Negative Space

The Coronavirus Change has created plenty of space for new situations, new routines, and new emotions. There is a risk of blundering through this period of novelty without giving it its due notice. There is a risk of failing to learn the lessons we are being taught.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my new reality is all of the time I get to spend with my children. A reliable highlight is my daily bike rides with my son. However, one of the hardest changes for me to cope with is a sharp decrease in my productivity. There is work for me to do around the house, but part of my brain is still idling at the sewing shop, simply waiting for business to reopen. Part of my lack of productivity is attributable to inadequate focus. When I had customers coming in every day and giving me orders, I knew clearly what needed doing; the work options in front of me now are not so neatly prioritized. And a third contributing factor is a strong urge to run away and take a break from it all.

I was examining this eremitic urge, trying to understand it, and I think maybe it is traceable to a desire to be more creative, rather than productive. My habit of evaluating my day’s production and weighing it against my day’s expenditures is so ingrained in me that it taints my leisure. If I didn’t earn any money today, and I didn’t earn any money yesterday, then something is wrong and I feel bad. Obviously, such a state of affairs is unsustainable.

But what if for a year, for a month, or even just a week I gave myself permission not to create anything of extrinsic, monetary value. I need space to play with my thoughts, to follow my imagination where it wanders… and maybe just do nothing at all. It is not unreasonable to think that “nothing” should have a place in our lives. Bears hibernate and trees go dormant in the winter, but surely they would not consider this a wasted period or something to avoid. Blank space is important, be it psychological or physical. The white walls of an art gallery provide significant contrast to the artwork that they host. As the Tao Te Ching says, “Long and short contrast with each other; High and low rest upon each other.”