Jumping into the Void
In last week’s article, I wrote about my silence experience as a metaphor for my lifewalk. I wrote about various ways I choose to be in my life. I left out one major aspect of my lifewalk — falling into the abyss, the void, the Nemo, the emptiness, the cesspool. There are many names and in my conversations with people, there is great fear of this place — and we all seem to know it.
In the past, my pattern has been to avoid this place at all costs. This has been mostly accomplished by fitting into the roles of my life, making myself numb, and keeping busy with “doing” so I have no time for “being.” Being would involve falling into the pit and that thought led to a major anxiety experience in my body. I definitely wanted to set my life up to avoid that anxiety.
There has been a major shift in my learning in the last couple of years. I now recognize the value that the void has in my life. It still takes an amazing leap of faith to jump into it. Sometimes I creep in easily one foot at a time. Sometimes I plunge. Sometimes I sit on the edge not moving in or away from it — frozen for a time. Sometimes I choose to turn away. All these choices are valid at different times in my life, when they are made consciously. I can “be” in any of these places. I am working at not choosing “avoidance.” (Which is, of course, a dance to avoid the void! WCA)
I have found that, in this place, there is great learning.
- A time to sort through the various choices that are available to me.
- A time to choose the direction to work my way out of what feels like a cesspool.
- A time to recognize that there is not one correct path to choose to exit the cesspool — just the one that feels right at this moment in my life.
I have learned to welcome the anxiety rather than avoiding it, choosing at times to dive deep down in.
In the past, I thought that the journey through life was like climbing a mountain. The ultimate destination was to reach the top. I struggled to find the “right” mountain to climb. Somehow, if I found the right mountain to climb, and if I made it to the top, my life would make total sense. This was a process that I chose to do alone. I gave myself grief for all those times I chose to stop and rest. The destination was the top and I had to keep climbing.
Imagine my surprise when I found what I thought was the “right” mountain and made my way to the top! — only to find that there was another mountain on the other side. AND there were many mountains beyond that. In between each of the mountains loomed the great void that I thought I was climbing my way out of — never to return. And yet, there it was — to be visited again and again. I learned that there was no “right” path and no destination to reach. Life’s learnings took place along the way, often in the most surprising places. As long as I kept trudging along “doing” life, I was not open to the experiences around me.
Off I went to Haven for Phase One, with this view of life. There I added some more pieces. I learned to breathe more and appreciate what I already had around me in my life. I learned how much time I spent “doing” rather than “being.” When I stopped and noticed, there was so much that I had missed. I did not need to climb any mountains if I did not choose to. There were unlimited choices around me. There was no “right” path.
Once I chose to start up a mountain, I could change midstream and choose something different. It was fun to play with new experiences, on mountains I never would have chosen before going to Haven. I learned the value of trying a new behaviour on for size to see if it fits. Some did and some did not. I had my favourite mountains and I had fun choosing some new ones. I did not have to keep returning to the same mountain just because that was the one I always picked.
The most exciting learning was that I was not alone. I did not have to be isolated. I could choose to hang out with people on the climb. There was so much I could learn about myself in relationship with other people. All I had to do was look around me and see the other people. They were always there but I had chosen not to see them. We could choose to climb together for a period of time or we could simply hang out and enjoy the view. I could reach out to people, even people on a totally different mountain, and we could learn from each other. All it takes is a little exercise of the curiosity muscle.
By not seeing the people around me, it had been easy to choose the path of walking alone. I would sit on the mountain of my choice and wish that someone would notice me. I sat and waited. Wishing. Hoping. Desperate for anyone to notice me, somebody to come out of the fog into clear view. I was unaware of the choice I was making.
Gaining people in my life had to come from me. My first task was to recognize that there are people out there. Opening my eyes and seeing was not enough. I had responsibility to make this happen. I had to make the first move by reaching out and inviting people into my life. In that place, I connected with the people around me who were reaching out. When I did this, I was surprised by the wealth of connections around me and how available people were when I reached out to them.
And there was still that void. It was at every corner. It seemed so large and vast. It was a murky place where the waters are muddied and there is no clarity in vision. The fear was overwhelming. There was a sinking feeling. There appeared to be no way out. If I cried, the tears would go on forever. If I screamed, the screams would never stop. I would be lost. I would be alone. That was the scariest one — being alone. In that place, I could see nobody else swimming there with me. It was up to me to find my way out.
When I entered that abyss at Haven, I discovered something new. I was not alone. Just because I could not see anyone in there with me did not mean they were not there. I listened to story after story and people feeling trapped in the same place. I listened to story after story of the ways that people distract themselves from the void. I learned the most valuable lesson of all. I could not see anyone in that place, yet all I had to do was reach out. If I swim around in the murky water with my arms outstretched, looking for connection, I will find someone. If I continue to swim in a tight little ball, all curled up in fear, I will never find anyone else in there.
Holding onto a friend in those murky waters makes the whole experience less scary. Together, finding a way out is much easier. Together we can learn.