This past week was filled with joyous late-night conversations with my daughters, discovering cafes and kitchen shops and bookstores, and resting in the shade of the ancient trees surrounding the Capitol Building. It was bittersweet, as I helped my eldest daughter unpack and move into her new DC home. And there was an emptiness in the pit of my stomach when I had to say goodbye to my younger daughter, as she left to have a summer vacation before her Sophomore Year begins and to her older sister, who will soon begin her first job.
How interesting is life, that we can experience so many things at once. Emptiness and fullness. Joy and sorrow. This is the way life is. And these moments of fullness and emptiness are not necessarily better than another; they both offer opportunities for growth, renewal, and leaving behind what must be left.
In the final chapter of John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara, he shares a poem by Norman MacCaig that beautifully illustrates this pendulation between emptiness and fullness:
I give you an emptiness,
“I give you a plenitude,
unwrap them carefully.
—one’s as fragile as the other—
and when you thank me
I’ll pretend not to notice the doubt in your voice
when you say they’re just what you wanted.
Put them on the table by your bed.
When you wake in the morning
they’ll have gone through the door of sleep
into your head. Wherever you go
they’ll go with you and
wherever you are you’ll wonder,
“smiling about the fullness
you can’t add to and the emptiness
that you can fill.
Emptiness is not a lack of something, but rather an opportunity to make space for something new. And fullness is a moment we can savor, but never hold on to. This too shall pass, is true for fullness and emptiness.
I say goodbye to my daughters, for now, but soon will say hello to my new country and new home and new memories to be made and time spent with my children in new and interesting places.