My coat pockets are stuffed with used wipes. There’s a blanket of crushed Goldfish and limbless Teddy Grahams covering the floor of my Jeep. My wallet is crammed with receipts for things I’ll never return: a half-used lip gloss, a quarter tank of gas, a drive-thru muffin I’ve already consumed. Of course, it contains none of the receipts I actually need.
The sink is piled high with crusty dishes and the dishwasher is full again; no one remembered to run it last night. The hampers are overflowing and the dryer can’t accommodate one more load. The recycling bin is no longer accepting new wine bottles, the Diaper Genie is maxed out and the kitchen trashcan is one banana peel away from a revolt.
My phone keeps alerting me that there’s not enough space for one more photo—it doesn’t care that the baby is looking especially adorable today. There’s a waiting line for the DVR and no one is getting in, regardless of how tantalizing she seems (I’m looking at you, New Girl.) My inbox is on the verge of implosion.
There are so many days when my life feels too full. Full to the brim. Full to capacity. Full to bursting. All I want is fewer. Thoughts in my brain. Bills in the pile. Appointments on the calendar.
I long for the simple. The straightforward. The empty. I wonder if there will ever come a day when I will be caught up on all that’s outstanding; the myriad tasks that just never seem finished no matter how often they’re done.
“How is it possible that the trashcan gets this full in two days?” I inquire of my husband several times per week.
It’s rhetorical, but I really do want to know. As I stand before the sink with water-shriveled skin, I contemplate how it can take thirty minutes to get to the bottom of the stack of dishes and three minutes to fill it to the top again. Each time I begin folding yet another tiny tee shirt I absently wonder, Will I ever find the bottom of the laundry pile or is empty just an illusion?
The full is usually positive. We all want full hair. Full bellies. Full hearts. I’m happiest when many aspects of my life are full, especially my wine glass and my wallet. But, sometimes, the full is too much. I find myself full of stress. Impatience. Anxiety. All at once, everything is overflowing, overwhelming. Bursting, breaking, busting at the seams.
I love the full. Right up until I don’t anymore.
Recently, I was commiserating with a girlfriend about our too-full lives. We are both the type that habitually bites off more than she can chew then wonders how she wound up drowning in the stress of too many obligations. “I want to book two solid nights in the resort by my house and drink at the bar and order room service and go to the spa and not speak to one effing person I don’t have to for two full days,” she said. “I’m just tapped. Completely tapped out “
I know exactly how she feels. Constantly wondering when that last little something will finally give. When the full will officially become too much to bear.
But then there’s the empty. A word that, at times, seems so tempting. An empty schedule. Empty sink. Empty dryer. Empty purse. Empty mind. I want so badly to experience empty for just one day; 24 hours where everything is clear and simple and uncluttered.
But I know empty has a dark side. By its very definition, it’s devoid of, deficient in, lacking something. Empty promises. Empty wallet. Empty arms. The substance is missing, the life drained out.
The full is hectic and stressful and crazy-making, but it’s also beautiful and rich and alive. It’s muddy shoes in the entryway and petrified spaghetti in the garbage disposal, backpacks abandoned on couches and smudgy fingerprints on the stainless steel. It’s evidence of life—a life packed with so much substance, it’s ready to burst at the seams.
The empty can be so enticing. It’s quiet houses and clear schedules, a fresh start, a clean slate. When the full becomes too much, the empty is a comforting notion, a pleasant daydream.
But it’s just that: a dream, an illusion. Because the full is messy and complicated, but it’s also tangible and real. The proof is stacked and smushed and crammed and piled all around me. It’s the thing that makes it all worth it.
How lucky I am to have a life so full.