Ode to Negative Space
by Paula M. Toledo
The word ‘gratitude’ has become one of those words that seems to be tossed around a lot these days. Just as the word ‘authentic’ has become part of our pop self-help vocabulary, I fear that due to its wear and mis-use, its true meaning has become somewhat diluted.
So when I fell across a sticker and quote, it seemed to say it all.
‘Gratitude for all there is and all there isn’t’, it read.
While I’m definitely not one to re-post quotes all over my instagram feed, somehow this one stuck with me.
What am I grateful for that isn’t in my life? We often focus on being grateful for what we do have. Itemizing our bounty as trophies, perhaps at times, we can restrict feelings of gratitude only within the accumulation of our wins. With this mindset, we can easily get caught up in this sense of abundance. Riding the wave of ‘what more can I attain and gain’, we can lose perspective of pure gratitude.
I do believe in setting goals and having a vision. But I also subscribe to a delicate balance of threading a forward-looking plan into the background, while I remain present in the flow of discovering and creating.
Many of us lose sight of the negative space within the architecture of the life we build for ourselves. And this in my opinion, is a mistake. The empty green space surrounding our buildings is vitally important to breathing oxygen and life into the beauty of what we behold.
There is no need for me to talk about the things that I am grateful for, as in - what have I achieved this year? This is for me to ponder. A quiet pride about hitting some pretty big milestones, without listing them out for the world to see, is perhaps the only way I can contain the magic of how they came to be.
But the sticker and quote, nonetheless, did cause me to reflect about the negative space ie: the gratitude for what I don’t have in my life. And because negative space is so important to a composition of art - I felt compelled to pay tribute, respect and gratitude for the TWELVE THINGS THAT I DON’T HAVE IN MY LIFE.
I am grateful that I don’t have an illness that prevents me from carrying out a fulfilling life of work, social impact, family life and friendships, and creative endeavours.
I am grateful that I don’t have injuries in my hands and my voice…that I can continue to play my guitar, sing, write and type out these musings (which I hope, in the end, helps at least one person to feel better).
I am grateful that I don’t have anyone in my life, be it family members, friends, work colleagues or acquaintances that are negative forces. There is no weight and heaviness among the people that I surround myself with. This absence helps me to feel energized to carry out out a positive, passionate and meaningful life of service to others.
I am grateful that I don’t have crippling debt that prevents me and my sons from learning, taking courses, travelling & discovering the world and all that it has to offer.
I am grateful that I don’t live with feelings of jealousy. People inspire me by what they have attained and achieved, but rarely do I feel jealous or have a fear of missing out. I know that behind closed doors, we are all struggling in some shape or form. The struggle may be relative - but no matter how beautiful, wealthy or accomplished a person is, the adversity they face is as real to them as mine is for me.
I am grateful that despite all I lost, that I don’t have the feeling that I am at a loss. I am growing each and every day and I am so excited by the life-path connections I will make in 2019.
I am grateful that I am not in a relationship, or a former relationship that has residuals or constraints that prevent me from living freely. Geographical, physical, emotional and spiritual freedom to build the life that I want for myself and my sons, is a profound gift.
I am grateful that I am not my twenty something self with my baby-bump-stretch-mark-free, youthful and strong body. Yes, I may have looked super trim, but I do not miss my self-consciousness and vanity. Doubling my chronological age has had positive psychological benefits, that unfortunately, weren’t present in my youth.
I am grateful that I don’t have the worry of caring what others think of me. My contract to impress lives strictly with me. When I can ‘lie straight’ in my bed at night and feel good about myself, I know that I have honoured my truest and most important contract.
I am grateful that I am not a proud person. Having humility has given me the power to work on self-development, rounding out the sharp edges of my character, so that I can evolve into the person I am meant to be.
I am grateful that I don’t have the need to look outside myself for entertainment. Being a creative is like having a streaming entertainment hub inside your mind. Waiting for appointments, being stuck in traffic, or not having plans on the weekend never bend me out of shape. A voice and a pen and paper can be portals to endless hours of amusement.
For anyone that has hit rock bottom, or has received death at its doorstep, yet continues in the face of it all to build their home - gratitude can take on a whole different meaning. With heightened awareness that anything in life is possible, one can see that life is not partial to good or bad events. Beauty and adversity in life happens regardless. And so with each and every day, I express gratitude - not just at the turn of the clock to the new year. With perspective and time, I can now say:
12. I am grateful that I experienced loss because without having lived through it, I would not feel and comprehend the depth, or extent of which, life can be truly beautiful.
Such is what my community and blog Ode to Wonder is about. ‘Where Discovery Meets Gratitude’ - in its truest sense. (Stay tuned for Ode to Wonder’s evolution and some very exciting things to come this year). Be sure to join the Ode to Wonder Facebook Group