When it all becomes too much
“There is sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.” ~ Washington Irving
Over the last two weeks, I have been at the pinnacle of happiness, have felt the deepest despair, and have grieved my heart out, sobbing as my anguish spilled up and over and down from my eyes. The happiness was holding my granddaughter tenderly as she giggle/cooed – that child’s sound of deepest happiness. The deepest despair was posting and sharing dogs at their last moment to be saved – gorgeous, smiling, frightened, depressed, terrified – every one with a heart of pure gold whose only sin was that people are unworthy of them. And grief – oh for the children of Sandy Hook and the grownups who tried to save them, I have howled and wailed and sobbed and raged. Now I read that the Delhi rape victim has succumbed to her injuries – and my dears, I am tired.
I am tired in the way of tears coming too easily. Of sitting at my work desk, head in hands, without the wherewithal to do even the simplest tasks without monumental effort. I am tired in the way that dropping my keys will have me sobbing like a child, where I want my husband to come home right now even though I knew when I married him that he would travel. Tired in the way that all the smaller ills of my life loom like vultures set to pounce and me without the strength to fight them off.
I wrote before about Tikkun Olam and loves, this is when it becomes more important than ever before — and also so much harder. This is when we have to forge on regardless of our exhaustion, of feeling as if we are down to our last resource but the horizon is nowhere near in sight.
For me, right now, my way of doing Tikkun Olam is writing my heart out. It’s sharing pictures of doggies who won’t make it another few days at their high-kill “shelter” unless someone falls in love with those big brown (or blue!) eyes and rushes to save them. It’s speaking up when someone posts something appallingly racist, because silence is collusion. It’s sharing the post about Wounded Knee. It’s about loving those around you fiercely and obviously.
It’s about finding a new friend at random and embracing him with joy and welcome. It’s about forgiving an old friend even when he knew himself he’d crossed the line and welcoming him back as if it truly never happened. It’s about telling a friend that you are standing with her in the Idle No More movement, and if that means going to a protest (and worrying about your safety), you know you’ll get in your car and do it anyway.
It’s about saying hello to a neighbor. It’s about being friendly to a woman at work whom I know is a bully (but keeping a posture of confidence and strength because I know better than to make myself bait) because who knows if there’s someone wonderful in there. It’s about noticing a stranger’s pretty shirt or complimenting new parents on their baby — or seeing the parents in the grocery store overwhelmed by a baby’s screaming and going up and flirting with the baby until she’s happy again. It’s about smiling even when your heart is breaking, no matter how many times we’ve heard the song. It’s about being silly in the face of grief, but it’s also about being fierce in our refusal to remain silent in the face of cruelty and injustice.
And when it all becomes too much — and loves, it has been too much for so many of us for so long — that’s when we join hands (be they virtual or literal) and we shore each other up. We speak up together. We stand together. We do to stay strong what we do when we’re grieving (because we are, those of us for whom the wounds of the world are wounds on our own hearts): Cry really really really hard whenever you need to, and that includes throwing your head back in a full-throated roar. Get kisses and hugs from anyone you love and trust, whenever and wherever it is you need them And when it all becomes too much, drop out of the whole damned thing and play. We know it will still all be waiting for us and we need our strength to deal with it.
In the meantime, I hold out my hand to you with love and faith and trust and the belief that together, we, the grieving and the strong and those who aren’t so sure they’re strong but really are, can ultimately prevail if we just keep on walking.