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Thursday, September 12, 2013

National Cry-in-Public Day

     Hey, I’m in a blogging mood today. So back to blogging I go. This’ll be a dark one, unfortunately, despite the dwarf video. I’m such a dreary ghoul these days. I might swear a little. Here’s why: Yesterday was 9/11 and I had to take my mom for simple out-patient surgery, during which I realized just how vulnerable I am. Seeing her vulnerable does that to me. I know, it’s selfish of me to be so self-absorbed. I should be thinking of her, or the nation, or the people suffering through yesterday. I mean, it’s not like I was innocently working away at my hard-won job when a plane smashed through my office walls. I’m lucky. I’ve never had to jump from a gazillion-floor building to avoid being crushed to death by debris, choosing one bad death over another. I didn’t have to imagine that happening to a loved one, or hear about it on TV, or think about it in the depths of the night. I didn’t lose anyone that day. Nor have I received the dreaded call from my kids’ schools. We’ve had Lock Down Drills, but not the real deal, even though our neighborhood could be a twin to Sandy Hook. No wonder it clawed away at my insides to see that community go through what it went through. Likewise it makes me sick to hear my husband relate his coworker’s rants. Sandy Hook was just something the government came up with so Obama could take away their right to bear arms. (Yes, there are crazies all around. Great, now I sound paranoid.)
     Still, I need my mom so much, and there were times I feared something might’ve gone wrong during this simple no-brainer surgery that takes three minutes tops. So what if thirty other people were having the exact same thing done? It took two hours when you factor in all the prep and stuff, and the whole time I thought about people who send their kids off to school unaware that this will be the day the teen with untended mental illness comes in to wreak his twisted sense of judgment. In a world where chaos reigns, how can I be sure my mom won’t be the one in a million? The one time this surgery goes bad?      
     In the waiting room, I read a book about Columbine while the coverage of 9/11 memorials played in the background on mute (for me. For others, there might've been sound). Flags flapped, people alternately bowed their heads and saluted. Victims cried. The book was Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed. Take it in small doses, people, but take it—just not during a loved-one’s surgery or on September 11th. I think I might’ve been torturing myself for not having lost anyone to these horrible things.
     Of course, everything went fine with my mother. (Once again, I lucked out big-time. I should play the freaking lottery every day! I never play it.) That evening my kids told me what they did in school to preserve the memory of the tragedy that occurred twelve years ago, which was watch this: Patriot Day video. My husband and I told them (again) exactly where we were and what we did that day. I’m sure all the teachers did the same. He’d taken the day off work to be present for the delivery of our swing-set. I was running up to get some diapers for my one-year-old daughter, and I listened with wide-eyed disbelief (or—I’m ashamed to say—more like narrow-eyed skepticism) to what I thought was the War of the Worlds prank all over again. In fact, I kind of blamed OrsonWelles for what I was hearing. Goddamnit, I remember thinking, if freaking Welles hadn’t tried to be some macho radio pioneer, this wouldn’t be happening now. What can I say, the frightened mind is rarely rational.
     After our recollections, my kids reminded me they hadn’t yet been born on September 11, 2001, and the one who had been born (my diaperless daughter) didn’t remember it. (How could she? She was only one.) Columbine popped into my head. NONE of them were around for that.
     This hobbled me emotionally because I looked at my three kids and a voice in my mind said: there will be something else. Something that will rock their world and change it. From that day forward they will always remember where they were when it happened. They’ll remember every little detail. As that knowledge trickled down into my gut, I had the chilling realization that whatever it was lurking in their future, waiting to strike—it would be bad. No generation is exempt. Thus far, the pattern of chaos has been totally predictable in this regard. It will happen.
     So today I keep bursting into tears. It doesn’t help matters that I’m still reading Wally Lamb’s book as well as writing two of my own about abused children, one abducted as a child, one as a teen. Writing about child abuse is like taking a vegetable shredder to one’s soul. I have to work in numerous breaks, during which I do laundry while gulping back my grief. Don’t know why I bother. Laundry provides a wonderful crying opportunity. The sound of swishing water camouflages the hysterics. The room itself is snug as a den, insulated by the smells and textures of my family. Even the Tide container grants me permission to wail, with its boast of Spring and Renewal. With Tide as my incense and the washer my baptismal font, I am reborn. When I emerge, it’s as if from a cocoon. (I was gonna settle for a picture of a swishing washer up there, but this is a gem of a video. Leads me to believe that people did something besides laundry and crying in their laundry rooms in 1963.)
     I never cry in public. Frightens the children and turns off the people working the deli counter. Inappropriate. Besides, what the fuck do I have to cry about? Did my husband perish at the Twin Towers? Did my seven-year-old miss his birthday because of some family’s lost and damaged son? Not crying in public is a tendency I share with Wally Lamb’s main characters. It’s a weakness in wolves' clothing, disguised as strength. They think it’s because they’re men. I beg to differ. Because, last I checked (and I check daily), I’m a woman, yet as reluctant as the next guy to turn on the waterworks. I’m like a cowboy (not the ones in Brokeback Mountain).  
      I want to change. I want my crying jags to see the sunlight, no longer exiled to the laundry room. I propose we institute National Cry-in-Public Day. (I’m writing my congressperson now. Wait! Who’s my congressperson again?)
     See, at church on Sundays? I’ve been noticing these people. They cry silently through prayers or during the petitions or even during announcements. Either church is their laundry room or they’re far braver than I. Let’s say for argument, though, that they’ve lost someone recently and they have an excuse for their grief. I’m still envious of them, and a little fascinated. By putting their grief on display so publicly, they defy us to address it. I wish I had the bravery to go up and stand next to them. To say: I see your sadness. To sit with them for a minute, bonded by mutual fear. Except I’m the ice-blooded pussy who hides in her laundry room to cry. (Can a woman be a pussy? No? Ironic.)

     National Cry-in-Public Day would put an end to all this agonizing. (More irony.) We'd be obligated to cry, reason or no. Crying would be revealed for what it is: a sign of strength, not weakness. An acknowledgement that in the face of bad things, we are not going to retreat to our laundry rooms. We are going to flaunt our sadness and with it, the wisdom gained from a lifetime of intermittent tragedies. This might not be the end of the violence, but we won’t pretend to be strong anymore. We are vulnerable and we know it. See, you’ve got nothing over us anymore, chaos! Fuck you, and the monsters you breed. You might be too random (finger quotes here) to realize it, but crying cleanses, dude. So just keep hiding behind your trench coats, your demented fb pages, your little booby traps, your bombs and guns. Meanwhile, we’re gonna cry ourselves as naked as the day we were born.
Okay, here I was gonna place a video of "It's Alright to Cry" from the psyche-forming Free to Be You and Me. But that message didn't really sink in with me, whereas this one did. Besides, it's funny.

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