I’m a member of an online support group. I wrote the other day that I’d been crying off and on for much of the day. I wrote it as a confession infused with shame. The first person to respond, a 25-year-old guy, said, “Why are you apologizing? Crying is healing. Added bonus, you’ll sleep better.” In a few words he scooped up my heart and gave it a safe place to rest.
There’s been a lot of crying lately, not least of which are children in cages crying for their moms and dads. It’s the kind of crying that makes me want to bang my head into a wall, over and over.
I was a mother who felt like a failure when my daughter cried. Missing the obvious fact that crying is the way an infant communicates, I heard her tears as suffering and did everything in my power to comfort her and provide what she needed before she asked for it. I guess I was a sort of “natural” attachment parent.
When she was in my arms, head against my chest, she rarely cried. I tell you this not because I recommend this sort of mothering. I do not. I tell you this to explain why hearing those kids’ cries felt like I was a shoe being unlaced and slipping off. I kept thinking, “If only I could hold her, him, her, him, 70 kids a day who are being ripped from their parents.”
Sometimes all you can do is cry or be a witness to the crying of others.
I watch Rachel Maddow’s show every night, and I often see the last 30 minutes of Chris Hayes’ show. Two nights ago, he had two guests on discussing these travesties. One would speak for a bit and then her voice would start wavering. He would throw the question to the other guest and she would speak for a bit until her voice started waivering.
It was something I’ve never seen on television, an ongoing struggle between breaking down and pressing forward on the screen as I watched. I have to tell you it I felt proud of these women, these experts, for their struggle and for sharing it with viewers. Life is sometimes a struggle between breaking down and pressing forward.
And then Rachel Maddow broke down on her show last night. It was the face crumple, the wavering voice, the recovery, the breakdown, and the giving in. She passed the show off to Laurence O’Donnell a few minutes early and today she apologized on Twitter.
I want her to know, and I want all of you to know, and I want to know myself, that crying is a kind of communication. It is a valid form of communication, and it sometimes does the job that words can never do. It just says, “I’m not ok.”
And your tears can help me heal, sometimes better than my own tears can help me heal. The only thing worse than not being ok is being alone and not being ok. Seeing the tears of someone I admire reminds me that we are all in this together.
Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted last night, as he always does, an encouraging thought, which read in part: “everything you feel can be fuel.”
Tears can be fuel. Let’s share them with each other.
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