In the past couple days, I have:
- eaten a bag of popcorn for lunch
- stood out on my fire escape in a snowstorm (a very underwhelming one)
- used the mom voice to co-workers who are twice my age and raised my mom’s teacher eyebrows at them
- gone to sleep early
- had weird dream/nightmares about a giant pizza
- eaten a personal, Brooklyn organic pizza for dinner (with a side of mint chip ice cream)
- squatted in the middle of a crowded train after shedding a few winter layers – whatever it takes to prevent the unthinkable, folks
- sang in every room of the apartment
- talked for 1.5 hours with my uber wise grandparents
- wrote and performed a rap over skype to my mom’s 6th grade class (who are in the middle of a hip-hop unit)
- spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to coax Baby K into acrobatics with folk music
- read a bedtime story to my favorite Michigan family, who were all snuggled into my nephew’s bed
- sent a million urgent emails that my office won’t read, about what they are supposed to have done by Friday at 3 pm when the plug is pulled on our current office and we move into our new space
And that’s just the past couple days and that’s not even all of it. I just want to let you in, friend. I wanted you to know it’s not all saltines and sadness over here in the big city. Even though it’s been awhile since I’ve successfully buttoned my pants (let’s be honest, I haven’t done that for a LONG while), we’ve been able to fit a good amount of laughter into these winter days.
I can actually remember when the first laughter happened, after the very dark night of early pregnancy and the flu. I felt okay when I woke up that Saturday and we woke up slowly, smiling. We ate a bit and I still felt okay. (And all the while inside I was saying, “So far, winning!”). I remember, several times, hearing myself giggle and being surprised. What an unfamiliar sound – that laughter – and oh where has it been?
We ran a few errands and I still felt okay, so we got really ambitious. We went to Long Island City with our heads down against an unforgiving wind to get to my coworker’s birthday party. After mingling with the Irish, English, Polish and Spanish accents, we hit up a little cafe in the West Village where our friends were playing. By this time, it was getting respectably late and we were both impressed. On the way to the subway with our silly friends, we stopped to buy what I was craving (Cooler Ranch Doritos) and then took up the whole sidewalk like the younger version of ourselves – up to clean mischief.
I remember thinking how strange it was to be so surprised by my joy – surprised by the sound of laughter and surprised by the feel of a smile stretched across my face. It felt good and illusive all at once, like the longing the C.S. Lewis always talks about.
I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller recently, at the suggestion of my therapist. It was called, “Praying our Tears” and I should probably listen to it again. “Expect tears, invest tears, and pray your tears,” he said, after reading Psalm 39:12-13 and Psalm 126:1-6.
If we’re talking Psalms, there are more lamentations than any other kind. That makes sense to me – the weight of sorrow needs a place to land. The world is brimming full of it, with the words of even one story. And I have a hard time believing there will be a harvest from my sorrow (Psalm 126:5), if I plant my tears. I am okay to let my sorrow be an end in itself – that thing I crawl up inside when nothing makes sense. And I have been struggling to let sorrow and joy live together.
But God says I have to plant my sorrow. As Keller says, “to see my tears as an opportunity for fruit and growth.” That’s a far cry from where I am now, but I can hear it and that feels like progress. Joy will be the harvest when I plant my tears in compassion for others, in prayer, in love, in patience. Tears actually produce joy, he says. Again, I’m a critic. I believe tears can produce joy (2 Corinthians 4:17), but I am a critic in my weak flesh.
“There’s a kind of joy that comes through avoiding tears – that doesn’t really change you. Then there’s a kind of joy that comes through the tears that does.” – Keller
His last point answers the question, How do we plant our tears? Prayer. Pray everything – all the biggest and worst and most confusing emotions. Pray them with shaking fists and pray them in the hot shower and pray them in confession kneeling in church on Sunday. Pray. Pray for opportunities and direction and fields and the right soil. Pray for strength to throw out the sloppy, wet messes and pray for belief in what is planted. Pray.
Praying has been hard for me. I’m a steadfast, headstrong believer … but praying is hard sometimes.
This song has been helping. It feels to me like a prayer – one without answers or a lot of boldness, but a prayer that is honest and believing. A prayer that lets me laugh and cry in the same day without having to sort it out.
Find all the writings on grief at this link and join with us as we mourn in hope.