What's missing this holiday season?

Caroling at the holiday party, 

The live stage performances, 

In vivo religious gatherings, 

Shared meals, 

Santa's lap and festive parades, 

plane rides or road trips. 

People we love.

There's so much empty space left to fill. That emptiness often leads to discomfort. But, as humans, we have a way of filling those voids without pause. It's true; there's so much missing this holiday season. It might feel slower and more open than you intended or hoped.

This is white space. 

White space in this context is unused space. Sometimes it's physical space, like an empty shelf. Sometimes it's open space on your calendar. Most of us have had quite a bit of white space on our calendar this year and it’s especially poignant this holiday season. Many of our traditions have been disrupted.

I’ll be the first to say that sometimes my metaphors fall as flat as a pancake, but sometimes they work great. Without further ado, I have one for you today.  

We've moved a lot. Back in 2012, we were living north of Chicago in Evanston, Illinois. My husband was finishing up his MBA, and we were getting ready to move to Dallas, Texas. He was starting a new job, and I was starting my Ph.D. program. It was June, and our lease was up. We had to move out of our apartment in Illinois. My husband was in his finals week, so I was doing the packing, and I will say that it was somewhat haphazard. I went and I bought several cardboard boxes from U-Haul, and I sat them around the apartment, a couple of each room, and I just started throwing stuff inside.

Thoughtfully (?), I put the heavy stuff at the bottom. Once I had everything in the boxes, I noticed that there was all this empty space in the top. I had about a dozen boxes that were about three-fourths of the way full. In thinking I can't leave all of this space empty, I just searched around to find some filler. I put many pillows and blankets and other soft fluffy things on the top of each of the boxes, and voilà, I have a dozen full boxes. I sealed them up and put tape on them. Since we were going to be without a home for the summer until we moved to Texas, we put them into a pod.

All was well until we arrived in Texas, opened the pod to find that all of the boxes had collapsed. Using a bunch of filler at the top of all the boxes did not do the trick. You know, the thing with that packing strategy was that I didn't need more filler and fluffy stuff. Perhaps I just needed stronger walls. 

I keep thinking about the emptiness in those boxes as I'm thinking about the emptiness that many of us are feeling this holiday season. 

I want you to know that the foundation you've been laying with your family all these years and the walls you've been building are not cardboard U-Haul boxes. They're more like a steel safe. They can tolerate some emptiness. They can handle some things missing, and they're not going to collapse. They are built of the strongest material that can survive almost anything. You do not have to add filler to keep them intact.

This is a lesson that I learned very early on in my career as a social worker. I was working with families who had been through unspeakable tragedies and unspeakable traumas. What struck me the most in these families was the resilience of their relationships. The unbreakable bonds. 

This holiday season, you may think that you need a bunch of filler to fill up this empty white space that your family is experiencing. But alas, if the walls are strong, the strength of your family relationships are strong, and your relationship with yourself is strong, then those walls are reinforced. They're going to be able to handle the obstacles. It's not always necessary to fill up that empty white space.

Often, we view white space and time spent doing 'nothing' as wasted time. But the truth is that that time spent doing nothing is often an opportunity to connect with people that live right under your own roof. It's time spent reinforcing and strengthening those walls. White space isn't wasted space. In fact, you may have more time for reflection, connection, and contemplation this year.

Most of us are feeling time scarcity. We're limited in the special time that we have with our children being young and we feel pressured to make the most of it. If we can't honor our past traditions, we feel a lot of pressure to bring in new ones, especially in a year that's been filled with uncertainty, ambiguity, and disappointments. 

This has been a year of ambiguous loss. 

We have lost not only people we love but special events and traditions.

We've lost income and jobs. 

We've lost education and favorite activities. 

We've lost face-to-face time with friends. 

It's been a year of mourning, and I've had many, many people ask, "What do we do with the uncertainty? What do we do with all this white space? What do we do with kids who are disappointed in lost traditions?"

Maybe you want me to give you a whole list of fun, new traditions of things that you can do at home. Or perhaps you want me to provide you with a complete list of new holiday recipes that will bring everyone joy in your house. 

But I'm not going to do that. 

Instead, I'm going to remind you that your walls are made of steel. You don't have to fear the white space. You don't have to search all over your home for filler.

