Papers. Everywhere papers. Notes for work, essays for school, examples of book proposals for writing. The wood pulp of my life scattered all over the floor of the room we use most. Every time I open the door to the library, my daughter sighs and gives me the side eye, then slowly shifts herself off the sofa to leave the room. There is only so much space to spread my things out, knowing I must gather them all up again by the end of the day.
My friend Ann suggested I read the chapter “Arrange” in her book On Being a Writer. If you’re not a writer, stick with me. We’re going somewhere. At the end of the chapter, Ann and co-author Charity Craig, suggest identifying a writer whose writing life we admire, and writing an essay about the feelings of jealousy or envy it creates in us. It took me less than one second to identify the writer whose writing life I most admire. So I pulled out my trusty silver glitter journal and wrote down exactly what it is about her life that I don’t see in my own.
It’s never healthy to dwell on feelings of envy, but the point is to move closer to the life I admire, rub up against it like a cat on tree, scratch the itch, observe what moves me. As I wrote, I found myself writing the word “space” over and over again. This writer has a space of her own to complete her work. She has space in her day to think, to process, to create. Bookshelves make space for her work, readers create space for her words. As I wrote, I realized it’s not so much her life I want, but rather a Kimberly-shaped space in the world. I want to know there is room for me.
Life can often feel like a game of musical chairs, where we all find ourselves scrambling to find the one last seat when the music stops, claim the one last space. As a kid, I often found myself standing on the outskirts of the room, having lost to the silenced music and the rough shoving almost immediately. Sometimes we can claim all the space in the world for our desires and goals, only to be pushed out of the way and told there is no chair, no accompanying music, no room.
I would love to tie this up neatly with a peppermint-striped bow, and say things like “There’s always room at the table” or “You just have to want it enough”, but I don’t know that those things are always true. I know women who’ve wanted a child or a life partner or a gig or a job or a ministry role with a kind of desperation I will never know. And the space created by their own desire remains open like a wound. We have a sacred space within that longs for a sacred space without.
Madeleine L’Engle says in her book Walking on Water, “How many artists, in the eyes of the world, have been less than whole…The great artists have gained their wholeness through their wounds.” I would say, how many of us have been less than whole? The great women I know, have gained their wholeness through their wounds. How many of us are a space waiting to be filled, or want a space to open up in the world for us?
Moving in the direction of desire, opens us to our wounds. It just does. So as I seek to create space in my life, I know I’ll have to plumb some of the depths I prefer to ignore. Maybe there is a Kimberly shaped space, and maybe there isn’t, but identifying my desire for it is the first step in it coming to fruition.
What has envy or jealousy taught you about your desires? Who do you admire and why? What wounds do you need to address?