From Willy Wonka to Brené Brown: Your Spacious Summer Invite

Are y'all feeling the summer hustle already? That big ol' tug to do all the things that can feel a lot like anxiety and maybe (if we're being honest) a little like control?

I want to offer another option.

Instead of cramming your schedule until it's overflowing, what if you purposefully took space to slow down and chill out?

There’s lotsa fun (and not so fun) stuff to do, but summer is also a chance to stop and smell the wildflowers. Among the many opportunities to be on the move this season, there are just as many pockets of stillness you can claim for yourself. And seizing those opportunities might enable you to be truly present and connected for all of it.

Your ego might be screaming, "But there's all the things, and I don't want to miss out. And I'm only important, loved, and valued if I DO ALL THE THINGS! 'Cause I live in a capitalist society, and my self-worth is tied to production, damnit!"

Zip it, ego. Read on.

What possibilities arise from space? Sustenance and nourishment within our relationships. Feeling. Healing. Regulated nervous systems. Connection.

Connection is defined by Brené Brown as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

When we rush through life — when we rush past people — we experience a draining of energy. That, my friends, kills connection. Like squash on the vine.

And here's where we come back to control. Filling our schedules to the brim is a known defense mechanism that prevents us from truly connecting with people. This life tactic goes hand in hand with control. And control is the near enemy of connection.

In Brené Brown’s “Atlas of the Heart” on HBO, she defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”

She describes anxiety as “the Willy Wonka shit tunnel.”

Does that land for you? It feels like a pretty damn accurate representation of the anxiety I’ve felt coursing through my body off and on since I was a kid.

Lately, I’ve gone straight to the shit tunnel when I look up at the calendar hanging on the kitchen cabinet. The appointments and activities leading up to mine and Kevin’s wedding in July are numerous. There’s another wedding this month. A trip to LA for Kevin’s grandma’s 100th birthday. A trip over to Boise right after LA because our furbaby Miles Dog needs knee surgery.

I should point out that we live smack dab in Eastern Oregon where the produce is expensive but our mortgage is cheap. It's a good life. We live here in part so that we can travel more, yet the traveling itself is challenging. We’re three hours from the airport and three hours in the opposite direction from the recommended doggie surgery.

In the not-so-far-back background is the reality that I’m just starting to feel okay and grounded after a pregnancy that ended in miscarriage mere months ago — followed by an international trip that, while strikingly incredible, also broke me open to some turmoil that developed into lingering anguish for weeks.

We haven’t found anyone to take care of our Miles Dog and his sad little leg while traveling to and from Grandma Rose’s birthday celebration. It’s too big of an ask.

I do not want to spend five of the next seven days traveling between four cities in three states.

All I want to do is hold still.

I want to tend to the tomato, pepper, and squash starts we just got in the ground because we were too busy to plant them from seed.

I want to take care of Miles.

I want to hold still and take care of myself.

And yet, I want to be with Kevin’s family for this momentous birthday so much my heart actually hurts inside my chest.

And. I need to hold still.

My body has known this while my mind has been trying to unsuccessfully hold it all together and come up with solutions that would enable me to do all the things.

Last night Kevin and I made the decision and canceled my flight to LA. While we’re both a little sad, it was the right choice given the multitude of components. And it’s okay.

I share this story because it seems counterintuitive. I’ve been talking about connection and Kevin’s grandma’s birthday, and I’ve chosen to stay home to take care of our dog and my own mental well-being. Isn’t that selfish?

Could be.

If I’m hanging out in the land of connection, shouldn’t I choose to get on the plane and be with family?


And yet, connection doesn’t exist without space. Connection to others doesn’t exist without connection to self. And when we buzz through our lives like tedious little bees, we lose connection to ourselves and to our people.

Taking space when we need it might be one of the hardest and most essential things we do as humans.

Taking space and letting it exist without anguish or guilt is not only my intention for myself — it’s my wish for all of the overscheduled partners, parents, children, lovers, colleagues, and friends on this planet.


Here at Namaspa, we are challenging ourselves to a #summerslowdown. We're gonna soak our feet in the cool waters, read a book, and actively be spacious and gracious.

Does it feel like you just unwrapped the golden ticket to a world of peaceful possibilities? I hope so. And I invite you to lean into that spaciousness and read along with us this summer as we dive into Brené Brown’s “Atlas of the Heart.” Together, we’ll quietly explore what it means to be human, and we’ll take time to smell the wildflowers and sample the snozzberries along the way.

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