‘Lately something has shifted inside of me and I’ve been thinking about how nothing matters and nothing has meaning because we’re all going to die (she says this so matter-of-factly, like it’s an accepted fact that we’re both aware of) …and I hear these ladies speaking about buying fresh vegetables and I think, why do they care? Why don’t they see that nothing has any meaning? and all these people are just making it so much worse, the meaninglessness. They’re making it worse because they care about these irrelevant things and I can’t get past that’.
A dear friend said these words to me late at night on a street near a shady looking park. We had just been witness to a live poetry gig that moved us in every direction from sadness to emptiness to elation and laughter in a ceaseless circle of wonderment, so that our mouths were open and our faces in our hands, shaking with merriment and emotion.
And just before she said those words, we spoke of how this irrational thought had coincidentally popped up in both our heads lately, whereby it seemed like everyone we came across looked like a serial killer. We did not feel safe, I guess is what we were trying to explain to our male friend, who laughed at the perplexity of our shared thoughts.
I later replied to her aside: but you find a way through the murky darkness; you make your own meaning. Tell that story to someone. Turn nothing into something
‘That’s what he said too’ she replied, about the boy of her life.
‘But it doesn’t matter what we do because everyone else is just…ruining the nothingness’.
These words stuck with me and I thought about it for a while. I pondered on the emptiness that I’ve allowed to take up residence within. How I’ve guarded my kingdom of Empty like a Queen. How no one can cross and how nothing, not even love or compassion, can break through the fort.
I don’t know how I got to this part.
A few months ago I spoke to my friend about unadulterated happiness.
When was the last time you felt it?
He didn’t know and was perplexed by the question.
I used to feel it all the time, I replied for him.
Maybe it’s not so good that you don’t remember.
Later I realised that this too has disappeared and in asking him about that, I was hoping he would have an answer for me, or maybe a cure. But he is lost too.
Recently I went to an event I used to go to as a 20-year-old. I was a young volunteer editor still studying a creative writing degree and I barely had the discipline to wake up and get out of bed in the mornings, let alone finish an assignment, let alone write 10,000 words of a novel, let alone volunteer to help this organisation create their book, let alone attend this event they would host so early in the mornings.
In going back to this as an adult six years later, I had a revelation of sorts. As people spoke about changing the world, I couldn’t believe how removed and apathetic I had become in those years. What happened to me in that time? Where did I disappear to? How do I come back to myself?
How did six years stretch out into an eternity of nothingness?
I got lost somewhere, standing in the woods of my obliterated place.
‘16. The obliterated place is equal parts destruction and creation. The obliterated place is pitch black and bright light. It is water and parched earth. It is mud and it is manna. The real work of deep grief is making a home there’
I blocked out all the bad things. I did not want to handle them.
I blocked out all the good things that people did to counter the bad. I did not want to know what I was not doing myself.
I had blocked it all out, kept everything at arm’s length and replaced it all with fictional stories.
I watched TVs and movies and books and consumed content like oxygen, so as to become distracted and so it would take over all of my life. Somewhere along the line I became so far removed from reality, that when these incredible, inspiring, powerful people stood up to speak about the small and big ways that people could change the world and often did change it in spite of the challenges, and how it wouldn’t actually take much for us to do it too, I did not recognise myself in them but I knew instantly what I needed to do to get back in that world. Somehow at the same time, I already knew that I would not do it.
But last night through the poetry, there were so many words that flew straight into my head, in a language, nay currency, that I could transact. I sat forward in my seat, head filling up with these ideas, these beliefs – empowered.
I could write my way back through the darkness.
nos encontraremos de nuevo en el lugar donde no hay oscuridad
I want to go back there now.
If only I could find it on Google maps.