In this weeks installment of Dear Ms. Love n Happiness the question comes from a dapper and endearing young man who I will refer to as Mr. Empty. Oddly enough, Mr. Empty is far from being empty. In reality he has a huge heart and is endowed with the kinda gifts that change the world, he just doesn’t know it yet.
Mr. Empty asks:
Dear Ms. Love n Happiness:
Why, even in a relationship, do I always feel ’empty’? I am now in my early twenty-somethings, have been in multiple medium-term relationships, yet have not found myself filled with joy, or anything close.
Dear Mr. Empty,
Who are you trying to kid? This is no relationship question. I know you are far too brilliant to actually believe that any relationship or for that matter any thing external could fill up this emptiness you are experiencing. You just want me to be the boring ol hag that tells you what you already know. Fine. Knowing full well that I am about to be trite, tired, cliché and commonplace, I am just gonna say it anyway: All those warm fuzzies you are longing to experience . . they have to come from you first.
If you are anything like most of us, you have to hear things 1 billion and a half times, so I’ll give it to you again and this may sting a little: All the girls you bed, all the money you make, all the art you create, any drug that you take will not fill up that hole. Duh.
Here is another little nugget of truth that may piss you off before it sets you free: Your pain is not special. Whatever it is that is gnawing away at your insides, your childhood, something you didn’t get, something that you got you didn’t want, whatever you call your cross: It. Is. Not. Special. Neither is mine. Neither is my moms, or my lovers. Not my sisters, not the guy on the bus who smells funny, not the asshole that broke my heart, and sadly not even the bitch that seems to have it all. None of our very painful burdens are special. What a heartless bitch, right? I know. But think about it, they are not special because we all have ’em. Look around, from the most prestigious and powerful to those on the fringes of society, we are all running around with heavy loads to bare and trying to fill up aching holes. And believe it or not, this is really good news! Once I saw that this false feeling of emptiness is part of the human condition, so much of the problems power over me was taken away.
Now at this point you have a choice. Many people choose to get all dark philosopher prince on the shit and question the existence of God, don dark-colored garb, shake their fist at the heavens and write mad treatises from caves. Whatever. It’s been done. Do it again if you want. But, I think that what you really want is something different. You want to live from you heart and your soul. And this here is how I think it’s done, clearly I am still working out the kinks myself:
1) Find something you believe in with all your being and get your arse involved.
Sure, your heart is empty and your soul is shriveled up. But, my hand to God the best prescription for this emptiness is to give more of yourself. Giving gets the heart pumping harder and your soul stretching. Its gets you out of the Philosopher King head and into your heart where the fuzzies live. You will find, as a natural consequence of giving to others that your own healing starts to occur. You will realize that the cause you choose to get fully behind is the one you need most for yourself. (Is it a coincidence that I am writing a book about my experience as a single mom or that my dream is to start a program for broken-hearted little kids who want to write, or that my best friend helps troubled teenagers through art, or that my neighbor works with gay children?) In short, heal others and you heal yourself.
2) Realize that cynicism is overrated.
You are very brilliant, and for brilliant people it’s easy to use your intelligence to find all sorts of evidence to support cynicism. I know because I spent my entire college career doing just that. I paid about 60k a year so I could sit around and commiserate with a bunch of other Sad Sams. We studied Nietzsche and Pound. We psychoanalyzed every halfway optimistic text within an inch of its life. We compared horrific childhoods and told blood curdling stories about he atrocities committed in the name of faith or love. Oh- we had so many super pseudo-intellectual reasons for our emptiness. Our emptiness was a big, beautiful badge that we proudly wore. It was symbolic, it was artistic. It was bullshit. I walked away with astronomical student loans and a still empty heart.
3) You gotta believe in something.
For me belief is not something I can categorize, summarize, rationalize, or intellectualize. For me, belief was something that lived inside me all along. I just had to quit beating it down with a stick and let it come out and live a little bit. For you, and for everyone else, belief is a personal experience. How you experience it, how you express it, how you access it could be as different as my fingerprint is from yours. What I do believe is universal is the fact that somewhere, maybe deep, deep, damn deep down in all of us, we know our truth. We believe in something outside of ourselves. Life is a process where our knowing gets covered with shit. I suppose the challenge is to start shoveling the shit!
4) You gotta use your powers for good
The darkside really does not need any more help, they got that bizz on lockdown. Plus, the pay off and benefits are shitty. Mr. Empty, I would suggest that you take all your brilliance and all the energy you have put into to constructing your identity as the: intelligent, artistic, deep, emotional, wounded dark and slightly cynical man into something new. Use your immense powers for good and build yourself as the man who experiences joy and fulfilment and lives surrounded by love.
I have a feeling joy is right around the corner. So take your remedy for a while and then lets compare notes. I know a whole tribe of non crazy, at least in the dangerous sense, mildly cool peeps who are on the same plan.
♥ & ☺ ,
Oh, and spreading all this love n happiness is kinda hard work, so laughing helps too.