Two weeks ago I cried for the first time in months. It was quick and to the point, not lasting more than a couple minutes.
My dog’s sudden bark attack contributed to a glass of water spilling millimeters from my computer. Not a big deal, you might say. Trust me, I know. But when I returned from the kitchen with a towel and began to clean up the mess, I felt the deep inhales & exhales that usually signal the calm before the storm. I pressed the towel into the puddle on my coffee table, lowered my head, closed my eyes and let the tears happen.
Crying, for me, is a reflex my body typically calls on for all sorts of reasons.
When I’m mad.
When I’m embarrassed.
When I’m overjoyed.
When I’m exhausted.
When I see internet photos of handicapped animals.
So it’s strange to have gone such a long period of time without expressing my myriad emotions with tears. Sometimes when I feel like I need a good cry, I drive around at night aimlessly, listening to Transatlanticism by Death Cab or 23 by Jimmy Eat World on repeat. (That in and of itself should make you feel pretty good about the way you handle your feelings.)
But I’ve gone an abnormally long amount of time without even getting the urge to force it out through sad songs alone in my car, and that’s the only reason this is a story worth telling.
Not once during this abnormally long amount of time have I backed up, debriefed, or asked myself why I haven’t been processing life the way I usually do. I’ve put little to no effort into diagnosing the how and when and why of my apathy. Even now, the idea of writing about my thoughts and feelings is making me want to curl into a little ball, cover myself in a mountain of blankets, and sleep til next summer.
I started writing about this whole thing almost two weeks ago, and every time I feel a spark of clarity — a boost of momentum — I push my computer aside and do something mindless like shop online or watch entire seasons of shows on Netflix. I’ve been sabotaging myself, and I don’t have a clue why, but I’m pretty sure it’s why I haven’t cried.
I haven’t allowed these months to go through the filter in my heart that would normally indicate what’s meaningful and relevant and worthwhile. And as a result, I’ve successfully avoided both the things that cause me pain AND the things that bring me joy.
Switching off sounds like a good solution sometimes, though, doesn’t it? It’s safe in that little space that’s so you-sized that there’s no room for anyone or anything else. Just you.
I’ve been binge-watching Girls lately, which is a show that tends to make me super thankful for my relatively simple life. The characters are like the epitome of human depravity. Everyone is so overwhelmingly selfish and foolish, but I guess that’s what makes it like a train wreck to watch. I just can’t look away. (Plus I want Lena Dunham to be my best friend.)
Spoiler alert: There’s a scene where Hannah tells her boyfriend Adam that she’s been accepted to graduate school states away. In part of her explanation of her decision to go, she says “It makes me want to find a whole new world in the shape of me and fill it up.”
That sentence has been bouncing around my brain for days. My initial reaction was some kind of YOU GO GIRL or YOLO or some other kind of admiration for her pursuit of her destiny. She decided to follow her dreams, you guys!
But the more I think about it, living in a world in the shape of me sounds like a nightmare. I think living in a me-shaped world is what suspends me in periods of time like this most recent drought.
What makes me any less selfish than the characters on Girls? Not a whole lot. I haven’t been a good friend or daughter or sister. I haven’t taken care of myself emotionally or spiritually. I’ve avoided conflict and hard work and reading and learning and soaking up all the parts of life that make it uniquely mine. I’ve made up excuses to be alone. I’ve been altogether detached, uninvested, far from present.
I don’t want to live in a me-shaped world, but I often find myself here. I fill it up with me, and when I’m done, I’m confused about why it feels so empty. At least now I know.
So for the time being, I’m waiting it out. I’m waiting for my gaze to turn outward and upward. For my world to return to the shape of the love that propels me into fulfilling relationships and meaningful time spent on meaningful things. I’m waiting to be strong enough to tear down the wall I’ve built all the way around myself. And for the day when I feel safe enough to climb over the rubble and leave it behind for good.
I’m not sure how much longer this time will last. Part of me is terrified that I’ll never come back to life, but that part of me also pleads with God to help me in my unbelief. And I have faith that He answers, even if the answer is momentarily snapping out of it to cry over a spilled glass of water. It feels like proof that this can’t last forever.