Once upon a time, just yesterday in fact, and about a million miles from here, I tripped and fell down a rabbit hole into a land divorced from body, separate from self, far above the world. To get to this place, I had a little help from a white rabbit I know… let’s call him Kyle. Simultaneously within and without myself, I careened through a multitude of psychic layers until I came to the end, which might have been the bottom and it might have been the center.
Let it be known, I am practiced in the art of dissociation, both from the times it happened to me as a protective measure, and the times I willingly chose it in the name of play.
Despite the irrelevance of space on my understanding of where I was, I somehow knew I was inside myself, although far removed, about as far from where we are now and where this took place. Nevertheless, in that moment, that I was someplace within myself somehow mattered.
In this place, so far away as to be the closest to myself I had ever gotten, I discovered something I immediately recognized as two things:
a black hole
the thing I had been running from for the entirety of my adolescent & adult life, the thing that compelled me to consume without regard for cost, recklessly imbibe, pine for the affections of anyone & everyone, flagellate myself with rigorous study, work tirelessly for other people’s dreams, & never sit still long enough to become intimate with anything.
In an instant, beyond time, I realized that the very thing I was running from—this light sucking vacuum, this bottomless pit, this leaky bucket inside my being—had catalyzed every bad habit I’d ever had, but those bad habits were adopted in an effort to fill the very void this thing was creating.
The black hole catalyzed (destructive) behavior that endeavored to fill said hole, which only grew more powerful with its ritual feedings. My running, which manifested as insatiability with all things even remotely comforting—sex, drugs, food, possessions (ritual & material), stories, secrets—was somehow both symptom and cause, and all in an instant. The black hole was the running from it was the black hole.
And this—er, situation—was smack dab in the middle of my entire being, compelling every breath I took.
So, here I was, alight with the revelation of my own terrifying anti-foundation, seeing for the first time the way any & all love that entered me was instantaneously eradicated, the way light is swallowed inexplicably by the actual cosmic phenomena known as black holes. In the non-cosmic phenomenon that I was becoming acquainted with right there in the core of my being, aka the void, I saw the montage of my inner hell: love approaches my center through some pure & righteous channel—perhaps it’s care or appreciation—and is immediately devoured by the devouring void. When I feel no love from the thing I’m meant to feel love from (because you can’t feel the juice of something that’s been black-bagged before it even has a chance to touch the ground), I’d naturally reach for more, thinking “this must be problem of quantity,” unaware that the mere act of even reaching was enough to grow the power of the void within me to nigh-intolerable proportions. And thus, after years of ignorance & continually reaching for greater & greater extremes in that name of trying to feel full, I found myself face to face with something much larger, much more powerful, & certainly much more terrifying than I knew what to do with.
A black hole-Hydra. Or something like that.
I saw how love is light, & I saw how the black hole in me was real, & I saw it all from a vantage point of pure, honest clarity because I was also in the cosmos millions of lightyears from here. There was no warmth in this place, no glow. There was no backstory or affect or extreme need for things to be different; just a frank look at the facts. I am me and I have a black hole in my center. Ok. Just me & the yawning expanse of an orb that eats light breakfast, lunch, & dinner, snuffs it out without a trace. But there was no baggage: I felt no value judgement about this place, only the impenetrable understanding of pure objectivity.
I understood why I had needed to violently consume for so long, the way a child understands what the number five is when someone draws five circles and counts them out loud. In other words, it was obvious. I consumed to fill the void. And I also understood why it hadn’t yet worked. Why, no matter in what form I devoured the love, it never sunk in. It had been continuously intercepted by a force I was suddenly paralyzingly intimate with, a force I feared was more powerful in me than even love.
In my altered state, somehow abstract but fully engaged, I knelt before it, both as myself & as myself as a little girl, compelled by fear & humility, aware I had only ever always been kneeling to this thing, albeit unconsciously and therefore ineffectively. I knelt and—to my surprise—I wept. I grabbed that little girl and held her close to me, realizing that in my unconsciousness of my own inner workings, I had failed to protect her. In that moment, bent down before the shrine of my own self-hatred, the inky orb of my destructive tendencies, the horocrux that had been giving power to all of my worst vices, I held this little girl in my strong arms & begged her forgiveness—the most unforced & wholehearted apology I will ever issue. She returned to me, somehow whole there in my arms. I faced again the emptiness, the black sphere that had disappeared everything I’d ever touched. This, right here, somewhere far far away directly in front of my eyes, was my fabled demon.
I felt the power of knowing its form, its visage percolating in my all-loving being, resolutely aflame with protecting myself. I felt like I had just discovered Rumpelstiltskin’s name & in mere moments the beast would tear himself in two. I knew I would walk out of this land divorced, at least in part, from this entity that had ruled me from behind the curtain for the better part of my life. I knew now that its shape had been revealed, now that I knew its name, I could defend. I could accept. I could integrate.
It’s been more than a year & a half since that moment (in "real" time), and I am still aware of a hungry ghost who ferrets away portions of my psychic nourishment. There are shadows of the bitter self-hatred, reckless abandon, self-sabotage, & dangerous attraction to things that will kill me, but they are whispers of smoke now; traces lingering in a room that has been long unoccupied. I have come to terms with the reality that there will always be a voice that begs for more, more, more, & bids me never stop once I’ve started. And I’ve learned to love the occasional humble bow which allows me to crown chaos queen for the night & waltz around with madmen.
Since that time, just yesterday, all of the truths which had previously steered me as a devil might steer some deranged yet docile beauty, have seemingly lost the thread. The hole that fed on all of you, preyed on all of you, required all of you to fill me up with your approval, admiration, & unconditional, perfect, shining love has not been removed, per se, but I’ve seen the face of something else inside of myself; something that daily grows more powerful than that old rag the void would sing me to sleep with each night....
When I was down there, with that little girl, I discovered the one thing in the world capable of turning a black hole on its head: love. If you love the thing from the inside, it has no need of begging for it from the outside.
My orientation now is on shining from someplace within, not searching for it without.
I’ve also discovered a few ways of dealing with myself when the love is too weak or too unpracticed, or when I suddenly feel full of that familiar unfillable feeling. They are:
Meditate, because my breath is never wanting. It moves in & it goes out, naturally. There is no wanting in the emptiness of exhale, and no wanting in the fullness of inhale. No matter the state, empty or full, equilibrium presides.
Write, because when I write, the words pour *out,* which effectively eradicates the sensation of void *within*. More accurately, words pour *through,* and through is a state on which I can ride, surrendered, unencumbered by all stories regarding both void & love. Through just is, moving, a stream of consciousness, a particle, a wave.
And lastly, notice, without acting. Objectively observing the sensation of *void*—much like sitting with sadness, pain, bodily insult—creates a kind of buffer wherein I can feel full & satiated by the experience of noticing itself, effectively eradicating any experience of empty. It’s the trying to make myself feel not-empty that really drives the forces of emptiness, like the clown in IT is fueled by the fear of it, but has no innate substance when simple faced.
There is no such thing as happily ever after because happiness is fleeting & after implies more than right now, but that does not mean this story cannot have a good ending, because somewhere, in a place beyond recall & strangely removed from reality, I am cradling a little girl that I recognize as myself, and she feels utterly safe.
Big thank you to the New Yorker for having literally the perfect cartoon for this story.
And big love to everyone whose love I swallowed while I was empty inside. Thank you for giving so generously to my struggle.