I used to wonder why there wasn’t more public weeping. There is so much sorrow — illness, natural disasters, man-made disasters, wars. Often the sad realities of the world sat right behind my eyes. I would feel that I might dissolve into a puddle of salt water at any minute.
When I started taking antidepressants in my mid-thirties, I learned why people had more control than I did over their tears. As soon as the medication kicked in, all the woes of the world moved from the front of my thoughts to the back. They didn’t disappear, but it was like a veil was lifted and I could see the beauty of the world, too. I became hungry for color and started making art.
Last week, I saw a woman in the grocery store parking lot, collapsed on the curb of one of the parking buffers, wailing and crying. I was in my power wheelchair, and had just finished buying groceries. I stopped to watch and to see if there was anything I could do to help.
She was a large woman, in a yellow shirt, black pants, and pink footie socks. Where were her shoes? People spoke kindly to her, people spoke sternly to her. Once she tried to get up, but just crumpled back to the ground.
I saw someone on the phone talking to 911. The crowd around the woman dispersed and went on their way. The weeping woman stood up, muttered to herself, wiped her face, and looked around as if she didn’t know where she was. She wept softly. She wept and wept.
I didn’t approach her. I’ve had a few bad run-ins with people in my neighborhood, where an offer to help was repaid by harassment. I wanted to say to her, it’s okay to cry. Sometimes we just have to. But I left her to let her own story play out without my interference.
I still have crying days. The world is too confusing and painful not to spend some of it in tears. We have to mourn our losses. We have to clean our internal wounds with the strange and powerful process of tears, the ocean within washing a tide of sorrow from us.
Usually after an emotional flood like that, I try to spend some time outside in nature. Even just touching a leaf. or standing under a tree, helps.
Scientists are finding that trees have ways of communicating that we’re just beginning to understand. I like to imagine they feel our sorrow and send some untranslatable bit of healing while I’m in their presence.
I hope the weeping woman found comfort and a place to heal. I hope she feels no shame. It’s life, intense. It’s our own life and the lives of women past.
I think there is a spirit or goddess, A Weeping Woman, who has held the tears of centuries and sometimes she possesses someone. I’ve seen women in her throes on the bus, in the store, and on the street. I have been embodied her, too. But she balances me out, when she leaves, internal pain shed, internal wreckage cleared away for new life to grow.
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