Friday, January 11, 2013

The Negative Space

On Wednesday, following a productive morning, an afternoon meeting and a therapy appointment, I took a side trip on my way home to one of the nicer furniture stores I've visited, H. D. Buttercup in Culver City.  It reminded me of a less immense and overwhelming ABC Home (which is a mecca of design in New York City. If you like nesting - particularly window-shop nesting, because it's very expensive - and you haven't been to ABC, you should go.)

Buttercup was advertising a big sale, and since we're in the market (or, rather, just outside the market) for a new couch to replace our dying IKEA Flüptorküglir (or whatever it's really called) I thought I'd check out what they had to offer.

Tom and I are in the process of changing our downstairs neutral shade from brown to gray, so I fell for several of their excellent couches, including this little beauty:

It, as well as everything else they stock, is clearly a well-made investment piece. The sale knocked a hefty chunk off the top, but it was still out of our price range for the moment. As freelancers, we never like to spend much money until the replacements for our current gigs are in place, and even then we tend toward saving over spending.

I knew that we couldn't swing a couch. I pretty much knew it going in. But while texting with Tom, I realized how much I wanted one. My grown-up budgeteer has a louder voice than my childish id, so I left the store couchless, but nevertheless feeling bummed.

Let me paint you a picture. It's 6:30 PM, and I'm an hour from home and I'm about to drive through evening traffic past every fast food joint known to Southern California. I'm hungry from three days of unknowingly logging this week's lentil stew lunch incorrectly. (Someone else had entered the Smitten Kitchen recipe - so delicious, by the way - as four servings, and I had divided it into six meals.) And I'm aching.  Not physically, mind you - not that the previous night's wonderful Curvy Yoga class hadn't worked my body every which way. I'm aching mentally. I'm yearning. 

This, friends, is a perfect storm for throwing me off-course.

But before I took off in the car, I sat on one of those beautiful not-mine couches, and worked on being mindful. I am, as you can probably tell by the very existence of a blog entry, working hard on being mindful.

I sat and considered my situation. I'd like a couch. I don't need a couch to survive. I'm hungry. But I have homemade pumpkin chili awaiting me at home. I don't need to stop and eat some unhealthy "food-like substances," as Michael Pollen calls them, to comfort me because I don't have a couch.

I wondered why the lack of a couch would even relate to food. And then I thought about the concept of "filling a hole." The idea is - figuratively - that everyone has a hole in their heart.

And people try and try and try to fill that hole, with any number of things, healthy or unhealthy. With another person. With spirituality. With the internet. With exercise. With alcohol. With drugs. With sex. With shopping. With gambling. With couches. With food.

But the truth is, no matter what you try to put in that hole, it doesn't ever fully fill. It's just there. What is it? Is it yearning? Passion? Self-esteem? Need?  Perhaps each of us has a different cocktail that makes up our particular negative space. And certainly, that gaping spot in each of us can seem negative, can lead us to negative actions and consequences.

"Negative space," however, is an interesting concept. In design, negative space is a good thing. Refreshing to the eye. If something is too busy, it isn't pleasant when you look at it. Negative space is, in fact, a positive.

Perhaps if we look at the negative space in our hearts that way, we can see the good that can come from yearning. We can take positive action, reap better consequences.  My negative space tells me, when I give it a good hard look, that I want to live better. And to live better, I need to take better care. So I'm working on it, every day.

I hope you'll work on taking care of you, too. 'Til next Friday, my friends.


  1. THANK YOU. A post like this is ALWAYS timely, ALWAYS helpful. I needed this and I am going to revisit it. When you help yourself through being mindful and blogging about it, you help ME. A lot. <3

  2. This was a great post, and really hit the spot on well, needing to hit the spot. Mindfulness is something that really seems to be missing in this world. And of taking moments to really evaluate what you need and building the plan to achieve it. Instant gratification is another thing that is hurting people.

    In design, negative space is something that is considered, cultivated and what can really make a design work, pop. Without negative space, the impact can be lost. It's all about the balance, and the harmony that comes with it.

    Have a wonderful weekend love!