Sunday, January 5, 2014

Empty Space

I’ve had a weird feeling the last week or so, and there was nothing much I could attribute it to. It was a mix of nausea, exhaustion, a stomachache and an overall tiredness. It was at once a mental tiredness, an emotional wailing and a physical pain. It was all these things, and yet there was nothing much I could pin it on. I wrote about it, thought about it, ruminated on it, changed the diet around it, tried to walk it out and couldn’t get myself to cry about it.

And then it came to me: it was an emptiness. 

I’ve tried to write this blog post three times, and it hasn’t come out until now. This is unusual for me – usually I come up with an idea, toy with it a couple days, and write it in one fell swoop. My last post felt more like pulling teeth than writing, and this one is also not coming as easily as they usually do. The difference, I think, is that suddenly, out of nowhere, I’ve finished writing about what used to hurt me as if it defines me. 

A couple years ago, I wrote a post called “I Used To Be Funny,” about a shift from writing self-deprecating emails about traipsing through the world one mishap at a time into needing to take myself more seriously and writing about what I really thought and felt. Even sometimes when I wanted to write something funny, all that would come out is what you will find on my blog: deep introspection over what has made me tick, made me cry, and made me into the person that I am today.

But here’s what happened: nothing. Nothing happened, except that I had a conversation with someone who had gone through a lot more pain than I had, pain I couldn’t directly identify with because our lives are very different, and I realized that I didn’t want to engage this person based on our pain. Whereas usually I would listen to them and then break in with a similar way that I had hurt, I found that suddenly it wasn’t that I didn’t care to hear what he said, but I didn’t want to share it with him, or step into times in my life where I had felt the same way so that I could understand what he was going through. I found the thought of continuing the conversation as it was exhausting, so I changed the subject to something lighter. In doing so, I realized that suddenly, it wasn’t so important anymore: my past, the scars that I bear, the hurts I have suffered and the people who have suffered with me. Suddenly I realized that where there was once a need to explain myself in terms of my past and ruminate on it, today there is simply a desire to move forward, into whatever is waiting for me in the empty space when my need to explore what brought me here is gone.

Eleven months ago today, I arrived in Panama. I wrote a blogpost not long after defending my need to come here, explaining that I was not escaping my problems, rather bringing them with me so that I could look them over, one by one, and try to understand what they had to tell me. Obviously this is a work that is never done, but it seems that the specific hurts that I brought with me have now all made it through the line and are gone. I have looked up from my work and realized that I’ve done it: for now, and perhaps for a little while longer, my past can be safely tucked away in the past where it belongs, and I can now look forward into the future to see where I’m going after having determined with greater clarity what made me into me and who I am because of it, even if I no longer need to define myself by that information. 

It’s a little scary. I’m not sure what it will look like. The words don’t seem to come as easily here, not yet anyway, but I’m sure the more time I give this space, the more it will reveal itself to me in terms of who I want to be when I have put down all the expectations, taken away all my limitations, and moved on from what has held me back for so long. It’s a vast and echoing empty space, but it doesn’t have to be a scary one. There’s all sorts of room for growth here: for new relationships that celebrate this new person, for more time spent in the moment instead of reliving past moments, for continuing to feel lucky for the existence I have created here, not just as a shelter to weather an emotional storm, but as a place to enjoy the newfound person I have become. It’s been a rough journey, but an important one, and I’m ready for the next step: ready to explore this new empty space.

Love and vast empty space kisses