Embracing the emptiness
"Emptiness is the pregnant void out of which all creation springs. But many of us fear emptiness. We prefer to remain…surrounded by things…we imagine we are subject to our control."
– Wayne Muller.
Anyone who has ever been in a bad relationship knows of the void. It is the feeling of being on the edge of a precipice all by yourself. It gives way to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and betrayal. The feeling can be quite overwhelming and intimidating. The void has come to us all. It has threatened to engulf us. If it isn’t during a bad relationship, then it may be at the end of it. This feeling encourages some to get back together with their ex. A bad relationship can lead to feelings of self-doubt, and center our thoughts and feelings towards the whys. What went wrong? What did I do that was so erroneous and misguided? Why did he/she do what they did? When in fact, it was just a dysfunctional relationship that was headed in the general direction of destruction. Not every relationship can be salvaged, despite our well-meant efforts.
Sometimes, if it isn’t our ex, then it’s a new relationship that we enter in order to avoid acknowledging the void. But entering relationships simply to fill a space within ourselves is an ill-advised act if there ever was one. I cannot say this enough, but if you are not happy with yourself, you cannot make another human being happy. Another relationship will only fill a part of you. Not every aspect. And never the void. See, I believe, that there is always this space. This void. Even when we are in a relationship, the space continues to exist. Oh sure, when two people are together, they cherish it, fill it up with all kinds of things. With conversation, with banter, with life. But when there is no one, then that space appears to stretch out in front of you for all of eternity. And that, by no means, should be taken to understand that there will never be anyone. But whoever shall next come into your life will not be there to fill up your void. And neither should you expect them to. That is because there is a part of us that cannot be filled with the presence of another human being. Although, sometimes, we just expect our friends to fill that void for us. We turn to them in our times of need. We expect them to make us happy. Again, friends are those wonderful gifts that we are all grateful for and fortunate to have. But what needs to be understood is that people, whether they be your friends, relatives or acquaintances, are all going to be busy with their own lives to pay close attention to you. And despite a friend’s well-meant efforts, they cannot fill that space within you. I have seen it happen countless number of times. When we are in a relationship, our hopes for filling that space within ourselves are centered on our partners, and when we are single, then on our friends. Don’t misunderstand. This is not a litany with which to lash others or yourself. This is about you learning to embrace the space within you.
That void does not need to be filled. There. I’ve said it. And it is crucial that we understand this. Society may dictate how you ought to live your life. That you need to fill your time with friends, family, your partner. But sometimes, you need you tell society to go fling itself off a cliff with your regards. And instead, we need to find our niche, and discover what we believe works for us, rather than finding a person, whether a friend or a partner, to fill that void. Endeavouring to fill ourselves up whole with people, or something equally standard, is an egregious transgression, a crime unpardonable, because we are denying ourselves the opportunity to unearth and recognise our own capacity for the love of life. For our hidden flair at something unique and untouched by us.
A part of us needs to remain empty. So that we can fill it up with what we like. With what makes us come alive. In fact, who is to say that it needs to be one thing for the rest of our lives? We can fill our void not just how we choose to, but also when we choose to. If we want to let it remain empty some day, and feel the extent of our solitary existence despite being surrounded by hordes of people and a cacophony of reality, then that is what we may do. But if we’d rather fill that space up with what we hunger for on any given day, then that is precisely what we should do. One day, it could be music that your soul craves, whereas on the other, it could be an earnest desire for the stories of another human being through a book around which we could wrap our entire existence for a day. Some of us choose literature, some art, but letting ourselves be empty and uninhabited sometimes is a way to allow ourselves to be susceptible to the beauty of life. It is how we let ourselves stew in the quiet reserve of pain, and enjoy the descent into the maelstrom of emotions brought on by a complete stranger’s kind act, or the elevation brought on by love. I would much rather fill the void with a love of art, literature, music, culture, dance, words, history, travel.
It took me a while and a few failed relationships to understand that I cannot expect another human being to fill that void. They can’t. We each need to fill it up with what we can. As for me? This is partly why I read books, or rather devour them voraciously as one who hasn’t had sustenance in a while, and put pen to paper in an endeavour to create something beyond the ordinary and mundane. I’m filling that space up with the simple pleasures of life.
"Youth always tries to fill the void, an old man learns to live with it."
– Mark Z. Danielewski