Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Problem with Empty Space

I want to fill it. 
And so does everyone else.

My mind:  “Hey there is empty space right there and it is too close to me and I don’t know what to do with it, so how about I fill it?

People around me:  “Oooo, I see empty space in her life.  She needs help filling it.

“Janna, can you go to the moms’ playdate on Wednesday?”

“No, I can’t go.”


Because I have “nothing to do” at that time.

She looked at me baffled.  What kind of talk was this, I could see her thinking. 

“It’s called empty space and I planned it on purpose.”

“What do you do during this time?”


She pressed her neck back and it began to crumple to form a double chin.


When the habit of busyness has become the norm, empty space feels uncomfortable…. to everyone.




It reeks havoc on your self esteem. 

Shouldn’t I be doing something right now?

Is there someone I should be with or talking to?

Am I a loser?

My nails tapped on the table before me.  Here was my scheduled “nothing for me to do” time.  Time to just sit and think, look out the window, calm my soul long enough to maybe hear God’s quiet voice.  The kids were napping.  I silenced my home phone and my cell phone.  I was alone.  And it was quiet. 

I began to pace back and forth. 

I need to still my body.  I sat down on the couch.  My knees started shaking, knocking back and forth into one another.  “Calm down. Calm down,” I reassured them.  “We are practicing tranquility.”  I was glad no one was around to hear me talking to my legs.  My legs went still.

Then I started twirling my hair. 

How come it doesn’t feel as good when you play with your own hair?  How does your hair know that it is your hand doing the playing and not someone else's?  O.k. that wasn’t helping me to relax.  It was distracting me.  My other hand grabbed the hand that was playing with my hair and brought it down to my lap.  “Calm hands.  Calm.  We are practicing stillness.”

I looked out the window.  I know, I will look at the sky.  Oh, look at all the white fluffy clouds.  I wish I could lay in one.  My eyes began to drift downward.  Look at all the cars driving by on the bridge.  What if one of them is Cameron Diaz?  Oh, oh, or Sandra Bullock!  I wonder what kind of car they drive.  I wonder if Cameron Diaz is dating anyone.  Or if she will ever get married.  Why do all the celebrities get divorced?  I wonder if Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore will stay together.  She looks so good for her age.

OH MY WORD, JANNA!!!  What is wrong with you? 

I covered my eyes with my hands.  There.  Now I can’t see anything that will distract me. 


Complete darkness.   

Yes, this is good.  I am focused on darkness and quietness.

Is the light of the day going to hurt my eyes when I remove my hands from my lids?   

RING!!!!!!  The timer rang loudly, startling me.  Time's up.

My scheduled hour of “nothing to do” had ended. 

I removed my hands from my eyes, and my eyes began to sting from the light. 

I knew it!!!!

This may take some time to learn how to be quiet.  Is this why quietness is referred to as a discipline?

I could never be a monk.


  1. Girl, did I get to tell you thank you for the sweet comment on my photography blog? Heather Stokes Photography
    THANK YOU!!!

    I have a question? Do you do gluten free recipes on here or do you know any blogs that do? I have recently started having to go gluten free because of my health. I wanted to ask you first!

    I will def. be a regular on your blog! Hope you are having a wonderful week!

    Heather Mullin

  2. Heather, I have dealt with all allergies when I birthed three allergic children. All of them have been allergic to different things, and yes, one of them is gluten. Just for you, I will begin to post some gluten free recipes starting this Sunday. I also have gluten free recipes throughout this blog. Some day I will have this all set up so you can browse through the recipes easier.

  3. Janna-
    I so enjoy reading your story. I can soo relate to the steps you have gone through. I am just behind you and just beginning this process. Your way of telling the story is super funny, yet such a deep, thought provoking life change. Thanks- I truly think about these things:)

  4. This is so true! I want to fill space. It's rare and scary when it's there, so when it is, I hurry to fill it for fear that a moment of time should be "wasted". Just today, I had about a half hour until I "needed" to do something, and I ran around like a crazy woman trying to find something, anything to get done. Thank you for the reminder that quiet, unfilled time is okay and to use it, maybe not to sit and think about nothing or celebrities, but to relax and enjoy it.

  5. Janna, LOVE reading your blogs. You know it doesn't change too much as you get older. I do wake up every morning really early so I have some quiet time when the house is still dark. Maybe that's the answer a dark house, anyway that's when I pray and wait for God to guide me through my day. I have to be honest and say I have some days where I stayed focused and others that I find myself thinking of some crazy things!

    You have a great talent and we are lucky you share. :) Love you, Shirley

  6. Awesome reminder!! I think we are all used to being crazy busy that silence is foreign to us. The other day I was picking up my daughter from soccer & realized that I had arrived 10 min early - so I reached for my phone to check out Facebook or anything really to pass time - then I realized that I forgot my phone! I sat there fidgeting - and then decided to have some quiet time with god - but then it was too quiet so I had to turn the radio on in the background. I seriously have developed an adult case of ADD! I can't just sit and "be". - it's something that I'm working on - so I appreciate your post - I can totally relate ;)

  7. The journey into solitude and silence is such a hard one... and yet, so VERY, VERY worth venturing into! I can so relate to your wandering thoughts amidst silence. I totally fidget and wander. I totally think of SERIOUSLY Random things like Cameron Diaz and such. Me, too!!! I love your last lines... "it might take some time". Yes, and AMEN. I think the key is sticking to it... just making it happen. Well done. Seriously, well done. It is such a learning curve. Don't give up on it, for sure! I applaud you and I know you will find Him in it.
    If you like to read... Henri Nouwen's The Way of the Heart is amazing on this topic.

  8. I am not good at being still, at being alone with my thoughts. I tend to fill my mind and my space.

    I am not a big church person but my husband likes to go so occasionally we go. Anyway, on one of the days we went they sang a song that resonated with me.

    "I need to be still and let God love me.
    When this old world starts to push and shove me,
    I need to be still and let God love me."



  9. Janna-
    I hope that the place in which you moved to (not yet revealed in your story) is teaching you to be still, calm and enjoy the fact that probably no celebrities are driving by, maybe that makes it boring to think average people fill your streets up instead of Cameron Diaz. I had those thoughts after moving to San Luis after living in LA for 10 or so odd years. I am now so happy to not get on freeways everyday and deal with no "rush hour", celebrity siting or not. My only problem is that I have NO empty space in my tiny house.
    Your inner thoughts crack me up...I see a book in your future lady... although that would take up lots of empty space. ;)