Leave Some Space Around It

There is a word in Japanese that I think carries more weight than its English counterpart, and that is 余裕 (yoyuu, pronounced like “yo” + “you”). This word has many definitions, but I think of it as “enough of something for comfort”. Technically this word means a surplus rather than a “just right” amount, but I think of it in the sense that you need a bit of surplus rather than a bit of deprivation for things to be comfortable.

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Think of margins on a page, or spaces between words in a sentence. Technically, we could write on every part of a piece of paper, leavingnospacesbetweenwords, but we don’t, because it helps us to see and understand the content more clearly when there is enough white space around the elements of a text.

White space is technically a lack of something, but that lack makes room for comfort. When white space is done properly, you may not even notice it, but somehow it gives a comforting sense of “enough” or “just right”.

Things in my life need margins, or some white space, around them too. When I get this right, I may not even notice it, but I will have a comforting sense of “enough” that helps me recognize that I am also enough. This is 余裕.

As a workaholic, I have a tendency to forget to put white space around my time and energy, in particular. I will use up these resources right until the last drop and not leave any extra for later, like I somehow believe that time doesn’t apply to me, or that I have limitless energy.

How can the concept of 余裕 help me with my workaholic tendencies?

  • I need to learn how to put white space around my time by not scheduling myself down to the last second of every day. If I have an appointment, I should leave a margin of time before the next one happens, and also have some time in my calendar that is (gasp!) not scheduled. This will help me not to spend my whole day rushing around from one activity to the next with no time to process or digest what is happening. Some really good thinking can happen in the white space!
  • I need to learn how to put white space around my energy by building in time for rest, recreation, relationships, and self-care (not just work). If I spend all of my resources on work, my work suffers. I need to give the right amount of my energy to work so I can replenish myself.

These are both hard for me, and I have not been able to do either of these consistently yet. Awareness is the first step, though, right?