I have been here before.
A place where I realize that I’ve been drowning in shoulds and starving for wants. For desires. For permission to feel.
When I was younger, and I would find myself in this type of place, there was a much larger river to cross, to find myself again. Wider, and deeper. I would suddenly come in contact with the deep and the dark of the emptiness within me and, paralyzed temporarily by the realization that I’d lost myself, I would sink to the floor and sob my way back to reality. It’s unnerving to realize that you are empty. That you are so lost that you are not even familiar to yourself.
I think that this is part of the fallout of having a fast-moving mind. It’s easy to move, and move, faster and faster, without realizing exactly how fast you’re travelling.
And nothing brings you back to your empty self, faster than that gaping, twisting freefall into the nothing within.
I remember one such moment, when I was about 22. I realized one day that I had no idea who I was. That after 22 years of being nobody but myself, that I was so focused on everything outside of myself, that nothing was left within. I’d eaten all of winter’s stores. My soul was nothing but bones.
I started a journal and I turned back to face myself. I’d just left school – in that I was still in school but no longer in residence on-campus. And what a relief that hour of distance was. None of the social distractions, and 75% more learning. I moved in with an old family friend and I make many lists. Lists like “how do I like to spend my time when I am alone?” and “What do I enjoy?”
Because I didn’t know anymore.
I am not quite that empty right now…after nearly 40 years of life, there are a few more things that I am certain about. It’s more like walking into a room where things have just been thrown and not tended or put away – and realizing that you need to clean it. I have a closet like this at my house, actually – I throw things into it, and I close the door. Nobody looks inside.
However, in this process of cleaning, I have permission to enjoy the things that I find as I go. If I find myself distracted by the paintbox that I just found under a velvet jacket that I haven’t seen in years…then painting it is. I can hang up the velvet jacket later. Unless of course, I decide to wear it. The only requirement in this soul organizing experiment, is that I leave the door to the room open. To let in light; to remind me to come back in and sift.
I’ve been painting quite a lot. I’ve always loved art and handcraft. I love music, so I have been learning to play drums. I am not able to dance flamenco here in this place where I live, and I can’t honestly afford to drive an hour each way to do it – but I found a pair of tap dancing shoes for $6 at Goodwill and I can tap dance here. I’ve spent some quality time at my sewing machine. I’ve run headlong into a lot of feelings that I apparently need to go through, in order to move past. Moment where I’m standing at the ironing board, working on some fabric, and a desire to utterly give up wells up in my gut. Something telling me that everything will fail. That I am unable to change anything in my life. When it does, the only thing I can do to meet it and face it is to continue whatever it is that I am doing, even if I want nothing more than to let go, close the door, and let the nasty hissing win.
Moments like this, I realize how crushed I’ve become, and how persistent I will have to be in order to revitalize my brittle innards.
None of this is bad. It just is. And it speaks to the power, at least for me, of creative pursuits. Slowly, I feel myself regaining my ability to taste life. To love things, whether or not they endure. To care about my own wants. Melding past with present.
Painting some of the ugliest images to ever hit a canvas. And knowing that it will lead to better things.