-Edna St. Vincent Millay
We celebrate, as a culture, those who burn the candle at both ends — the devoted teacher who brings the essays home each night to grade, the young associate who works 80-hour weeks to make partner, the parents who selflessly donate their time to the PTA and little league and classroom volunteering.
We brag about how busy we are. We pride ourselves on the minimal amount of sleep we require to sustain our lovely light.
…the problem is, as Ms. Millay cautions, a candle burning at both ends will not last the night.
If we want to nourish our inner light, we perhaps need a better understanding of what fuels an enduring blaze.
Maybe we need a different poem.
I love that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction courses include poetry in every class. When I took the course a few years ago, our instructor shared the following poem by Judy Brown:
What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.
So building fires
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.
When we are able to build
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.
We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
simply because the space is there,
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.
We must create open space, not just pile on the logs.
We must pay attention.
We must breathe.
It is both fuel — and the absence of fuel — that make our light, our brilliance, and our radiance possible. We truly need our space.
Sometimes we feel guilty for claiming our space. Even the request, “I need some space,” is interpreted as a pushing away, a rejection.
But it’s not. It’s an opening. It is through making space that we find our way.
Don’t feel guilty. Honor your need for space.
Ideas for making space for yourself:
Get 30 more minutes of sleep.
Eat a meal in silence.
Savor your morning coffee.
Give yourself permission to say NO.
Take a nap with your kids.
Put your phone in airplane mode for the day.
Go for a walk — no iPod.
Spend 10 minutes a day in silent prayer or meditation.
Do some gentle stretching or yoga.
Use your sick days — stay home when you’re sick.
Once in a while, declare an entire day a “day of rest.”
Save time each day for writing in a journal or gratitude diary.
Nourish yourself — body and soul.
Tend to your inner fire.
Make some space, and your light will find its way.