I’m sorry. Ann can’t come to the phone right now, she’s busy filling The Void with popcorn and social media scrolling.
Lately I’ve been pondering an idea of a void and how I fill that void. I don’t mean a void in the sense of a gaping wound or a need never sated, but rather my tendency to fill an everyday/many-times-per-day void, when a healthier choice might be to leave it empty.
The Void came to mind the other day, as I watched my inner-critic wreaking havoc on my inner-peace. I had this epiphan-ette: When I’m mean to myself, those words only appear to fill up The Void. I wondered what would happen if I acknowledged the critic merely as a function to fill an empty space, rather than giving any weight to the words themselves. What if instead of pouring self-hatred into my head, I just hung out in that space empty—like a Phish fan swaying to one of the band’s nine-hour-long hit-singles, but without illicit substances or Phish’s music for that matter.
Suddenly I’m noticing many ways I fill the void with constant input. When I worked in an office building located more than eight steps from my pantry, I ate my meals and rarely even considered snacking. I socialized with people in the office—probably too much—but that meant I took breaks. I didn’t “surf the net” as they said back then, so I more easily focused on my work when I worked at a computer. The division between productive and not productive was easier to detect before my internet life, mostly because when you made a personal call you had to fake a business accent, although wedding planning did lend itself well to an air of efficacy in the workplace.
I eat and drink all day long at home. I work at a frantic pace. In fact, so frantic right now, during my busiest season, that I have to give an extra effort to humanizing my emails–actually addressing people by name and adding a salutation or two–so I don’t sound like a total prick. When I exhaust myself, instead of taking a break or going to bed, I often spend another 45 minutes toggling between social media accounts, doing exactly nothing with a sprinkling of self-sabotage on top. More input for The Void. Probably followed by a bedtime snack for The Void.
I do have some periods of sitting in The Void; when I go to yoga, I experience moments of sitting and breathing through discomfort, trying really hard not to anticipate how many more seconds until I can collapse into the next position. When I run, occasionally my head actually clears. Even if meanie-voices descend, I envision my body like a filter for my brain, leaving the mental clutter on the bike path, alongside errant baby socks. When I write for pleasure, I experience the void, but not without challenges. Increasingly my “creative” writing only lasts for the duration it takes for me to pound out a paragraph or two before I check-out to my email—another indicator of how easily I avoid The Void.
I know it would be good for me to experience more of The Void, through meditation and mindfulness yes, but mostly through making different choices. Instead of eating or spacing out on social media, this week I tried doing laundry or housework for a few minutes—nothing overwhelming but enough to get my butt out of this chair and give my head a few minutes to clear. I forced myself to edit and finish this essay, even though I tried dodging the piece after only a few tweaks.
It’s easier for me to handle The Void when I’m really busy. I’m happier when I’m busy, because I spend less time facing The Void. The challenge comes when the busy season ends and the pressure lifts–a scenario from which I seem to continually and deliberately abstain by adding more commitments, more projects, and more work. That’s where the true work lies waiting for me. Not to mention plenty of buttered popcorn.