October 1, 2020
When I initially wrote this newsletter, I wrote it inside my apartment mid-September. I was inside a lot of the time. Fires were happening outside a lot of the time. Everywhere up and down the West Coast of the United States, fires were, and are, burning. I am one of the lucky ones, as I am safe where I live. I know others who have lost homes. I know of others who struggle with this smoky air. These last few weeks have been dystopian. Surreal. And right before I readied this newsletter for posting, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died. I became even more deeply aware of how tenuous life can be…climate change, violence, death, etc.) Heartbroken.
Having seen the photos of the orange sky on their social media pages, friends around the world checked in. Yes, the sky was really was that color. Yes, I was wearing my mask and checking the Air Quality Index constantly. Yes, climate change is real. We must stay awake to it. We must change our ways. We must stay appreciative of the life we have. Things are changing. We must stay present. Autumn is upon us. Literally and metaphorically.
I am working on the ‘staying present’ part of doing life. Meditating more. Breathing more consciously. And through this work, I am gifted with more spaciousness. Say wha? More spaciousness, while being ‘stuck’ inside, amidst this pervasive sadness? Yup.
When you look up the definition of spaciousness you read
- Having enough or abundant space or room; large in area or extent
- Large in range or scope: roominess, commodiousness, capaciousness bigness, largeness – the property of having a relatively great size
- The property of something spacious and abounding in fresh air: airiness
What an ‘extreme’ goal I have set for myself, given my time frame to get certain workshops ready. Given the time frame I gave myself for my next book is coming to an end. Given that square feet I walk around in is relatively small. Yet, it is a both/and moment. Spaciousness must exist in my mind even as the outer commitments must be met. It isn’t an either/or world for me, and I am guessing it isn’t an either/or world for you either. We must strive to have peace in our minds while getting the work finished. We ain’t got that kinda time to fragment and isolate. These two ways of living, with two feet on the ground in real time and with a sense of infinitude, must happen in tandem.
One dictionary defines spaciousness in terms of seating capacity – “the number of people that can be seated in a vehicle or auditorium or stadium, etc.” Or, as I see it, the number of thoughts that can be held in one’s mind, number of feelings embraced in one’s heart, number of beliefs to be grasped by one’s spirit. This fall, stuck inside, I am trying to expand and not contract. To hold more. To sit with more. To be open to more.
The workshops I am facilitating, and the book I am currently writing, both center on adult development in action. How can we be bigger selves, more evolved? In connection with the work, I have started to read Stephen Levine’s A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Was Your Last. Morbid or affirming? Overwhelming morose or calming? The text asks its readers: How do I want to live? How do I want to behave? What do I want to focus on? How big do I want to be in my thinking?
I know I want to live with more spaciousness. In the middle of staying inside, with deadlines looming, with air getting thicker, with our USA presidential election upon us, with autumn leaves falling in this hemisphere, and with hibernation (so says my hero, Dr. Anthony Fauci) appropriately imminent as we ‘hunker down’, how can we approach the next few months with the spirit of spaciousness?
This month I will ask myself:
- How will I leave space for others to add their voice?
- How can I not add any more noise into the cacophony at this time?
- How can I just be and not do? How might just ‘being’ be helpful to me and to others?
- How might I allow myself to not know everything? What if I just allowed for time to not the solve problems but to sit in the not knowing?
- How could I build up my bandwidth to listen to others and be a supportive container for them to ‘hear themselves into speech’?
- How might I just be less fearful and more comfortable in life?
So I will sit at my small dining room table in my little apartment in Palo Alto, CA, USA, longing to physically travel but going nowhere. Instead, connecting with others via Zoom at all hours of the day and night. Ah, jetlag via technology. Living in as spacious of a way as I can at the moment, given my inner and our outer circumstances. Peace.
If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at Jennifer@jenniferabrams.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
Speaking of spaciousness, here are a few resources that align with the theme…
Lost and Found: Exploring the Lived Experience and Theory of Fallback in Human Development “My name is Valerie Livesay. Not so long ago, I left my job as full-time faculty teaching in a graduate program in organizational leadership at a university. I left my job…to attempt to be. To sink into not doing (doing being a favorite compulsion of mine). To find myself anew. To shed the many parts of my identity that I had spent a lifetime creating; the parts that had been created on my behalf; the parts that had certainly served me well to that point. And, to see if I could still be loved…by myself…by others.”
Jenny Odell – How To Do Nothing from the XOXO Festival 2019. “In her first book, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, multi-disciplinary artist and writer Jenny Odell argues that taking control of our attention from the capitalist forces determined to monetize it and reconnecting with the world around us is a critical form of resistance.”
Time in Different Cultures “One way of looking at cultural attitudes to time is in terms of time orientation, a cultural or national preference toward past, present, or future thinking. The time orientation of a culture affects how it values time, and the extent to which it believes it can control time.”
About Jennifer Abrams
Jennifer Abrams considers herself a "voice coach," helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague and supervising an employee. Jennifer holds a Master's degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Jennifer's latest book is Swimming in the Deep End: Four Foundational Skills for Leading Successful School Initiatives. Her previous publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course by the same name.
Work with Jennifer
Praise for Jennifer
Passion for the Work
“I hope you are well. I approached you right after your morning session on hard conversations to thank you for the amazing workshop. I shared that I am tough to impress. Equally, important, I never smile. Nonetheless, your approach elicited a genuine excitement and passion for the work.”