I’ve been on a Hoarders: Buried Alive kick lately.
I marvel at the dangerous and dirty lengths people will go to in order to avoid feeling their own emptiness. I like to gasp and feel superior, when I watch.
They pee in a bucket? There are rats camped out in their couch?
Yet, the reality is, I’m engrossed because I relate.
I relate in more ways than I ever wanted to admit. In fact, I dare say, I think we all secretly relate to Hoarders. Because we recognize the terror of confronting our own Emptiness.
But why? It’s not dangerous. The wise woman that is my soul tells me this. My Emptiness was planted there, on purpose, it’s part of the Human Experience, a requirement of incarnation.
Yet, I’ve been trying not to feel it for my entire life.
On July 4, I smoked what I hope is my last cigarette. I say this reluctantly and with a little bit of trepidation, because I’ve quit many times since I got sober. I've publicly announced quitting, emboldened and determined, only to return to my “evil friend” cigarettes. And then, there is shame and embarrassment piled onto my feelings of failure: you shouldn’t have told anyone you were quitting.
This time, like every time, I want this to be The Last Time, once and for all.
I want to be free, forever, because my relationship to cigarettes is just like my other toxic relationships to booze, partying, sex, shopping and so on, over the years.
The truth is, quitting is easy. It’s the Wanting that gets me, every time. I worry that the time will come when my Wanting for a cigarette gets bigger and louder than any want for freedom or health.
Can it be different this time?
I’ve often joked (you know those ‘jokes’, the ones that have a certain level of truth in them) “Give me anything that soothes me, and I’ll turn it into a problem,” as if this is some magic skill I have.
I'll go to dangerous and dirty lengths to avoid feeling my own Emptiness.
The Wanting is what I’m beginning to understand is the doorway to my Emptiness.
It’s something I was born with, that we were all born with, this place deep within that aches with nothingness, that burns with hollow desire. Some call it a “God-Shaped Hole”... I think if there is a God, this Emptiness was planted there in order to remind us that we are Human. And to learn how to simply be with it, without having to fill it with anything.
And maybe, allow me to get a little trippy here, our Emptiness is a portal to something bigger, something infinite, within us. Instead of trying to access this infinite vastness, we spend our lives attempting to fill it, futilely.
We respond blindly to the Wanting, as our minds tell us this substance or that purchase, this cigarette or that lover will satisfy it. And for a while, those strategies work. We are soothed. The Wanting quiets. And then soon, it’s hungry again.
When I watch Hoarders, at the end of each episode, when their homes have been cleared, and they come in to see the dramatic results, looking around at the spaciousness in disbelief and amazement, I find myself wondering if there is also a deeper panic stirring. When the cameras are gone, and their lives resume, it has got to ache like hell to be with that emptiness after so many years of filling it with stuff.
I was faced with the invitation a few years ago, to learn to be with my own emptiness. An invitation to feel the Wanting without having to respond to it, without having to sacrifice my true desires for health and wellness at its altar, again. I coached clients on this, as if “knowing” about it made me an expert. I even wrote about it, like I am now.
And because I wasn’t truly ready to be with my own Emptiness, the lesson went away for a while.
It’s back, with another opportunity to show me that I can be with my Emptiness, and if I dive into it, I will find profound spaciousness and a mind-blowing access to my own vastness, my own unlimited soul. I know this. And I’m afraid of it.
So I peer at the edge, toes hanging over, throwing another Amazon order down its chasm. Here, Emptiness. Have a snack.
I felt the call to clear a shelf in my study this morning, as a symbol of my willingness to learn to be with Emptiness. It’s uncomfortable as hell. Shelves are made for stuff, after all. But I also like the way it tickles me at my edges. It feels inviting, and even a little dangerous.
If I can learn to be with this empty shelf, without succumbing to the urge to fill it, what else can I learn to be with?