We are all learning a critical lesson. We're learning how to face discomfort with uncertainty. We're learning how to sit with this difficult white space and maybe even embrace it. We're learning what it feels like not to be able to plan six months from now. We're learning to get comfortable with discomfort, and our kids are watching us, and they're also learning that lesson. They're learning the lesson of facing disappointments. They're learning the lesson that their parents are not perfect, and we don't have it all figured out, nor do we need to pretend that we do or put pressure on ourselves to make everything magical and perfect.

“Magic” is a word that I hear thrown around a lot around the holiday season. "I want this holiday to be magical for my kids. How do I bring the magic into this holiday season?" 

You're probably feeling a little burnout. 

You're probably feeling done. 

Creating a bunch of magic might not be on your wishlist this year, and that's okay because the walls and the foundation of your family are stronger than you know. 

This might not be the most exciting, the most comfortable, or the happiest holiday season yet.

But it might be the one that's teaching us the most. It might be the one that's teaching us how much we love and value the important things in life. There's so much in life that we are not going to be taking for granted anymore. 

That in and of itself has been an eye-opening gift from 2020.

That's it for today. No groundbreaking solutions on how to bring joy into the holiday season this 2020. Or how to fill up that empty white space. 

Just remember that you are doing better than you know, and you are more loved than you can ever imagine.

With love,

Denaye

Caroling at the holiday party, the live stage performances in vivo religious gatherings, shared meals, Santas, lap, and festive parades, plane rides, or road trips. People we love. There's so much missing this year. There's so much empty space left to fill, that emptiness often leads to discomfort, but as humans, we have a way of filling those voids without pause. It's true. There's so much missing this holiday season. It might feel slower and more open than you intended and you hoped for hi. This is Denaye. I'm the founder of simple families. Simple families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based on my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based on research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us.

Thanks for tuning in. And I want to thank today's sponsor Native with the holiday season, right around the corner. We're all getting into the spirit by indulging in the sights and sounds and sense of the season. Native is a natural deodorant company that I have been loving for years. And it's the perfect addition to your daily routine, this holiday season, and to get you in the holiday spirit, they even have a candy cane sent a deodorant this year. I first discovered native when my husband introduced me to it a few years ago when we lived in Texas. And I thought if it works for a man in a hot Texas summer, then it probably will work for me. And once I tried it, I've never looked back. So shop native's holiday collection today, by going to nativedeo.com/simple, or use the promo code simple at checkout and get 20% off your first order, that's native D E o.com/simple, or use the promo code simple at checkout for 20% off your first order.

You'll definitely save the most money. If you go onto their website and use the discount code, especially if you try one of their three packs today, we're going to talk a little bit about white space. Now whitespace in the context of space that is unused. Sometimes it's physical space, like an empty shelf. Sometimes it's empty space on your calendar. Most of us have had quite a bit of white space on our calendar. This year. This holiday season also has a lot of white space because of everything that's missing this year, we can't get out and go to the holiday parade. We're not able to gather in the same way that we have in the past with our extended family members. Many, many of our traditions have been disrupted and the result is white space, which can feel like emptiness if you're not used to it.

So I want to talk a little bit about shifting that perspective and appreciating some of that white space a little bit more. This is going to hinge on a metaphor that may completely miss the Mark. I feel like I'm about 50 50 on my metaphors. Sometimes they work really great and other times they fall really flat. So without further ado here, it is a couple of years ago. We've moved a lot. My husband and I and my family and I back in 2012, we were living North of Chicago and Evanston, Illinois. My husband was finishing up his MBA and we were getting ready to move to Dallas, Texas. He was starting a new job and I was starting my PhD program and it was June and our lease was up and we had to move out of our apartment there in Illinois. My husband was in his finals week, so I was doing the packing and I will say that it was rather haphazard.

I went and I got a bunch of cardboard boxes from U-haul and I sat them around the apartment, a couple of each room, and I just started throwing stuff inside. Thoughtfully, I put the heavy stuff at the bottom, and once I had everything in the boxes, I noticed that there was all this empty space in the top. I had about a dozen boxes that were about three fourths of the way full. So, in thinking I can't leave all of the space empty, I just searched around to find some filler. So, I put a bunch of pillows and blankets and other soft fluffy things in the top of each of the boxes and Walah, I have a dozen full boxes. So I sealed them up and put tape on them. And since we were going to be without a home for the summer, until we moved to Texas, we put them into a pod.

