Beneath the Emptiness
The night before last I was driving to a Board of Directors Meeting, listening to a book, when I heard D. Shefali Tsabary say,
“Just beneath emptiness is the vast expanse of their spirit.”
Just beneath the emptiness….
As I heard this I felt empty.
Hollowed out actually.
And so very, very tired.
As I said, I was on my way to a meeting…what I didn’t say was that I was driving my husbands truck, because my car is in the shop after dying in the middle of a busy intersection while I was coming home during rush hour traffic on Friday night.
I also didn’t mention that I have an obstruction in my intestines and that my side ached something fierce….
Or that I had come from my classroom where I had prepared lesson plans for a substitute so I could take care of said pooptacular obstruction….
And that when I left the meeting I needed to hurry home to complete all the paperwork for an Individualized Education Plan for a meeting I had before school started yesterday for a sweet teenager who needs some extra support and whose guardian I was finally getting to meet.
Now…..a year ago this collection of obstacles and obligations would have just been par for the course…a funny side note to my week….me out in traffic pushing the picklemobile (my little green car) with a busted gut while juggling kids and teaching and meetings…but last night it felt heavier than it might have once felt.
Because, in part, I am running on empty.
For weeks now I’ve wondered how to write this post.
How to share my feelings.
How to tell you where I went and why I disappeared.
And how I am determined to come back.
I’ve started typing this post about a million times….but it wasn’t until the other night that I realized how I could start…and finish…and hit publish.
See, the thing is I love you. Yes you.
I do. I LOVE you. Like a lot.
Sure….we haven’t “met”. But we know each other.
You have been on a journey with me for more than a decade.
You were there with me that time a cat got stuck on my head. And you were watching that time I broke an industrial sewing machine on live TV.
You were there with us at our first Quilt Market. You stitched up masks along side us during Covid. You celebrated with us when we released our first fabric line….and every line thereafter. And you have joined us over and over again in person (and virtually) at conferences, classes, and speaking engagements.
You’ve watched my kids grow up. You’ve held my hand through my moms stroke and the loss of my grandpa.
You have, in so many ways, for more than a decade, been right there in the passenger seat…along for the ride…always singing (or I should say sewing) along.
And then one day I disappeared.
I can’t pinpoint the actual day or the moment….but I disappeared…even to myself.
We all experience loss, navigate change, and endure goodbyes.
I too, have experienced these things…but then suddenly in the course of a few months time (4 to be exact) I experienced all of these things simultaneously…and I wasn’t up to the task.
Loss: I lost my mom, followed by my grandma, followed by my grandma-in-law.
Change: I started teaching full time at my junior high…adding Special Education classes to my usual art classes schedule. My oldest child (Simon) graduated from high school. I started night classes to complete a masters program. We discovered that I have a degenerative eye disease…and my eye sight changed significantly. My youngest child started junior high…no more elementary.
Goodbyes: My oldest child left to serve a mission for two years on an island in the Pacific. My brother (dear friend, close confidant) returned after a stay here in the states to his home in Amsterdam.
For me this combination of loss, change, and goodbyes felt like a storm. While I was reeling from one event another wave would crash in. I couldn’t get my footing. I was floundering and drowning until one day I was just a ghost.
I woke up in the mornings. Went through the motions. Did what had to be done in that day, in that moment, for life to continue….and then…that was it. Everything else stopped. Laundry piled up. We ate pizza every night. I didn’t answer texts, emails, or messages. I just tried to make it through the day. One day, sometimes one minute, at a time.
I wish I could tell you I handled all these things bravely, brilliantly, or even well. But, that would be a lie. Somedays I didn’t even shower. Somedays I slept on the couch in the same spot I had collapsed into after coming home from school. Looking back a lot of days are a blur.
What I can tell you, that is the honest truth, is that I felt/feel empty. Gutted. Hollowed out.
These past few months were too much for me…and I disappeared.
BUT….I am on the return.
I can see the flicker of liZ every once in awhile on her way back to the surface.
Because just underneath the emptiness is the vast expanse of the spirit…
I love that phrase…”the vast expanse of the spirit”.
I’m looking at it like this:
My glass isn’t half full or half empty….it’s all empty baby…the well is dry, there is no more gas in the tank, I am spent…nada, nothing, no more, no mas! BUT….that glass…the one that is empty…well….it is still remains, empty or not. I STILL HAVE THE GLASS! A useful, functional, magnificent vessel that is still there.
And that glass is the vast expanse of my spirit…still there…large and looming…waiting to be filled up…waiting underneath all that emptiness to be filled again with joy and laughter and memories and sunshine and wonder and new things.
Yes, I am empty.
Yes, it will take awhile to fill up my cup again.
And no, I don’t know if I will be filling it with sparkling water, Dr. Pepper, or vodka.
Only time will tell….but I am on the return…and I hope you will buckle up again and join us for the ride…for our come back tour. I don’t know where the journey will lead this time I only know that it wouldn’t be the same without you.
*NOTE: At some point I will share my stories of the loss and change. It is important to me and I really want to…but those will come in their own time. Until then, I have quilts and recipes and other stories on the calendar that are helping me fill my glass back up with the sweet nectar of familiarity.
*Also…just again…I’m sorry I disappeared. I truly didn’t mean to.
Thank you for granting me the grace to reappear.