That kind of space


Yesterday, I drove to Toronto for a reading, and stopped in for a jolly afternoon visit at my publisher’s new office. I was going to visit my sister too, and really make a day of it, but she was sick. (I should have brought her chicken soup, but my germophobe tendencies won out.)

I noticed that many of yesterday’s conversations revolved around the idea of space.

Space for the mind to think. Space to breathe. Space to relax. Time is a form of space, and when it’s packed, it can feel cramped and tight. But even time that is packed with events and duties can feel spacious, in certain moments. My goal is to make even a busy day feel spacious, by settling into the present event, and offering my full attention.

I don’t always manage it, it’s true. When I’m tired, when I’m anxious about what’s coming up next, when I’m pulled in different directions, when I’m longing to do something else instead … then there’s no space, no flow, limited attention. I can ruin my own fun in this way. I call it: pushing myself ahead. What I mean is, I’m pushing myself out of the moment I’m in by occupying the ones upcoming, rehearsing them in advance, usually with a worried or impatient furrow to the brow. There’s also the problem of pushing myself back, going over errors in the past. And what about pushing myself entirely out of the picture?


My meditation right now is focused on Generosity. (Fittingly, I use an app called Headspace.) “What would you like to give to yourself?” asked the friendly voice of Andy-the-meditation-guide this morning. What would I like to give myself? My mind went blank.

Finally, I thought, forgiveness … enjoyment …

Forgiveness? Well, I understand it. I’m feeling guilty for slipping out early after my readings these past two nights. Terribly guilty. Both evenings I had a long drive before me, and I was very tired. I’d given my best effort on stage. I wanted to go home and sleep. No matter the circumstances: slipping out early is antithetical to how I’ve disciplined myself to behave. So I’m crawling with discomfort at having prioritized rest over being gracious, polite, respectful of the readers yet to come and of my hosts. I don’t know what’s right. And clearly I don’t know how to forgive myself for this decision.

As for enjoyment … I had a fun day yesterday. Once it got rolling, I didn’t worry, I felt relaxed and content. My uncertainty came when it ended. I wasn’t sure when to end it, when to transition to the next part, the part where I drive home and go to bed. I didn’t know what was best for me; indeed, as I write this post I can hardly let myself pose the dilemma in those terms: what was best for me? Maybe I didn’t know what was best for me because I frequently fail to take that into account; I was genuinely stumped by Andy’s question, thrown back on my heels. When I do something for myself, I feel like I’m stealing it. I shouldn’t take this. It isn’t mine.

Ah, enjoyment…

Of course we all do many things we don’t particularly want to, for reasons of necessity, and we can find ways to enjoy rather than endure many of these. But I’m talking about something else. I’m talking about those little things we do for ourselves. What are they? And do you give yourself permission to enjoy these little things, wholly, without guilt, without suspecting you’ll be penalized? Do you give yourself that kind of space? It’s occurred to me that I do this only rarely. And that if I were to give something to myself, that is what I would give: the ability to recognize what I want, and to enjoy it when it comes.

Sounds easy. Strange it should be so hard.

xo, Carrie

Unofficial snow day
My new hobby


  1. Wow Carrie. Deep questions here.
    I was just pausing to think about things, as I was trying to write a little something in honour of International Women’s Day, and I think a lot of people struggle with these things, but often it’s women.
    Glad you had a nice day in spite of all that.

  2. Hi Carrie! Loved your blog this morning. I also, hitting my 40s, found a lot of happiness thinking through and focussing a bit more on my own needs. I, similarly, came from a protestant work ethic, large family, (though not nearly as large as yours) and others-first background. I particularly enjoyed Sarah Ban Breathnach’s ‘Simple Abundance’ – actually the workbook called ‘Simple Abundance Companion’. I like that one because it’s written in a former time – ie from a similar background to my own. Anyway, just throwing it out there in case it is helpful to you. On an academic note, many modern approaches to mental health actually suggest less of a self-focus – more focus on others. I suspect the pendulum has swung in society a bit too far the other way. Hope that is helpful! Best! Sue

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Sue! Much appreciated. I especially like your point about mental health, and the benefits of focusing on others rather than on the self.

  3. Hey Carrie,

    I was one of those lucky enough to hear you read both nights. And enjoyed the reading both nights (I love to hear the same thing twice and compare the performance, what I notice, what I didn’t notice the first time, how the reader reads different or responds to the moment, etc.) Of course, if you’d be able to stay to hear me read at Rowers, you’d have been filled with such effervescence and inner radiance you could have just jogged home. On one leg. But your blog post is apt and thoughtful. It can be easy to do too much and then you pay the next few days in exhaustion or just lack of brain space. We “should” be able to do everything, but I think it is fair to realistically assess what we actually can do and think of the larger picture. I always overdo it, not knowing when to end the enjoyment/opportunity and then crawl around for the next few days like a deepsea creature. Like I’ve been doing! It is hard to prioritize one’s wellbeing over other things. I haven’t found a solution yet, other than more coffee. Again, it was a pleasure to hear your readings (and I know that our audience at LitLive in Hamilton loved your performance.) Best, Gary

    • Thank you, Gary, for this very generous comment. In fact, I was feeling badly about making you listen to the same piece two nights in a row! I’m so sorry to have missed your reading, especially now, having heard about its salutary benefits. I don’t drink coffee anymore, so that’s no longer a solution for me. I hope you’re recovering your equilibrium and energy today. Warmly, Carrie


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