I have cried more in the past three weeks than I have since my mother’s death, and that was a long, long time ago. Emotions? Threadbare. Sleep? Fitful at best. And eating a real meal? Wishful thinking. Who needs a meat and three when you can have a Snickers and coffee?
I wish I were kidding on that last one.
It’s embarrassing to admit the “Why” of it, because, if I play the Comparison Game, it’s not a good enough reason to justify my fragility. I’m not facing illness or financial trouble, my children and marriage are doing well; in fact, the “Why” of it is ultimately good: We sold our house, the one we haven’t lived in full-time in almost three years.
I mistakenly thought selling was the hard part.
Packing up and purging the house my children will remember as Home — the place destined to inhabit their dreams when their minds drift back to childhood — undid me.
As my oldest son and I emptied the attic, their lives passed before me, twisting my heart into knots. I didn’t expect to feel every memory, to re-live so many moments I had taken for granted at the time.
As we emptied the attic, their lives passed before me, twisting my heart into knots. I didn’t expect to feel every memory, to re-live so many moments I had taken for granted at the time.
The first instance happened as I passed down a box of their handmade Christmas gifts to my son, and the weight of all I hadn’t accomplished punched me in the throat. So many unfinished plans, slick roads paved with good intention. Life events, milestones, a childhood of Firsts times three. Tears were impossible to control. I could barely speak as I asked . . .
“Did I get it right? Did I miss it…?” and poor Thomas, my 21-year-old, tried to answer the question he thought I was asking, “Mom…stop! You’re a great mother, we couldn’t have had it any better….” but he couldn’t possibly know what I meant. He hadn’t yet earned the right to understand; that price would be paid with a lot of life between now and then. Years. Decades.
We’ve been married almost 29 years; our babies are 23, 21 and 19. The oldest just received an amazing marriage proposal; the middle one will graduate college next May; and the youngest just finished his freshman year. The house we lived in most of their lives was big enough to hold a lot of memories, and many of those memories were now represented by things made or bought. Downsizing to a much smaller house forced decisions I didn’t want to have to make. To toss any “thing” felt personal, as if I were saying that memory didn’t matter. Suddenly everything mattered and I was paralyzed by emotion and indecision, and just about anything could trigger an emotional breakdown.
I was grieving a certain kind of loss, and though that loss wasn’t marked by tragedy, and it wasn’t attached to relational devastation, financial ruin, or health scares, it was final. I was saying good-bye to more than just a house.
I cried a lot, and instantly felt guilty or hated myself for it, because selling our house was a good thing. But then it hit me–
Crying wasn’t weakness or pity party, it was catharsis.
Tears are an incredible pressure valve and every single one of them tells a story. Tears are a way of my body expressing itself when words are insufficient.
You’ll come away with a greater appreciation for the benefits of an ugly cry :).