sometimes inspiration strikes in the most unlikely of places.

we’ve been going through a struggle in our family for the past year and a half or so. our family friend was battling breast cancer for a while, and things took a turn for the worse. we thought she had been doing well, only to then discover it metastasized to her hips and knees, leaving her with broken bones and endless pain. time wore on, and things started to look up. this past fall, though, we learned that things were going downhill again. she was in and out of hospice care this fall, looking more frail and gaunt each time we visited. a few weeks had passed, luckily bringing some good news: her pain was managed and she had a hospital bed so she wouldn’t have to navigate upstairs each time she wanted some rest. unfortunately, bad news struck a third time: the cancer had metastasized yet again, and this time, the news was grim. somehow, it had made its way to her brain, and it was only a matter of time before the inevitable end. “once her swallowing goes, she’ll be close to the end.” i couldn’t help but think of how motor speech disorders, neuropath, and dysphagia never prepared me for the human side of the diseases.

i sleep with my phone on my bed, to track my sleeping patterns. last night, i slept restfully, but for whatever reason, tossed and turned the entire night (the app i use tracks any movements i make during the night). when the alarm wakes me at 7, i ritualistically check my emails and any texts i received while my phone was suspended in “sleeptracker” mode. it didn’t take me but two seconds to realize the night’s events when i read the byline of one of my emails: “some very bad news.”

i read the email somberly, however, didn’t cry, as i assumed i would. i knew this day was drawing ever-nearer since autumn struck, but this is not how things played out in my head. i drifted back to a restless limbo between conscious and unconsciousness. by 8, i couldn’t bear to be alone with my thoughts any longer, and headed downstairs. it hit me when i had to ask my parents if they checked their emails yet. like a tidal wave of emotion as i explained that our friend hadn’t lasted the night. i felt a tidal wave of grief, sadness, remorse for not having the emotional strength to be able to visit her in her last days at home because i was too afraid of shedding a tear. after a minute or two of intense sobbing, i put myself back together and braved a face.

i have been reading tuesdays with morrie (mitch albom) for the past few days, and have found much more solace than i anticipated. after i broke the news today, i turned to literature to condole my feelings. i don’t want to ruin the plot for anyone interested in reading it themselves, but the one takeaway i gleaned today was how most of us are afraid to show emotion (bingo!). maybe we’re embarrassed to cry in public, or feel fearful, sorrow, anger, even love, or maybe we’re trying to blockade ourselves from feeling emotions in their raw state. the book’s namesake describes to the narrator how he allows himself to be submerged in the emotions he is feeling, then is able to detach himself from those emotions and see them for what they truly are; not letting the emotion control him. how can we grow as emotional creatures if we suppress our need to express? and what better way to practice than with grief?

tonight at church, little words throughout the mass were affecting me, shining a spotlight on this morning’s news. normally, i am the kind of person to hide my sorrow, bite my lip, fight back the tears with every fiber of my being, but i didn’t see the point. i felt sad, and i wanted to cry. i let myself cry during mass, when i needed to. afterwards, i still felt sad, but i also felt liberated. so what if i look vulnerable and splotchy-faced? i grieve by crying. and by crying, i mean the nasty, scrunched-up, red-faced, snot-nosed, sobbing that no one wants to admit to actually doing.

granted, today was probably one of the easiest days to start this little “challenge” with myself, because it’s raw and tender, but i think it’s a good starting point.


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