When my daughter was three-and-a half, we were riding in the car and she asked “Mama, why don’t grown-ups cry?” It’s such a great question. I know from watching my young kids that is such a primal response – to pain, to frustration, to fear, to not having the words to express what we are feeling, to not being in control. Often it doesn’t last long – they cry, they find comfort, they move on. I asked my friends what their answers were. Doug said, “Perhaps because there isn’t much that shocks us.” Others said that they cry all the time – like while watching rom-coms.
At the time, I mumbled something about adults having a wider perspective so that whatever hurts seems not big enough to warrant crying. But I haven’t stopped searching for an answer, especially in the midst of this coronavirus crisis when there is plenty to shock us, the frustration that helping is primarily achieved through not doing anything but staying home and there is plenty of fear of what will come next. What I’ve deduced is that in part, my daily routine of morning meditation is doing its part to irrigate my irritation and fear. My effort to breathe and gain a wider perspective than just this time and circumstances calms my jangling nerves so that they stay below the threshold of tears. But the other part is that I am too covered over by my habits and thoughts for the tears to get out. The other day someone remarked that it must be hard to be stuck inside with a 4-year-old and an eight-month-old and before I could even just acknowledge that yes, it is, I was already saying that I think it is probably harder to have older kids that have serious things they need to accomplish in school this spring and only want to be out playing with their friends. My beliefs, faith and optimism have created a resilience that bounces everything else back. Which usually serves me but also leaves my tears leaking out at other times – usually when I’m laughing.
So in this time when have the chance to slow down and get back to the essentials, I’m thinking a lot about tears. And if I’m unlikely to be moved to them, how else I can empty out those pockets of grief that build up? This weekend when it seemed we were just all a little out of sync and stepping on each other, I found myself singing Hallelujah. I’m no Leonard Cohen and I don’t know most of the words but I found such a release in vocalizing my desire for peace, healting and patience. Because we might be grown-up but we never outgrow our need to express our pain and find comfort so we can move on.