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Encountering Fear and Opportunity in the White Space of Life

I’m transitioning from full-time real estate work as an individual practitioner to a “next chapter” real estate model. This involves having Realtor partners join me in the process of helping my clients. What I’ve discovered is an unexpected white space in my life where the fear of how to fill it meets the opportunity of its emptiness.

I have been slowly and gradually moving in this direction for almost ten years, like a snail traveling across the USA. This is no reflection of my affinity for my real estate clients. In fact, it’s my client relationships that have driven my commitment to my real estate practice for over 20 years.  

Recently, it became clearer than a Windex cleaned window that my enthusiasm was no longer playing a lead role in my real estate work. I felt that I was no longer serving my clients at a level that I found acceptable. It was time to restructure how I could best serve them. Change was needed. 

Interesting things happen when you accept the writing on the wall that you can no longer delay a needed change. At least, that happened for me.

I found a new comfort zone when I accepted the reality that there are other real estate agents who can, and will, care for my clients to the same degree that I do. I experienced a release by choosing to deliver the best service to my clients by partnering with other quality agents. 

The Appearance of Uncomfortable White Space

What followed next was “space,” somewhat like the “final frontier.” There is “room” in the schedule now to do those things that have been on the goals list for years yet remain incomplete at the year’s end.  

White space in our day is that purposeful break from commitments and To-Do lists. In the white space, activity may be less structured and more casual. The “noise” level is reduced. In our work lives, white space is the time between scheduled appointments or project work, like a school recess when we were young.  A spa visit or conversation over chai with a friend is a white space opportunity to recharge and change our focus. 

There is now white space in my schedule for projects and activities that rarely made the top 10 list during my busy and hectic real estate practice.  Yet, I find myself allowing distractions that keep me from moving forward with these projects. Instead, the kitchen needs to be cleaned, and there’s laundry to do. The latest book on Audible that I just started has really intrigued me. Perhaps I should buy some groceries, or just hang out on social media for a while.  

I’m at a junction where I want to write, and I have the time to do this. Yet I create detours.  As I write this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop in northern Colorado with chai and a cinnamon scone. I bribed myself to sit down and give my attention to this writing.  

Avoidance 

As this avoidance pattern continues, I become frustrated with myself, prompting me to ask:  

What am I avoiding? 

Why am I circling and never landing? 

What is simmering below the surface that I’m not allowing to bubble up? 

Is there a fear of Not Good Enough hovering?  I hear a knock at the door:  Perfectionism comes calling.

Maybe a fear of failure? What if my financial situation suffers as a result of this shift in my real estate practice?  

Who am I pleasing? Am I writing and creating for myself or others? 

Why is there a lack of energy to dig into new projects?  

These questions lead me to consider that I might need an actual break from all of the To-Do lists. This would make sense after a 40-year career. Even though I’m not retiring, I am reminded of retirees who struggle to find a new purpose and direction. 

There is now plenty of white space in my Daytimer, the paper calendar tool that I use every day to manage projects and appointments. With a plethora of white space, I find myself unclear about how to fill it.

Am I feeling obliged to fill the white space?

Running “In” Empty 

I question whether I truly want to pursue the activities that I believed I wanted to pursue for years. Seriously, for years.  

The opportunity that has arrived has an element of emptiness. At first, this sounded negative to me. Then, I considered that “empty” could equate to opportunity and a blank canvas. 

Empty can be positive, fresh, wide-eyed, optimistic, with a childlike wonder and curiosity. I can honor myself by choosing how I want to fill the empty.

Empty is anticipation begging to be filled with art, travel, time with family and friends, writing, reading, contemplation and introspection. Embracing empty brings a slower speed, with more pull and less push, and enough quiet to hear what’s calling.  

How do we grab more EMPTY when we’re in the midst of a career, family, volunteer commitments, and all those activities that we choose to fill the white space? 

How do we connect with what’s calling and pulling when we’re immersed in pushing and responding? 

Simply, how do we make white space for being present? 

I am approaching Empty with both hesitation and curiosity. 

Empty means recognizing the value of the white space and what I choose to put there:  photo collages, photography, blogs and writing, coaching sessions, books, walking, family and friend time.  

Empty means the opportunity for me to not only be at the top of the To-Do list but to BE the LIST!

The realization that it’s my turn likely feels daunting because I’ve put others first for so long. As I learn how to put ME first, there’s suddenly this whole landscape, open, limitless, and untouched, like the end of the snowstorm when the ground is white and undisturbed. 

Permission to Have White Space

The fact that I have had very little self-created white space in my calendar for at least the last 20 years, by my own design, suggests there’s no rush to “fill it up” right now. 

Day after day for years, the spigot was turned on, whether it was lightly dripping or gushing like a broken pipe. The spigot now feels like it’s intermittently on and then off.  

After years of building a business, starting with mortgage lending that later transitioned into real estate brokerage, the phone is less insistent and the email delivers fewer messages about transactions in process or inquiries from clients.  

After years of striving to provide customer care and helping clients with real estate, I sense that I have pulled over to a rest area out of the traffic. There were times in my career when I begged for more empty white space. Now, opportunity is banging at the door and I’m exploring how to answer it.  

Permission To NOT Fill Up The White Space

I ask more questions as I explore the white space.

Should I be more productive, depending on how I choose to define “productive?”

We learn to put pressure on ourselves that makes us think we have to be busy and “doing” during all of our waking hours, instead of allowing and being.  

Does too much white space beg to be filled with something, anything, to maintain this sense of busyness and productivity? 

I search the internet for insights about “too much white space” and only find articles that address “not enough white space.” Presumably, there is never enough white space because we fill it up!  

The opportunity of emptiness suggests more spontaneity and less scheduling.  

What lights me up today? Cleaning the house is not usually the answer to that question. Rather, I’m inspired to grant myself permission to respond spontaneously to what’s calling me, like a walk at the nearby lake.  

Flow Space

Flow is when I lose track of time, most often doing a creative project, without any detours for a snack attack.  

In a state of flow, I may be out of my comfort zone but it also brings the merry-go-round to a stop. I know I’m in the right place when I sense flow in whatever I’m doing.  

Flow fills white space in a completely positive sense.  

I watch the un-merry go round. As the riders change horses in a nonstop circular motion, I can hop on when I choose to do so. I can watch from my studio, my real estate office, and even from my favorite locations in northern Colorado, such as, Watson Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir.  

I can choose how to fill the white space. To paraphrase Glinda the Good Witch in the Wizard of OZ:  We’ve always had the power. We just have to learn it for ourselves. 

Deciding how to fill the space and time of every moment is our choice.

Writing Prompts  

Whether you want to add white space to an overloaded list of commitments or figure out how to fill white space that has recently emerged in your life, allow yourself to listen to your heart and your gut.

How much white space are you able to carve out for yourself right now, and what does that look like for you?

Is more white space even an option in your life right now? If not, what will it take to create it?

What past transitions enabled you to create more white space for yourself? Were you able to maintain that, or did it shrink when other obligations surfaced?

What self-imposed limitations come up regarding your family, clients, employer, and your career (including parent-at-home work), as you consider making white space for yourself? 

If you take the “shoulds” off the table, what would you LOVE to do with more white space? 

Let me know your thoughts about the white space you’ve been able to create or would like to create in your life!  

“…we must chase what we want, seek it out, cast our lines in the water, but sometimes we don’t need to make things happen. Our souls are infinitely magnetic

Matthew McConaughey, https://greenlights.com
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of The We Spot, its employees, sponsors, or affiliates.

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