A while back I saw this quote from a song I that don’t know, but the lyrics were profound to me, and for some reason, I felt moved by them. The lyrics say:
Let us float in the tears
Let us cry from the laughters
Life can be a rollercoaster. Our hopes can be dashed. Our dreams can simply drift away before us. Our hearts can be broken in the blink of an eye. We are fragile, frail creatures who fight to be strong, who fight to guard our tender places, keeping them hidden from the light of day. Feeling the hurts and the heights is vulnerable. And being vulnerable means getting hurt.
But I do believe there is a price to be paid when we refuse to feel the sting of loss or even something as simple as a sharp comment from a loved one that leaves you saying silently or out loud, “ouch”. Let me explain:
Just about four and a half years ago, and just eight months into my baby fresh marriage to Gabe, my mom began experiencing strange symptoms over the course of about six weeks that our family didn’t know quite what to make of. It started just after her unexpected and highly rejoiced retirement.; the shaking hands, the dizziness, vomiting and fatigue. My dad took her to the hospital one weekend, where they told her she had vertigo and was dehydrated, and sent her home with instructions to follow up with a neurologist to be on the safe side. Two weeks later, she had an EEG and when the test was completed, she was confused to say the least—forgetting where she was, who she was, who my dad was, etc. Panicked, my dad took her to the hospital again where, little did we know, she would never leave.
Living three and a half hours south of my parents, and not seeing them more than once a month, these symptoms, to me, were just little blips on the radar; and when they simply did not lessen, we grew more concerned. My siblings and their significant others, decided we should all go home the weekend after her first hospital visit. So we did.
When we arrived, I curled up on the couch with my mom while she cleaned out her purse. I laid my head on her lap while we caught up on life’s details. When the afternoon rolled around, fatigue set in, and she wanted to go take a nap upstairs. When I met her there, she was struggling to change her clothes into something she could nap in, and tears silently began to roll down her cheeks. With an unsteady voice, she told me, “Lin, I’m scared. What if I have cancer?” As long as I can remember, my mom had been afraid of cancer. Perhaps because her parents were both swept away by the disease after it had drug them through all of the suffering and pain first. Tears welled in my eyes, “you’re going to be okay, Mom. I promise.”
Once she was admitted to the hospital after her EEG, it was test after test only to discover a tiny lesion in her lung and lesions—hundreds of them—on her brain. The doctors didn’t know what to make of it. More tests. More nerves rattling away our appetites, and releasing all our tears. Finally, after a brain biopsy on day five of being in the hospital, we started losing her, to the beast she suspected all along, cancer. Slurred speech turned into the inability to swallow, turned into inability to track her eyes, turned into a complete vegetative state in what felt like hours. Hospice came then, urging us to give her permission to let go, and about a month later she did.
As I started typing this entry, it was not my intention to tell you that story, especially not in such detail, but it was during the shock that was her loss, and the years that followed, when my family and I walked in deep abiding grief, that I began to learn a thing or two about feeling. I learned that when I shelved my grief and decided to power through the days, refusing to be affected by it, it tracked me down, nipping at my heels. And when it caught up with me, it took me down hard. I learned, as Brene Brown says, and I’m paraphrasing here: you cannot selectively numb your affects or emotions. When you choose to numb pain or grief, you also numb joy and happiness. When you choose to numb confusion and disillusionment, you also numb gratitude and hope.
There will be seasons in life when it takes everything in us to keep fountains of tears from falling from our eyes. These are often the seasons where we feel as though we’ve lost pieces of ourselves, and we’re hesitant to take risks with our bruised and trampled hearts. The world around us keeps moving madly on, when we feel as though all should stop; and as a result of the blistering pace of life, we stuff our tears; we fight and fight and fight to keep the pain we feel hidden, and in the midst of the fight, we quit fighting for the truth. The truth is that sometimes what we really need is a season to “float upon the tears and cry with the laughters.” Sometimes it’s soaking in the rivers of tears that cause us to cry with joy when we do finally laugh again. In those moments we suddenly become reacquainted with ourselves as parts of us do return in sweet flashes of light. If we fail to give ourselves permission to cry—to really cry, to feel that pain and all its’ sting, we could never even hope to cry again with depth of joy in laughter.
You, whoever you are, have permission to feel. To be right where you are and to risk losing yourself in the hurt so you can find yourself again in hope’s sure and prevailing return.