A few years ago, I was sipping an over-priced cocktail at a sky bar with one of my oldest, closest friends and my boyfriend -- two of my absolute favourite humans. This was during the biggest book fair in Sweden, and I was about to publish my novel, something I had dreamt about since I was little.
My boyfriend and I had only dated for about six months, so we were still very much in the butterflies and unicorns-state of infatuation. Annoyingly kissing all the time. Hanging over the back of my chair was a shopping bag from ACNE. My boyfriend had bought me a sweater there a few hours earlier. While in the sleek shop I had proudly taken note of the fact that no lover or boyfriend before had ever given me a designer garment as a gift. So it had felt thrilling.
And while sitting there, having light conversation with these two amazing humans, as the sun was bruising the sky on its descent, rolling down into the sea, behind the amusement park with all its cheap trills, I suddenly felt incapsulated again by my old friend: emptiness. And as this feeling caught hold of me, a chokehold, my smile started aching and the alcohol buzz was coming on like nausea.
How could this be? This should be the happiest moment in my life. I was literally on top of the world. Why did I feel so damn sad? Or, I wasn't even sad, I just felt empty, hollow. Nothing. Like those black holes at the outskirts of the universe that I had heard about and feared since I was a child alone in the darkness of my bedroom at night.
What can I do to rid myself of this feeling? Down this cocktail fast and put under round on my credit card?
Take the elevator down from the sky and my barstool throne and run across the highway reigning in the city like a belt reigning in a bulging belly, to the amusement park, and pay to access the scariest rollercoaster to feel alive again?
I did nothing, just kept on smiling and drinking and eventually I was able to push to feeling out. The alcohol may have dissolved it, or the dinner plans and the general business of life.
But I still think about that time. And many other times like that I've had.
Like way before that, when I went on holiday to Miami with my sister (another of my favourite human beings). We had managed to get a great deal on an otherwise well-out-of-our-budget-hotel in pastel-coloured swanky South Beach. While floating in the swimming pool under the bright sun that empty feeling came on so intensely that I felt like I was going to disintegrate. Like flakes of dead skin dissolving in the chlorine water. I knew I was gonna have to dress in my pretend super-hero outfit not to cry in front of my younger sister. In my head the same thoughts were on a loop. WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE, WHAT'S THE POINT OF ANY OF THIS?
I still have these kind of thoughts, and these moments of emptiness. But they happen way less frequently. And also, the emptiness has taken on a different quality. Instead of feeling sad and desolate, it feels wide and spacious.
Yes, we are all going to die, so let's enjoy the only life we have.
And also, life doesn't automatically get more enjoyable because you achieve things, or because you get expensive gifts, or fall in love, or go on fancy vacations. None of that will matter if your mind is a terrible place to be in.