DEAR KRISTIN: I enjoyed your column several weeks ago about creating “spontaneous spaces of tranquility” in the workplace. I’ve tried some of your suggestions, and they work ... in the office, anyway.
Now, though, I’m trying to find this same sense of tranquility at home. I know you often say that true tranquility emanates from within -- and for the most part, I agree. That’s why I feel a little guilty about needing -- and creating -- a quiet space at home that belongs to me and me alone; an actual physical space to which I can retreat.
I love my three kids more than life itself, but I’m thinking of building a “she-shed” in the backyard to help keep me sane and centered. If my tranquility really does emanate from within -- and I believe it does -- then how can I justify this act of intentional escapism? I don’t want to feel guilty about high-tailing it out to my she-shed every time I feel stressed. Help me not feel so hypocritical. I just want to feel tranquility at home. -- TRANQUILITY SEEKER
DEAR SEEKER: First off, I need to say this: I love you. I do. I love you. And I love your clear-sighted, wide-eyed sense of self-awareness, sweet sister.
That you are able to see and touch the various levels of this thing I call “transportable tranquility” fills me with joy. And while tranquility itself is pure and sweet and elegantly simplistic, its attainment and pursuit can become quite complicated ... if we let it. The secret sauce? Don’t let it! Refuse to let the attainment of your own inner peace get too complicated. It kinda defeats the purpose.
You and I are in complete alignment, actually. We both believe that tranquility emanates from within. That said, we also both believe that it is our privilege and our responsibility to develop the necessary tools and resources we need to access this tranquility that is waiting within us, amen?
Read my next words carefully: Our heart is our home, and our sense of inner peace needs to feel welcome in our heart-home, yes?
Unfortunately, for many of us, our heart-homes are kind of hard to access. Gaining entry is more than a notion. For any number of reasons, we’ve erected barriers. There are secret entrances, sealed-up windows, and dead-end hallways galore. Barriers into our own heart-homes? This won’t do!
What we must do -- and what you are doing so beautifully with the eventual creation of your she-shed -- is to redefine your relationship with your own tranquility by inviting it in; by creating a special space for it to grow and thrive and stretch into itself.
This is how we access these inner spaces, sister. This is how we begin to unlock and awaken the peace that is already within us -- by inviting it in! Many people, though, are like bears hibernating in the woods: their inner peace is dormant. Fast asleep. This hibernating tranquility must be activated and awakened -- but such awakening can come only through conscious choice, followed by decisive action. You have made the conscious choice to awaken your tranquility. Give yourself a hug for that.
And the next step must be action.
Let me also tell you this: To seek this inner tranquility within the space of your own home is not at all hypocritical. As women, as mothers, as human beings living in this world who are hungry to become the very best version of ourselves that we can possibly become, we must rid ourselves of the notion that this search for inner peace is somehow hypocritical. It breaks my heart to see you use that word.
There is nothing hypocritical about wanting to create your own purposeful pocket of peace. It doesn’t make you a bad mother, an inattentive spouse, or a self-centered escape artist. It makes you an enlightened human. Creating a place of peace for yourself helps you fortify your inner tranquility. That’s not hypocritical: It’s heroic.
I’ve written before about creating tranquil places in the workplace, but now I want to share my own experiences with creating those tranquil places at home as well. This is how I share my wisdom -- by sharing my own human experiences.
I suppose what I have created inside my own home was (and is) my very own version of a she-shed ... except it is a closet. I call it my Prayer Closet.
I created it during the height of the pandemic. I converted the closet in a spare bedroom into a sweet little soul sanctuary. I was yearning for a special, separate, closed-in space that would wrap me up, settle me down, and strengthen my connection to the divine. A place that belonged to me and me alone. Again, what I created is my version of your she-shed. This is how I did it:
First, I set my intention.
Then I got to work.
Remember Marie Kondo’s bestselling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”?
Well, I Marie-Kondo-ed the heck out of that bedroom closet, and had myself a wonderful time doing it, too! I sat down on my closet floor -- cross-legged and with a cup of chamomile -- and became strategically selective. In true Marie Kondo fashion, I carefully held each object in my hands and asked myself whether that object still brought me joy. If it didn’t, I bid it adieu and found another place for it.
But I went one important step further. As I held each object in my hand, I also asked myself, “Will you be able to help me on my journey towards deeper tranquility and a more purposeful prayer life? Will your continued presence in my closet-turned-soul-sanctuary propel me on my journey, or will your presence in my tiny space hold me back?”
Today, every single thing that’s in my Prayer Closet is there for a purpose. The clothes hangers, for instance, had to go. As pretty as they were (baby blue, padded satin), they didn’t really bring me inner peace or accentuate my prayer path. Also removed were the filled-to-the-brim boxes and storage bins. Cardboard boxes don’t bring me comfort. Nor do the natty sweaters from my college days. Out they all went.
In their place, I brought in a little vanity chair (sometimes I like to sit when I pray, ‘cause these old knees aren’t as resilient as they used to be), a few throw pillows, my Bible, and a gratitude journal. I painted the walls robin’s-egg blue and the ceiling yellow -- my water and sunshine colors -- and I even found a small, previously owned chandelier that casts a light, when you turn it on, that looks like the rays of the sun shining on my little closet ceiling. I retreat to this special space all the time.
So keep your she-shed plans alive, Beloved. And don’t just “escape” to your place of peace when you’re feeling stressed. Go there when you’re feeling balanced and buoyant, too! Use your special space to feed your tranquility, not just to seek it. This will help you create a sense of emotional and spiritual equilibrium that is constant, rather than merely situational.
And here I speak to all of my readers: The ability to access our own tranquility belongs to each and every one of us. I see it as a personal and mandatory journey upon which we all must embark.
Create and customize a space that works best for you in your own life -- whether it’s a she-shed, a man-cave, or simply a human-centered soul sanctuary that refuses to be bound by gender classification. Call it whatever the heck you want to call it -- just make it your own.
Throw open the doors and windows of your heart-home -- and if those entrances have been sealed shut, pull out the crowbar and start tearing off those boards! Fling open those locked doors! Throw open those shut-tight windows! And if they won’t open, then dammit, create new ones!
Shhh ... Do you hear it?
It’s the sound of your own tranquility.
It’s knocking at your door. It’s waiting to enter.
Do whatever you need to do to let it know it’s welcome.