Space is a peculiar and fascinating thing, an actual geographic place. It is the spot you occupy. Space is also a concept of where you have been and where you hope to go. We stood last Sunday on the edge of Payne’s Prairie and watched the space shuttle launch. I considered the vastness of space and that within 15 minutes, that shuttle left our planet’s atmosphere. We could see the 1st stage of separation as the booster rockets fell away. I recalled the NPR interview with the astronauts who where the first to orbit earth, the first humans to see earth from space. Could I leave the planet? I have moments of feeling disconnected and isolated when I am practically surrounded by people. I am not one for space stations or remote Antarctica science stations. All the same, I need space. Space to be. Space to think. Space to feel. I just dislike imposed space. Space must be of my making.
Every human has their own atmosphere, a bubble around them that is personal space. Haven’t you ever had someone stand too close or sit down on the sofa beside you and they invade your space? It is like a force field, when encroached, your alarms go off. Most people sense another person’s space and respect the distance. Some people lack either awareness or propriety and slam right into you. I can sense these bumper cars approaching and I try to deflect them. I have a larger than average personal space. What amazes me is that some of my most delicious memories of childhood are schooching in close with Mary Catherine, my best friend. We would play string games sitting Indian style on the floor knees touching. We played “Say Say” until our hands hurt. The little girl best friend was always physically close. We brushed and braided each other’s hair. We painted toe nails. We giggled and shared secrets. Our spaces overlapped. It was familiar and intimate. As adults, we lose so many of these kinds of physical spaces.Â I know I personally shrink if someone uninvited tries to touch me or hug me. It makes me creep.
But personal space is more than physical. There is a psychological space, too. I think we trade the physical space for the psychological space when we “grow up”. We have lost our playgrounds and our playmates. There are fewer opportunities to be physical. We don’t play games. There is no monkey bars or swing sets. We substitute virtual playgrounds and our space becomes mental. I like these cerebral connections. I like the banter and the discourse. It is an adult form of patty cake. It can be very competitive or down right silly. But it is to this we have been minimized. The blessing is that there are fewer chances that some bonehead comes into your psychological space, sits down on the sofa right up against you and puts their arm around your shoulders.
My recent discovery is that some people mesh well in my space: physical and mental. They are people possessing of that balancing effect. They bring a certain rhythm or resonance that is comforting. They compliment. It is like a harmony. I cannot image ever feeling that they intrude or challenge my defined area. In fact, they could stroll in, take a comfortable seat and make residence. I could go about my merry activites with just the faint sense of them and be pleased. In these rare but wonderful moments, I like sharing my space.