Room is Needed

“Do you need room?”

This is a question the barista asks me most days. Do you want your coffee up short, so that you can whiten it with a bit of cream, or milk, or a mixture thereof? I say no, but I mean yes, not that I want my coffee whiter but I want a bit more room in my life.

Life gets busy. Days are too short. The things I crave are sacrificed to the things that shout loudest. I am not complaining but stating facts on the ground. I make poor choices and in the making of them I breed yet more. It is hard to stake out a healthy vantage point when you are hard pressed.

Making room is not so very hard, though. It means saying “no” more often. Some of us are better at it than others. I’m not great at it because I don’t want to pass up opportunities. I don’t want to let down friends, acquaintances and those I admire. I don’t want to think through the options. But sometimes I need to say “no” because I need room.

Without room, I cannot turn. Without room, I cannot stretch. Without room, I cannot step backwards. These verbs all matter. These are verbs of faith, they describe wagering another way of being in the world – one bound by neither pettiness of spirit nor brag of pride.

But having room means having less. A roomy life is less cluttered. The roomiest of all lives are lived en route with nothing save what is near at hand. A roomy life is not only a life with less but a life that gives with less, which is not the same as giving less. The one with room gives with less because they give out of emptiness and may paradoxically give what is needed most: a little room.

We neither bear nor hear paradoxes without room. There is no place for paradox in an inn full to the brim, nor in a boat battened down with fear. But love casts out our fear. Love is paradox made flesh, as are faith and hope: love in the April sun as sharp as a razor, hope in fresh buds pushing up against cynicism, and faith in friends taking time simply to be together. These three together give us voice to play the barista, offering room to thirsty pilgrims.

Bottoms up.

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14 thoughts on “Room is Needed

  1. lcmueller says:

    Ahhh. Room. I have been looking for this creative room. Can there be too much room? That is what I want to find out? I know when I have a lot of room in the summer I sometimes make even more questionable choices and don’t choose what I mean to choose. Still, I am excited to find out. Enjoyed this timely post Allen!

    • agjorgenson says:

      I am glad to hear you will soon be able to report on a more roomy life! As to your question about having too much room… I’m not sure. I do know that I am less efficient when I have less going on, but I think I am also distracted in the direction of taking on measurable tasks, because i like checking them off. A little more room/time/space, I think, opens us up to those other tasks that take time and ask of us to sit a bit. Thanks for commenting!

  2. thanks for offering room to this thirsty pilgrim on more than one occasion… and for this lovely reflection.

  3. shoreacres says:

    What you say is lovely, and it’s true. For several years now, I’ve consciously been making room — sometimes to the point where I fear I’m being non-productive, not contributing as I should, cutting myself off from certain aspects of society out of selfishness.

    But then I remember: I’m happy. That isn’t the be-all and end-all of life, but on the other hand — why should we seek to be miserable? I can foresee circumstances where this happiness could evaporate, or at least become somewhat fraught: illness could do it, or accident, or loss. Still, there’s no reason to reject joy when it comes.

    Decluttering stil seems to be au courant, but it’s important to do it internally as well as externally. A lot of that is saying no: not only to obligations in the world, but also to worry, fear, anxieties. It’s a lot easier to let go than to hang on, sometimes.

    Which reminds me: I think I hear echoes of Henri Nouwen here. That’s always something I’ll say “yes” to.

    • agjorgenson says:

      I’m glad you hear Nouwen echoes, although I must admit it has been many years since I have read him! But I suspect we share some common sources and resources. I like your comment on decluttering, in part, because my aesthetic sense while not minimalist tends towards simple. I think this might contribute, in part, to the my experiencing a kind of visceral discomfort when my life gets too cluttered. I’m not against complications, but needless obfuscations are annoying. I’m glad to hear that you have found a way into a roomier life. And I love what you say about joy. We can all use a bit more joy!

  4. Mary Irene says:

    Wonderful! Enjoyed this so very much….reminds me of conversations with Jean Vanier 🙂

  5. diannegray says:

    Lovely words and concepts here, Allen. Learning to say no is hard, but it does offer more room to move (and the ability to select where we give our love). On a side note, someone from the UK recently visited the RUC and made the comment that I have ‘too much sky’. I think I know what she meant. but it made me laugh 😉

    • agjorgenson says:

      Can you really have “too much sky”?! The more the better, if you ask me! This is one of the things I love about sailing. You are certainly correct on the saying no piece. It is hard, but at the right moments it is life giving and freeing.

  6. dianerivers says:

    I love the idea of offering room through hope, love, and faith; of having sufficient space rather than starting from a “hard-pressed” place. I wonder why we let our lives get so cluttered when there is greater value in being able to give with less. It seems an almost universal human experience.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Yes, you have nailed a query that echoes true for me too. Why do we let our lives get so cluttered. It might be, in part, the result of living out of a perspective of lack – always worried that we won’t have enough and so greedily grabbing more. But more simply weighs us down and we fail to enjoy what we have. In fact, our excess becomes a kind of spiritual cancer!

  7. Plants needs room to flourish, the roots to stretch themselves deep. The best relationships give us (just the right amount of) room. =)

    • agjorgenson says:

      Plants have much to teach us if we take the time to give them a listen, but then again those disinclined to take time are less likely to put their ear to the earth.

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