All was well until we arrived in Texas, opened the pod to find that all of the boxes had collapsed. Apparently using a bunch of filler at the top of all the boxes did not do the trick. And you know, the thing with that packing strategy was that maybe I didn't need more filler to fill up those boxes. Maybe I just needed stronger walls. And they keep thinking about the emptiness in those boxes. As I'm thinking about the emptiness, that many of us are feeling this holiday season. And I want you to know that the foundation you've been laying with your family all these years, the walls that you've been building are not cardboardU-haul boxes. They're more like a steel safe. They can tolerate some emptiness. They can tolerate some things missing and they're not going to collapse. They are built of the strongest material that can survive almost anything.

You do not have to add filler in order to keep them intact. This is a lesson that I learned very early on in my career. As a social worker, I was working with families who had been through unspeakable tragedies and unspeakable traumas. And what struck me the most in these families was the resilience of their relationships, the unbreakable bonds, and this holiday season. You may think that you need a bunch of filler to fill up this empty white space that your family is experiencing. But if the walls are strong, the strength of your family relationships are strong. And your relationship with yourself is strong. Those walls are reinforced. They're going to be able to handle the obstacles. It's not always necessary to fill up that empty white space. I think often we view white space and time spent doing nothing as wasted time. But the truth is that that time spent doing nothing is often an opportunity to connect with people that live right under your own roof.

It's time spent reinforcing and strengthening those walls. White space isn't necessarily wasted space. You may have more time for reflection and contemplation this year. A lot of us are feeling time. Scarcity we're limited in the special time that we have with our children being young. And we feel pressured to make the most of it. So if we can't honor our traditions of the past, we feel a lot of pressure to bring in new ones, especially in a year, that's been filled with uncertainty and ambiguity and disappointments. This has been a year of ambiguous loss. We have lost not only people we love, but special events and traditions. We've lost income and jobs. We've lost education and favorite activities. We've lost. Face-to-face time with friends. It's been a year of mourning and I've had many, many people ask, what do we do with the uncertainty? What do we do with all this white space?

What do we do with kids who are disappointed and lost traditions? Maybe you want me to give you a whole list, a fun, new traditions of things that you can do at home. Or maybe you want me to give you a whole list of new holiday recipes that will bring joy to everyone in your house, but I'm not going to do that. Instead. I'm going to remind you that your walls are made of steel. You don't have to fear the white space. You don't have to search all over your house for filler. We are all learning a very important lesson. We're learning how to face discomfort with uncertainty. We're learning how to sit with this difficult white space and maybe even embrace it. We're learning what it feels like to not be able to plan six months from now. We're learning to get comfortable with discomfort and our kids are watching us.

And they're also learning that lesson. They're learning the lesson of facing disappointments. They're learning the lesson that their parents are not perfect, and we don't have it all figured out, nor do we need to pretend that we do or put pressure on ourselves to make everything magical. Perfect magic is a word that I hear thrown around a lot around the holiday season. I just want this holiday to be magical for my kids. How do I bring the magic into this holiday season? You're probably feeling a little burnout. You're probably feeling done creating a bunch of magic. Might not be on your wish list this year. And that's okay because the walls and the foundation of your family are stronger than, you know, this might not be the most exciting, the most comfortable, the happiest holiday season yet, but it might be the one that's teaching us the most.

It might be the one that's teaching us how much we really love and value the important things in life. There's so much in life that we are not going to be taking for granted anymore. And that in and of itself has been an eyeopening gift from 2020. So that's it for today? No groundbreaking solutions on how to bring the joy into the holiday season, this 2020, or how to fill up that empty white space. Just remember that you are doing better than, you know, and you are more loved than you can ever imagine.

Denaye Barahona

Dr. Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She partners with families to tackle the challenges of raising children. Denaye is a minimalist who claims to be a decluttering expert (don't let her near your closet). She loves to travel, talk health-and-wellness, and give unsolicited advice. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The Minimalists, Motherly, Becoming Minimalist, and numerous other media outlets. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Clinical Social Worker with a specialty in child and family practice.