Saturday, February 4, 2017

Emptiness and Ice Cream


It's been ice cream for me this summer. That's how I've been feeding the emptiness. Sometimes it's chocolate. Sometimes a cup of coffee. I haven't been reaching for ease all the time, but it's often enough.

I'm hoping that by becoming more aware of when I reach and getting more familiar with that sense of emptiness and discomfort that leads me to the kitchen, I'll be stronger in my ability to resist.

This isn't about willpower. We all know if willpower was enough there wouldn't be a person on the planet with a few pounds to lose.

The feeling is familiar. We reach for ease in whatever is handy: a bowl of ice cream, a quick anger at someone else, an argument, a complaint, anything to fill that uneasiness, that feeling of emptiness. It's uncomfortable.

I could try identifying the source of the emptiness, the cause. That's a pretty good distraction. But it won't stop me for long if I'm already reaching for the freezer door. I could distract myself with another pleasure. Take a walk. Chew some gum. But again, it won't stop me for long. The first thing I may think about when I get back from that walk is ice cream. Vanilla Fudge Crackle. I could promise myself the treat in 10 minutes and hope the delay is enough to make the feelings pass. But once I get that idea in my head there will be no way I can resist in 10 minutes. I know myself too well.

What can I do instead?

Maybe I can stop with one hand on the freezer door and pause. Count off a few seconds or a few breaths and just stay empty while I do. Feel the hollow, empty feeling, that feeling I get right before mind kicks in. Just that little empty feeling. When I can stay with it for a moment I may find that it's not that awful. It's just a sensation of emptiness. In that moment I may discover that what I really need instead of that bowl of ice-cream is a good cry. Or the feeling may just need me to be aware of it. It may simply pass. We make these things so big, don't we, when sometimes by staying with it and just letting it be there takes the feeling to its conclusion.

Maybe I can see if I have what it takes that day to stay with the feeling for a bit. Timing plays a critical role. My body chemistry, old patterns, even the way the stars are lined up can make or break my efforts on any given day.

Stopping for just that second to observe can be enough to get me started, though. And even if it ends up with me filling my emptiness with ice cream, it's still a good start.

First published September 2013 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.