In the Empty Space I Have Found Strength & Growth

woman coffee mug

I’ve gotten used to my four walls. I’m feeling myself in the repetition. Summer has come, the light filling that filled my day is now leaving so quickly. All of these things scrolling across my screen in the morning with each bite of breakfast; the water in my oatmeal boiling over. And I’m still here, between the walls, letting the air flow through a cracked door.

There used to be a lot of things that I could do with my time. There were a lot more people I could meet standing around bars; seeing and feeling them, their faces, their wrinkles, the emotions we shared with one another. Now, as we went from weeks of strict shelter-in-place orders to some sort of partial lift, I wonder if it’s worth going back to what that was—that sense of normal.

I was rushing around, building towers of coloured blocks in my calendar. Each block came complete with its own dings, notifications lighting up my phone from the moment I opened my eyes to the time I closed them. I hardly made time to savour my cup of coffee. The colours of a sunset were a blink and an exhale with an evening run. My head was down and my thoughts were swirling as I created a life inside the confines of my own head. I passed by many people on the street without noticing their faces. And now that we have shielded ourselves from each other more drastically, I am searching for more signs of life.

As things dissipate off my calendar, as the air clears around me and the thoughts evaporate, slowing occurs. And in the slowing I’ve found my uncomfortability.

Where it has been easy for me to gloss over irritations and anxieties, I now have the time to wriggle in them. To understand the darknesses and the effects that they have as they sit on my chest, as they tingle in my legs as I sit and breathe. The heaviness of facing the ugly truths present themselves in the mirror—reflections of myself, my background, my culture, my society.

In the empty space I am forced to look at the places of unworthiness and self-limiting beliefs; the self-narrative that I’ve propped up that has kept me down for a long time. It’s the same narrative that criticises others and stops me from connecting with them. Judging someone for the differences between us rather than accepting them for it and building upon that strength as diverse, yet united.

It has been convenient to stop at feeling bad. At feeling bad, I can pick up a cocktail and turn on some music. I can drown out the perturbations with television shows and more news feeds. There, where I feel the darkness, I don’t have to do any more work. I can turn my back from the clouds forming to see the blue on the horizon. But there’s blue on the other side of the storm, too.

In the empty space, the questions arise.

Have I been complicit to racism in my culture? Have I focused on our differences that builds up walls? And have I judged others too quickly for things I didn’t understand?

Tallies for moments that come to mind pass by me like lines on a highway, and I’m going 60 miles per hour. And that heaviness builds. The storm clouds grow darker. There are cracks where rain begins to fall both from the skies and my eyes. Where I feel the weight now is where I have previously turned away, veered off, avoiding the thunder and lightning. I have nowhere to go now. The time is now to pull off to the side of the road and feel into the space the stillness has created. Let the darkness grow, the lightning strike, the thunder shake me to my core.

Where can I do better? How can I use my voice and my actions to make changes?

The stillness shows me the darkness of the forest within and without. I see the trees that grow with cracked roots; some that run deep and others that spread across the surface. I feel limbs that no longer spring in leafing crowns; but hang dead and dry, stuck and unwilling to just fall off. I also see the beauty of each intricacy: the small seeds that sprout from a dark forest floor, the golden light that dances through the branches.

Emptiness, once filled with routine and unquestioned activities, now lays out the pieces of my life I need to examine with a closer eye. I sit with the discomfort now and feel it squirm, attempting to find a hiding place so that I won’t shine my light on it. The thunder claps with each lightning strike, the bright blast uncovering the depths and the darkness. I wonder if the car will flood, if the rainwater will carry me away. But I won’t stop looking now. I need to see it all for exactly what it is.

Now, in this ditch, on the journey, I see the bravery of the forest as it continues to grow; scraggly branches shooting upwards and bumps bared, notches up the trees’ trunks. I am a part of the forest. I will allow the scars to show upon my skin as I sit deeper into this discomfort. Because I know the rain will pass. I know the tears will dry. I know that I can reorient myself on the road; challenging my growth, even in the thickets, the darkest nights and greyest mornings.

I will be still so I can feel the wildness stirring within me. In the stillness there will be life, the dark turning to light. The skyline blue in the distance.

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