The ancient Greeks described the goddess Chaos (χάος) as the personification of primordial emptiness, the space that existed before time. Chaos is not a goddess, or not just a goddess anyway. She is a place, a state of being, the first thing to ever exist. Chaos played a fundamental, foundational role in the creation of our entire universe. Chaos teaches us that emptiness is a necessary state, a smaller part of the greater cosmos.
We now consider chaos as a synonym for madness, bedlam, or disarray. But I prefer the more ancient use of the word, from Greek kháos (χάος), meaning blank space, or the gap.
I am officially an empty nester. After 18 years, my house and my time are mostly mine again. I was fully prepared to feel bereft, yet, so far, I am only loving the emptiness. I can pee with the bathroom door open if I want. I can eat whatever I want for lunch, whenever I want. I don’t have to supervise constantly (Did you register to vote? Have you checked the oil in your car? Did you return that call, that library book, that sweater that didn’t fit?). I don’t have to take the emotional temperature in the room every moment of every day (How’re you feeling today? Are the meds still working? Do I need to check in with your therapist?)
I was an attentive, involved mother, but was always careful not to let “mom” become my entire identity. We live in a culture where helicopter mom is a badge of honor, so this may sound selfish. But I have always maintained that if I wanted to raise a strong, independent daughter, I had to model that for her by being true to me. So I’m fully prepared to give her the space she needs to endeavor, fail, and figure it out. And happily lean into the space she left behind.
My nest is empty but my heart is full.
Because emptiness is not the same thing as nothing. The laws of the universe dictate that something can’t come from nothing. In math, an empty set is a set with nothing inside it and a set is always something. A new moon may not be visible to my eye, but it exists still, just biding its time to wax again. In breathwork, it’s not the inhale or exhale that matters most, but the space between the two where the magic lies. When I play my guitar, the moments of silence matter just as much as the notes I play. These musical pauses aren’t devoid of life, but an opportunity to absorb the emotional vibration of one note before hurtling into the next. And what of black holes, the very epitome of emptiness? They aren’t really empty at all, but filled with photons, electrons, gravitons, and more, bits of life working in tandem to hold spacetime together.
What I’m saying is this. If chaos really means empty space, then bring on the chaos. I’m due a little space to breathe.