Last March I read these words:

What does it mean to hold space for someone else? It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control. – Heather Plett

Holding space is not enabling someone’s bad choices or behavior. It’s not handling their business as your own or taking their burdens on your back. It’s simply holding back the floodgates of life in order for them to rest and for eventual healing to take root. Notice I said take root, not bring to completion.

To say I can’t wait for 2016 to be over is an understatement. I held space all year while a family member walked through their most difficult time. Our family was upended and our routines shattered. Our finances took a hit and we’ve still not recovered. I’ve learned recovery is a journey, not a destination.

I held the family and our finances on my back, shifting the weight from one side to the other to help ease the burden. Most days I really, really wanted to just drop it all. There were no sacred cows. Everything was up for question: keep, toss, or sell. Not only to help our bottom line but also to lighten the load.  Clutter gets exhausting.

Holding space meant living on one income in a two income house.

Holding space meant sitting next to someone while they were in pain.

Holding space meant driving places I never thought I’d be and visiting people with stories I’ll never understand.

Holding space meant putting myself on hold for someone else.

Holding space meant living in limbo with a diminishing savings account.

This was a new role for me because my defacto settings are selfishness, pettiness and anger. I grew up with the luxury of thinking people should “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and fix themselves. You were weak if you needed help and pathetic if you couldn’t get it right the first time. Either way, your mess wasn’t my mess so keep your crap off me.

Holding space meant having kind eyes and firm boundaries.

We are starting to emerge, all together, from the smoldering ashes of 2015 and early 2016. Once you’ve held space for an extended period of time, you get used to the weight. You get used to calling the shots and making decisions. Scarcity became the norm, mainly in energy and bandwidth for emotional upheaval. When you live from scarcity too long, emptying the barrel time and again, scraping by on threads of patience, you become brittle. Your ends, frayed.

You don’t trust that peace will stay, so you keep holding space longer than you may need to. Holding space too long leads to emasculation and enabling. You see, holding space too long feels like control. Feels like judgment. Feels like mistrust on the part of the other.

I’m learning that holding space means eventually you give it back.

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You give it back because it’s not yours to keep.

You give it back because it’s not yours to hold anymore. When healing takes root, the space starts to shrink. You open your hand ever so slightly and let the space leak out but by bit.