The other day I was in the bathroom at work and I heard someone crying. A kind of hushed sob I know all too well. It wasn’t a loud cry but it wasn’t a little one either. It was weeping in a whisper. Soft, heartwrenching sobs.
It was clear she was trying hard to contain the sound for fear someone might walk in. I don’t think she knew I was there. My heart … ached. I wondered … what is this woman going through? A heartbreak? Loss of a parent? Bad health news? Or was her heart broken at her job? Was she feeling purposeless and lost?
Hearing her cries reminded me of my own dark season I only just now feel like I’m really getting out of. It is bizarre to me how windy and long the path to healing sometimes is … and how unique but also similar the journey is for all of us.
Last year, when I was going through my first and really only heartbreak, the tears and emotions took me by surprise. I expected tears, of course. I’m a cryer. I cry at a lot of things. (My third grade teacher even called me a cry baby at one point … rude.)
But what I didn’t expect was how often or how randomly I would cry as I did in those first few months after losing A.
Oh I cried in the expected places – bars (damn you sweet alcohol), places where we’d been that were romantic to me, the privacy of my home when I’d remember moments that seemed so special. But it was the weird emotional gut punches that came out of nowhere that I wasn’t prepared for that would have me crying in the most unexpected of places. Like on the elevator having a flash of a memory with his hand in mine and my heart racing. Or during a meeting, when I was supposed to be paying attention and suddenly I’d remember the way he’d hold my face in his hands, so tenderly.
The mind is so strange when it’s trying to heal. At least my mind is. It fails to compartmentalize. So the worst moments were when I’d be at work talking to someone about a project I was working on, totally engrossed in the details but somehow my mind would dart to a forgotten moment, like the first time he kissed me and all of a sudden tears would start to well up. In that instant I would remember everything so … fresh. The smell, the feel, how my heart leapt for joy. My mind would replay it clearly and so quickly, before I had a chance to put a guard up, and then I’m having to explain that no, no I’m not crying because I have small changes to this email I’m working on, I’m just tired or someone I vaguely knew passed away.
There were days I had to go to the bathroom nonstop to try and weep in private. It was my only solace. And it was terrible, because I’d go there, weep quietly, sometimes not quietly, then return to my desk assuming all the tears had been cried. Only to find out I was wrong, get back up a few minutes later and return to the bathroom to cry again.
I felt dumb. Hopeless. Here I was hurting over someone who .. didn’t choose me. Who abandoned me in a sense. I felt like a fool. It was embarrassing.
Some people might see this … display of emotion as weakness. And I did too. For a long time.
I don’t anymore.
I was hanging out with a long time friend the other night who told me she envied my ability to love like that. Then she wondered if she’d ever been in love before, truly in love. And it made me realize … that maybe I’m lucky. I’m not always happy and sometimes I’ve felt pain, but I’m lucky.
I do know how I felt for the man I was in love with. I know it with an assuredness that runs very deep in my soul. Despite the ways we both messed it up, I know how I felt beyond a shadow of a doubt. I tried to spend a year dissecting my feelings for him and making them untrue. I tried hating him, vilifying him. I tried calling him an asshat (he is). I told myself he never loved me, tried to make that the truth. I tried explaining it all away as a product of my own deeper psychological issues that likely have to do with abandonment. None of it worked and it all felt .. forced. In the end, the only thing that has really given me healing is knowing the truth. I loved him. He loved me. We fucked it up. I still know how I felt, how deep it was. And I know he knows it too, but I’ll write of that later.
My capacity to love is a good thing. Yes, I need to learn boundaries. Yes, I need to be better about vetting who I give this big heart to. But the fact that I love this deeply, this all-in is not a bad thing. Even if on the flip side it also means I hurt, just as deeply when things break apart.
I’d rather feel it all, the good and the bad, than be safe and protected from pain, but numb to the experience.
I know I had deep love for someone. He might not have merited such love, but that really isn’t the point. I don’t love based on merit. Yes, I do need to learn to guard myself from those I can fall for that deeply who have no intent of loving me with the same depth back. Or have no intention of putting actions behind their words of love. I do need to learn boundaries, but not in a way that limits me from feeling … all of this. All the things. All-in.
I’m lucky because I’m capable of feeling in that way. Even if it means sometimes I wind up crying softly in the bathroom stall.
I didn’t stay to see who it was crying that day. I wanted to offer her privacy. I know when I’ve been in those moments, all I want is to be alone with God, my tears and the four walls of that stall that are the only privacy you can find in a corporate workplace. The last thing I want to hear is awkward comfort from a stranger, though I know their heart is in the right place.
My heart hurt for her, whoever she was because whoever she is, she is also me. I have been her and will be her again. I wanted to hug her wordlessly and let her know that even though I don’t know, I know. I know pain, maybe not hers. I’ve felt anguish so deep you can’t keep it in while at work or in a bar or grocery shopping or on an elevator … it just pours out. Her tears are important and not weak. Her tears are her strength. And one day those tears will turn into ones of joy.
To the woman crying in the bathroom, to all the cry babies out there, I hear you. I feel you. You are loved and no matter what might have happened, your love, your life, your tears were never wasted.
Feeling the hurt deeply means we also feel the good, very very deeply too. And that is a wondrous, lucky thing.