EmptyBy Emma Pearson
November 30, 2023
Photo by Sarah Treanor (streanor.com)
23 May 2020
Empty. I am empty. I feel empty. Which one is it?
Running on Empty?
No. Not even. A year ago I did a semi-marathon and it was at the end of one of the hardest weeks in my life (and I have had a shit load of hard weeks – this one was bad, in early May 2019). I was literally running on empty. I’d had little food for days, and even less sleep. Somehow enough of the event was downhill, the pull of the crowd offered some support, and the muscle memory of long-ish distance running substantially in my bones, muscles, joints and sinew for my body to do what it needed. Turns out I could run on empty.
But now, “Running on empty” feels anathema to me. I couldn’t go on a run. I can’t imagine it. I eat enough but don’t sleep much. My limbs feel like a rag doll’s. Floppy. My body can’t hold itself upright properly.
Now it’s just “empty”.
I am empty.
I am empty.
I am empty.
Vidée. Scoured out.
So how to get through another day? Especially one where I will be driving for 7 hours. Yes – lockdown driving. We will see how far we get. I have papers. An invitation letter from my dad, saying “please come”. And plenty of reasons to burst into tears if the police say, “please turn back”.
I have been looking forward to visiting my parents for weeks. I want to play music with my dad. I want to hear Ben and Megan play their instruments with him. I want to smell my mum with her trail of essential oils – lavender, rosemary, basil, mint.
I want to celebrate and honour my brother Edward with people who also miss him, who remember him, who want to talk about him. He would have been 51 yesterday. He should have been 51 yesterday. And apart from a little sing song to his daughters and wife, a few nods to his photo on the fridge, and an “I miss you Ed – I really miss you”, I didn’t feel there was enough space in the day for him. Is this what happens as time goes on? That you end up being the only one to honour someone who has died? A nod to the photo on the fridge?
Back to my parents and our road trip starting in a little bit. Actually, it is me who needs to see them. Yes, they are “elderly”, in their early 80s, but they are basically fitter and more capable than many who are 30 years younger. It is me who needs to get out of this house, who needs to see some different scenery, walk in the Pyrenees, maybe even splash in the sea. Actually, splash in the sea is a primary sine qua non of the trip. I shall run through barriers on the beach to do that piece. Or go in the middle of the night. I even have a wetsuit if it’s too parky.
Swimming on empty feels easier than running on empty. Swimming on empty feels more nourishing than being, living on empty.
I don’t know where this writing is going. I rarely do. I need to get up and get going. Get the two legged beings in the house ready to sit in the car all day.
I need a boost. A shot of something.
I pick up “Perseverance” by Margaret Wheatley, which lives permanently on the floor next to the bed. Fortunately, I turned to the right page. Every page is the right page. Always.
Perseverance is a journey seemingly without end.
Yes it has a few destinations or rewards, one of which is patience.
It’s not that we start out patient. We don’t persevere because we are patient people.
We become patient because we have to. There is no choice – the work is endless.
Every day we have to make a choice. Will we give up, or will we keep going?
When day after day we are willing to keep going we discover, quite to our amazement, that we have become patient.
And then we just continue on. Day after day.
I am not a patient person. Not naturally. But I am patient with my impatience. I am patient with my exhaustion. Perhaps that’s a form of perseverance.
The reward of patience is patience.
St Augustine, born 354
So be it.