Ana’s Spilled Water

“Thoughts” — a painting I made during my gap year in 2016. (Credit: Lucia Pradel)

I stared through the open window. My lungs filled with the cold winter air, and an odd sense of hope invaded my soul. A small ray of light peaked out from behind the clouds and rested next to me. God then whispered through my right ear: “This year will be good, Ana. Not that the rest have not been good, but this one will be especially so.”

I smiled and said: “Thank you for the blessing,” and the thin ray of sun hid once more.

After hearing those brief words, I lay flat on my bed and thought about life. These days my ceiling had become my favorite canvas because my imagination and memories could stain it without leaving a visible trace. I stared at it for a few seconds, and my eyelids began to feel heavy. Then, quickly enough, a hollowness invaded the depths of my chest. This feeling of emptiness was not new: It had been tingling all through my being for a few months. Oddly enough, though, as soon as this new year rang in, it became louder — acute.

As the days passed, I continued to experience the same sensation. I spoke to my friends about it and tried to explain this “emptiness,” but no words could capture the feeling. Even when I was able to explain, it never felt like I had said enough, which is why I could not blame them for their lack of useful advice. Some replies ran along the lines of “Why are you thinking so much?” and “Do not think about things so much, Ana.” A small number of them sympathized, saying they “got it,” but then stayed silent. Others would just shake my words off by telling me to “just leave it; it will solve itself, Ana.”

But I couldn’t just leave the nothingness, this emptiness, alone.

One Saturday, after returning from a long walk through the park, I was hit again with this feeling of hollowness. It was not something painful, but it wasn’t comfortable, either. It didn’t trigger sadness or happiness. It was just empty. I sat in front of my mirror and stared at my chest, then my body, then my face. I quickly realized I looked healthy, healthier than I had been in a really long time. I flipped through a journal I had been trying to fill up; the last entry had been five months ago. That was a good sign; I always wrote when something felt off. Clearly, it had not been the case for a while, which meant my anxiety had not returned. I actually could not remember when my last panic attack had occurred; the journal made sure to remind me that it had happened around six months ago.

As night fell on that same day, I decided to pray. I did not always remember to do it, but today I felt like talking to God, so I did. I spoke about this hollowness and my frustration towards it. “It feels like my chest has become an empty glass. All of the water has spilled. I don’t know what to do about it,” I said. Then suddenly, inside my dark room, that same ray of light peeked through the window. I greeted it warmly, and hope returned to me.

There was a gentle giggle. “Ana, I have already told you this year will be a good one.”

“I know, and so far there is nothing wrong but this hollowness. I don’t know what to do about it.”

“I know you feel this way because I have made it this way.”

“But why?”

“You went through many challenges a few years back. I knew you would overcome them with great resilience –“

“Yes, we’ve discussed that, but I still don’t –“

“When one heals, one learns. But it takes time,” said the voice, interrupting me. “All of the bad things that happened needed to be cleared out, spilled out.”

I reflected for a moment. “The water I held inside of me was muddy?” I asked.

“Yes. It had to wash away a lot of pain. It took a few months, but the cloudy waters have left you. Now, you are all empty — that heaviness you had gotten so used to living with is gone.”

“That is why I feel hollow.” I paused.

“Being hollow does not have to be a bad thing. In fact, it’s an exciting chance. Do not worry, I say again, this year will be good. You will have many choices and opportunities, but now you are wiser and will know what things are worth a place within you.”

Slowly I crawled back into bed and watched the light fade back into darkness. All there was left was a clear sky.