crying in the grocery store

Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before—more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.
— charles dickens, great expectations

It is said that I have a habit of crying in grocery stores. This is not an untrue statement. It has become such signature move for me that when my daughter recently heard a friend describing an incident in her local grocery store with a crying woman, my daughter asked, "Did she have red hair?" 

I remember the first time. The beginning of 2013 was a season of mourning. A young friend took her own life, my nephew died of an overdose, and my mother's health began a downward spiral. As I juggled a part-time job, caring for my grandsons, managing my mother's health needs, my own home and the last years of homeschooling, grocery shopping became daily run-ins on the way home. It felt like the only time I slowed down and I would take the opportunity to walk up and own each aisle. Publix became a safe space, a familiar place, and the tears would fall. 

My heart was working through the grief of loss, the challenges of change, and the multiple ways I felt like I was not doing enough well enough. There were many dropped balls during those years and many mismanaged emotions. 

Yesterday, the tears were cued when I saw someone who made me think of my brother who died in May. I thought about missed opportunities, misunderstandings, and just missing him. He was a gruff and sometimes angry man. I wondered what our conversations would be like now during this election. He was the demographic of a Trump supporter and I think he could have been vulnerable to the fear mongering of the Trump campaign. 

Then I thought about my father who died in 2004 ten days after the election. My Republican father who went to the polls in a wheelchair to cast his vote for George W Bush. I saw him the day after election day and he asked if the guy I voted for had won. This was his way of determining which way I had voted. Well, I hadn't vote for the guy he had voted for so I thought quickly that at least one person I had voted for in my very Republican state had won so I just told him yes. It wasn't important enough to shatter his delusion of me when his time left here was so short. I've often said that it may be a gift that he left this world before finding out that his beloved daughter had come out as a Democrat. I wondered what our conversations would be like during this election. 

Then I thought about my mother. She never cast a vote for anyone in her life. Maybe she thought she wasn't smart enough, educated enough. Maybe the process was just too overwhelming. I don't know. We didn't talk about it. I do know that she had excellent judgment of character and I know that she had a huge mistrust of her gender and would probably have never approved of a female president. How is it that we women are conditioned to turn our judgment upon each other? So, I wondered, too, what our conversations would be like during this election. 

I haven't set out this morning to write a blog post about our United States elections. There aren't words enough to capture the emotions and thought processes of the past twenty months or so. Instead, I set out to capture the timeline of thoughts that had me driving home from the grocery store in tears, grief flowing through me. I want to remember. 

I want to remember why I cry. I want to remember who I cry for. I want to remember that the salty water cleanses me, somehow. I want to feel every tear that is pulled from my  heart and sears my face with heat, branding me with a reminder that I am real and that life is beautiful and hard and complicated ... and beautiful. 

So I cry for the days and years that I don't have my nephew, my father and father in law, my mother and my brother. I cry for any way that I failed them, failed to show them love and compassion. I cry for the state of my country and the division and fear. I cry for my incredible humans, my children, who astound me with their wisdom and way in the world. I cry for this love of mine, my man and our journey through time. 

There was a time that I didn't cry. I felt it diminished my strength. About twenty years ago, the flood broke through and now? Well, I'm the one crying in the grocery store.