By Mark E. Smith
An individual I helped out along the way with his mobility was gracious in sending me a signed print of his artwork. It hangs wonderfully behind me in my office, intentionally placed so that those meeting with me at my desk can look above my head and see the framed print.
What makes the print intriguing is that it’s Humpty Dumpty in a wheelchair – and it contradicts the outcome of the nursery rhyme :
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
No, in the piece hung on my wall, Humpty is, in fact, whole. He’s just sitting in a wheelchair.
I see the wonderfully whimsical piece of art on my office wall as a simile for so many of our lives – that is, once thought missing pieces, but now whole. Yet, it raises the question of how did Humpty go from shattered to whole again?
Have you ever felt like the original Humpty, where based on events in your life, you were shattered, resulting in a space you had a yearning to fill? For a lot of us – I’m raising my hand! – these voids or the yearning to feel complete often come from the darkest places, trauma in our lives. We’ve been metaphorically pushed off of a wall in life – abuse, abandonment, loss, injury – and while we can pick ourselves up, there’s often that one piece missing, isn’t there?
And, damn, we can do some completely counter-intuitive, self-destructive behaviors in trying to fill that void, trying to create wholeness. If you get to the pathology of any self-medicating behavior – substance abuse, co-dependent relationships, obsessive-compulsiveness – they’re all rooted in trying to fill that void, that missing piece. However, voids are just that – empty space – and no matter how much vodka we drink or sex we have or clothes we buy, the void can never be filled. The voids in our lives are bottomless.
Yet, there’s an absolute solution. See, while voids within us can never be filled – pour whatever you want into them, but they can never be filled! – they can ultimately be healed. There’s a monumental difference between filling and closing a void. Filling a void sustains it, but closing a void – read that, healing – makes us whole again. And, when we’re whole, there’s nothing to chase, no need to self-medicate, just security in who we are. Wholeness is the ultimate in self.
I could give you a whole list of causes of voids within me, ones that haunted me in my 20s and 30s. Yes, I did some stupid stuff trying to fill the voids, but it wasn’t until I strove to heal them that the angst I felt slowly turned into serenity and esteem. For a lot of us, I’ve learned that healing comes from breaking patterns, ones that may have been set into motion by circumstances beyond our control. Humpty may have fallen off of the wall, but he didn’t need to sit on it again! For me, being a truly present father healed the void of not having my father in my life. For me, getting an education and building a career healed the void of living in poverty at times as a child. For me, not being a drinker healed the void of having an alcoholic mother. And, for me, taking pride in who I am helped me heal the void of not feeling as enough when I was growing up with cerebral palsy.
What I’ve learned is that the human heart isn’t a shell. Yes, it can be shattered and left with voids, but it also has the amazing capacity to heal. Let us not strive to fill those voids – we know that does more harm than good – but let us be self-aware and give ourselves the time and space to heal, to close our voids for good. It is then that we know true contentment because rather than forever needing, we’re finally whole in just being.