Why These Tears?

So I didn’t get a post in yesterday.  It was a hot, humid day at work; thunderstorms arrived just as we were leaving.  I got home at 6pm, put my feet up for a bit, made dinner, and then prepared packages for mailing for the book business.  By the time we were done, it was 9:30, and my eyes were stinging.  I closed them and fell asleep.  I’ve been musing on an issue for two days, though, and since I don’t work today (except for a voice lesson), I’m ready to give it some time and work it out in writing. 

It happened on Saturday.  I burst into tears at work. 

It was late afternoon, toward the end of my shift.  Families had been coming through in dribbles to look at the church.  Since it was hot, I put a chair out on the landing in front of the door so that I could catch the breeze.  Sitting there in my bustle, I suppose I made a good picture of a prim and proper church lady.  A father and his two-year old daughter wandered down the road, leaving Mom and older siblings at the General Store.  I invited them in and showed the little curly redhead the pump organ.  She liked the sound of her voice in the echoing chamber of the empty church, so I played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” (a good Mozart tune) and let her sing along.  She took a look at my pin cushion balls, too, and held one until her father gently took it and handed it back.  She never left the safety of her father’s arms during the whole visit.  I walked them out of the church and settled in my chair to watch them walk back down the road, hand in hand.  She stumbled at one point, but Dad righted her gently.  That’s when I lost it.  That sudden, rising swell of heat in my nose and the burning tears tumbling down were totally unpredicted.  Why these tears?  Why now?

Driving home with Steve, I began to talk it out and answer his compassionate questions.  Where were my thoughts?  What were my emotions?  I remembered that I had been bored, hot, and feeling a bit lost and alone:  all dressed up in an empty museum, wondering how I got there.  Kind of disconnected and surreal.  That father and daughter reminded me of my late husband and our curly-haired youngest.  Seeing them walk away together triggered a sense of devastating loss.  I will never see Jim again; Emily, now 21, will never be that young again.  That manifestation of life is gone forever.  

But I knew that.  Why the tears?  Why judge that as something sad?  Obviously, I am still very attached to that particular arrangement, and perhaps not so attached to my current one.  “Attachment causes suffering.”  Somehow, I came to believe that my life as a wife and mother was very meaningful, very important, and it became a “secure” identity for me.  Not hard to imagine how that happened.  The thing is, it isn’t the Truth, wasn’t the Truth, either.  It was a temporary condition.  I enjoyed that condition, but Change is the nature of life.  Conditions always change.  One condition isn’t more meaningful or important than another.  To be able to think about every moment of life as a valuable moment is a mindset that can set me free to live happily.  I think of Hafiz, the Sufi poet, and his exuberant joy in living, not dependent on circumstances.  I get sentimental about family life, but I don’t want to be the mother of a two year old, now.  Somehow, though, that sentiment suggests that there is greater value in that particular model of life than in others, and that I am “missing out”.  It’s just not true.  It’s a kind of cultural propaganda.  Hallmark and Focus on the Family and organizations like that profit from supporting that way of thinking.  I love my children, but our life isn’t Hallmark any more.  It was, once.  It was nice, but it wasn’t the only and most important manifestation of living.  Conditions arise, conditions change.  Judging that one is “better” than the other can get me stuck and cause suffering.  That’s not to say that I can’t think critically about my life and make changes.  But I also want to be able to be happy in any situation. 

I like my tears, too.  They help me learn about myself. 

photo credit: Susan