to take a Before picture, but here’s the After:

closet 008

(Yes, it’s a small closet. I live in New England, and our house is old. Trust me: the space was much more crammed before.)

I ended up with two big paper bags of clothes to donate, and one plastic garbage bag of ratty, worn-out items to throw away. The latter bag was full of tank tops, T-shirts and pajama pants I’d kept long after they grew frayed or worn. It felt so liberating to toss them, knowing I’d never wear them again. I’d held onto them mostly out of a sense of obligation: they were still useful (albeit in a limited sense), and I have a horror of being wasteful. But the space cleared by tossing them was far more valuable than their presence had been.

A week later, I took about 20 books (mostly advance copies I’d received for free, but also a couple of books I’d bought and didn’t like) to the bookstore run by our library. It felt good to hand them over to the librarian – even better when she exclaimed, “Wow, these are quality donations!” I love our library, and I’m happy for my unwanted books to help it out in a small way. And now there’s a bit more space on my shelves for the books I really want to read (and keep).

It feels satisfying, this clearing out and making room, paring down my collections to include only the things I love and use. The beginning of fall always feels far more New Year-ish to me than January 1, and this “zenning” of my spaces (as Serenity calls it) feels right for this time of year. Before the rush and press of fall events, before the Christmas gift-buying, before the nesting instinct kicks in with the cold weather, it feels good to create space without filling it up again right away.

My closet isn’t exactly a minimalist’s dream, but believe me, there’s far more space in there than before. I can see what I have (and what I love) right away, which makes me more aware of it, more grateful for it, and more likely to wear most of what’s in there. The same thing applies to my bookshelves, and by extension, to my soul. If I can clear away the clutter and keep some of that space free rather than cramming it with new stuff, I feel lighter, calmer, more at peace. And I’m more likely to welcome the good things – a new red cardigan, a delicious novel, or something more intangible but no less valuable.

Do you do any “fall cleaning” at this time of year? How do you “zen” your space, and/or your soul?

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There’s lots going on around here, behind the scenes. Lots of reading (as always) and book reviews; a fair amount of freelance work; still catching up on laundry and sleep from our fabulous (and yummy) trip to New York; finally taking the Christmas decorations down. And some hard stuff, too: family illness on both sides, and the news of a seven-year-old boy’s death from leukemia. (We didn’t know Liam, but his family goes to our church in Texas and I used to work with his grandmother, and many of our friends are grieving.)

We’ve also been (finally) getting some snow – which I love (in small amounts) because it blankets the world with that quiet, clean, fresh feeling of peace. And I’ve been feeling like it’s time to take a step back, to post regularly but not daily for a while, to take some time for silence, to rest and think and write without having to hit “publish” or schedule a post for each weekday.

With that in mind, I’ll be blogging three times a week, instead of five, for a while. I’m not going away – just making space for a bit of quiet, a shift to help me rest and find some new ideas, and (I hope) to find some peace.

See you on Wednesday, friends. And thanks for understanding.

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