Last summer, I watched wren families move into a nesting box.
First, they took out what was already in the box. They were so industrious. For hours the wren would pop in and then pop out with old nesting material in her beak. She’d toss her head to throw it and then pop back in to get more.
Only when satisfied did she bring in new nesting material. Since the box was in front of a window where I often work, I saw this repeated all summer as new families moved in.
In my last blog, I talked about wanting what we already have. Now that we’ve done that, we are ready to have more. Right?
Yes. But first, we have to make room for it. And then we have to make sure we are choosing the right thing to fill the space.
And to make space, we often have to say many noes before we can say yes.
We all know we can only get so much into a closet, or the refrigerator, or the file cabinet before something has to go. We also know that even if we fit something in by stuffing it in, getting anything out again will be difficult. Sometimes we stop trying, and things go to waste.
This is also true about our life, our dreams, and our want-to-do list.
Our days are full of things we want to do and have to do. Then, this past year, things were added into our days and things were taken away without our choosing them.
Eventually, though, we learned to choose what had changed. We made space for a new version of what a day looks like.
The skill needed for this change involved learning to say yes to what we wanted or had to do and no to things that we couldn’t do, or no longer wanted to do. We had to make space in our thinking and lives for new ideas. Alternative ways to do things. New adventures. New knowledge. New acceptance.
Like the wren removing old nests one piece at a time, we examined what we used to do, used to accept as true, and had to decide whether we have space for it anymore.
Didn’t we? Because if we didn’t do this, we got stuck. To get unstuck, we had to increase our ability to say no to what no longer works.
The story in the Bible about not pouring new wine into old bottles illustrated this same concept. In the case of the wine bottles, what remained made the bottle explode. It’s a wonderful symbol of what happens in our lives when we don’t make space by cleaning away the old before adding the new.
There are many ways in which we can make space.
- We can make space for the idea that we can disagree and still work together. We can make space for understanding that disagreement is not a dividing line, instead it’s the start of something better because we learn from each other.
- We can make space for kindness instead of anger, because things are not how they used to be.
- We can make space for understanding, and listening, and acting for the good of all. Not just for now, but for the generations that come after us.
- We can make space because we are not always right and a community-not a mob-can make a difference for the good.
Yes, that means we will have to say no to what isn’t about kindness, understanding, community, and working together to find new and better ways to do things.
These are lofty ideals. But necessary and entirely possible. And they start with ourselves.
We can let go of what we don’t need anymore and make space in our homes, our lives, and our hearts.
But the next step is critical.
After we make space, we need to look carefully at what we want to let into our newly open spaces. We have to choose wisely those nesting materials, thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that we are saying yes to because we all know, once we let something in, it likes to stay.
It’s easier to say no before it comes in the door.
Ask yourself these two questions to get to a yes that works.
If no. Say no. Don’t play the game of division.
If yes, celebrate-because you are plugged into unity and harmony.
And when you say no, enjoy the open space that provides. It means you are closer to saying yes to the right people, places, things, and thoughts.
We’ll all be better off for it. Which is the point of it, after all, isn’t it?