I mean it. And not in the sweet way you see in the movies when people say, “Let’s get some cocoa and have a cry together.” This is not how you quietly wept watching the Notebook. This is not how you self-consciously teared up when Sheriff Hopper sacrificed himself to save the world in Stranger Things.
This is a primal cry.
A cry when you find out your parents are getting divorced, or a loved one dies. A cry when you fall helpless and nothing else matters. A suspended moment when you are fully present, and the past and the future fail to exist. An involuntary collapse, when you roll into a ball while the world goes black.
A real fucking cry.
We all need one. Because what is happening in the world right now is just too much. Just too much. And our bodies need a reset. We need the help of a good cry to release endorphins and oxytocin. We need the help of a good cry to self-soothe and emotionally rehabilitate.
A Season Of Missing
This thanksgiving, we will be missing people. Those who have passed away, or those who we will not see out of an abundance of caution. A short time later, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas will meet the same fate. And that will not be the worst of it.
We will continue to lose people at an alarming rate. A rate beyond comprehension. A rate that surpassed the deaths of the Vietnam war by fourfold in less than a year.
But it’s not just numbers. It’s the faces behind the numbers. The existential agony of those who have died, and those who now live with that person’s loss. It makes me sad, and angry, and hopeless and empathetic and scared. And I carry it with me everyday. Worse, we are faced with a government who seems to care less, and people who refuse to admit what is happening. Some who are afraid to look the beast in the eye and confront it. Others who have given up before they have even given in. We need to cry and replace hopeless with hope.
We are stuck in a cycle of sadness. Imagine losing a loved one, without being able to give that final touch, or embrace. Imagine dying alone, without the comfort of seeing your family, friends or loved ones, as you face the reality of your passing. It’s devastating.
There is a quote going around: “We are in different boats, but in the same stormy water.” In many cases that is true. We are not all in this together. Some are battling depression, some are battling hunger or job loss, some are battling domestic violence in the home, and some are facing the loss of a friend or family member from COVID.
And we are overtaken by the ancillary problems. Families are stuck in food lines, jobs are lost, small businesses and restaurants are shutting down. Drugs, alcohol, depression, and unequal access to schooling is our everyday life. It’s a waterfall of compounding disillusion.
We Are All Sick
We are sick of sitting at home, sick of making sourdough starter and whipped coffee. We are sick of the humor, the t-shirts and zoom backgrounds, ironically reminding us of the cursed year. We are sick of the toilet paper memes and hearing about 2020 bingo cards. We are sick of journalists dressing from the top up, we are sick of seeing ring lights reflected in people’s eyes, we are sick of hoarding and conspiracy and masks being politicized. We are sick of our favorite places shutting down. We are sick of being stuck without our loved ones on Thanksgiving, and sick of worrying if we do meet them. We are sick of being angry, and fighting with our fellow Americans. We are sick of the endless stream of nonsense, failure, hurt and frustration that can only be explained by the year we live in. We are sick of it all. The whole fucking lot.
Stuck In Isolation
The feeling of isolation is overwhelming. The stillness goes against our very nature. It requires us to completely change our way of life, how we are wired. And we need a cathartic release. Crying allows us to regulate our emotions.
Even escapism makes it hard to escape as every movie or series we binge is a reminder of our loneliness. We become nostalgic for the near-past, and the human companionship that came with it. We watch in awe on our big and small screens, seeing people close together, hugging in a classroom or singing and dancing on a freeway overpass. It creates a longing sensation and we yearn for that point in time, the touch, the hugs, the smells, the closeness. Even a day, an hour, a touch, would suffice right now.
Then, like now, we become lost in our own heads with the notion that life is actually alterable. We see it so clear before us. Never did we think that something so small, something so invisible, something so a world away could do this. But it did. Because we are vulnerable. Because we are human.
And coming face-to-face with the frailty of our species leaves us breathless. And all that is left to do, is cry. To allow it to be the the oasis in the middle of a vast desert, where we emotionally refuel, and get back on our journey to face both the good and the bad of our world.
But remember this. Crying isn’t about giving up. It’s about an emotional reset. It is letting out what your body and mind can’t contain. It can viscerally free the spirit, as if you were flipping the dinner table. There is a minds-eye beauty as china and silverware suspend temporarily, then come crashing to the floor.
And when it is over, the table is clean again.
2019 was my 2020
I previewed the turmoil of 2020 by losing my job, and losing both parents within a year. It was too much to comprehend, and it took me a while to cry. Because I was angry. I felt powerless and unjustified in my reaction. I doubted my own empathy, even my own existence. But then, when I finally did cry, I knew it was time to rebuild. And I did.
But there is a silver lining. In that year, with the help of my family and therapist, I learned more about myself than in all my years combined. Yes, I struggled. Yes, I eventually cried, but I came out a better person, more in touch with myself, my relationships, and my purpose of being on earth. Pain led me to answers that joy never did.
And I hope, coming out of this year, you will leave with that understanding too, as you notice life is less predictable. That insight will keep you present and honest and protective and grateful. We have forgotten the meaning behind our lives, because we were lost in our commutes, and paperwork, and overtime and oil changes and business trips and lease payments and everything else that prevented us from seeing life’s true gift.
In five years, we may forget 2020. We will set memorials and remember the dead once a year. And as time goes on, we will keep forgetting, more and more, until it is barely recognizable.
But I don’t want to forget. I want to remember the pain and sadness and hope and hidden beauty I found within people. Not that it overtakes me with consummate grief, but so it serves as a lesson to how quickly things can change. To be grateful for what we have, and understand the gift that life affords us, no matter when it is taken away. 2020 showed us things we would have never seen in our normal course of life. Let’s not forget.
And now, as we isolate in a season meant for togetherness, we have time to act upon those feelings, those truths and build a world around them. We must prepare to stop carrying the emotional weight of 2020, stop feeling sorry for ourselves, and release all our pain, anger and frustration to the earth through our tears.
We must cry. We must let it go, so that we can gracefully begin again.