A therapist I saw in London at some point last year ventured that I may have spent a lot of my life running away from The Emptiness – avoiding the repetitive drudgery of everyday existence by escaping in different ways – usually into relationships. There are other ways of escaping too, travel and constantly moving being the most benign of options!
Get off the rollercoaster of drama she said, and learn to live outside the realm of constant crisis, conflict, change and hedonism. What you will be faced with is yourself, and this is what you’re escaping from. Do some deep work, go home and explore your family dynamics, face your past and then face The Emptiness. If you ever want a family, she added, you will have to be comfortable with a quiet and unrelenting repetition.
Obviously that sounded terrifying and boring in equal parts.
Anyway, I’m in the bit now where I’m facing The Emptiness. When I first got back to London I was on a total high – fuelled by an excitement at seeing my friends, a cheerful panic induced by needing to find a job and a place to live, and the return of my libido after a long grief induced absence. And, I suppose, a fear that if I stopped and spent a night in, I would be met with the crushing realisation that I am on my own here. It’s been a bit of a process – all of the old escapism instincts kicked in over the first couple of months I was back. I had a bit of a moment where I realised that they were causing more anxiety than they were alleviating – particularly in regards to being in weird ambiguous potentially romantic situations that were more annoying than they were rewarding. It took a while to realise it doesn’t have to be that way. So I chose to spend some nights in, cook myself some healthy food, do some exercise and focus on myself. Now when I engage in hedonistic behaviours, I feel I’m mostly able to do it for the right (fun) reasons rather than running away from something. The choices I make about the people I will let into my life and to what extent are clear, solid and I make no apology for them. The red hot, molten anger that had been flowing through me this year has cooled and solidified into the boundaries I should have always had. The amount of fucks I give about a range of things and how much of my behaviour is driven by shame or ego are in proportion, and overall I just feel really calm, grown up and for the first time in a long time, generally happy. Happy being single! Weird and alien but such a relief. I feel desirable because I think I am desirable, not because anyone else does or does not. The sexual experiences I have are clearly defined, and only good communicators who are committed to mutual, respectful enjoyment are allowed. I’m being super picky and focusing on quality over quantity.
The thing about The Emptiness, now that I’ve stopped railing against it, is that it’s actually quite a lovely peaceful place. Sometimes I get a bit lonely (a night spent in through a lack of opportunity feels different to a self-enforced night in) and sometimes in the quiet, the lid is lifted on painful things that I had to lock away for a while. A few nights ago, out of nowhere, I had a dream that my dog had come back to life, and he had to be put down again. I woke up crying and I’ve found that after going through a period where I could talk about him with some bravado, I’m now in a place where I can’t look at pictures of him, or talk about him without crying. I think it’s important to be able to open that box of hurt that I had put away and ignored for a while and tackle it in manageable portions; on Saturday night my friend was saying it’s important to be able to have feelings in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you. If I have a cry every now and then about Dudley, or about anything else, it’s OK and I’m OK.
One good thing that’s come out of having more time to myself is the amount I’ve actually been able to focus on my own interests. Through living in West Hampstead again I’ve been able to reconnect with the group I used to get together and make art with every week – I hadn’t been for 3 – 4 years and I was welcomed back with open arms. I feel like I’m learning new things and challenging myself and I love it. Emptiness, you’re alright x
My first ever watercolour life portrait
A week later. Painting from life = wild
Trying to get to grips with ink and brush, inspired by Brett Whiteley nudes