October 1st, 2008. That’s when it started. I drove to work, walked into my office, sat down at my desk, booted up my computer and as soon as my fingers touched the keyboard, I began to sob. And from that point forward, I sobbed every day for a year. From October 1st, 2008 to October, 2nd 2009, I sobbed. For one entire year. Every single day.
At the time, I didn’t know why I sobbed. I just sobbed, and it wouldn’t stop. It was like vomiting out the emotion of a thousand years, and I was surprised I had that much in me. I didn’t like it. I wanted it to stop.
Day after day, without trigger or reason, my body poured out the tears of Niagara Falls in storm season. I’d sob the next day. Then the next day after that. And the next, and the next, and the next. Three, four or five times a day sometimes. I’d sob on a walk. I’d sob in my office. I’d sob on a hike. I’d sob going to sleep. I’d sob on the toilet. It got to the point where my eyes wouldn’t swell up anymore. They were just too used to it.
I stopped wearing mascara.
And nobody knew. Nobody figured it out.
I’m one month into it before I seek an answer. It must be my body, I’m thinking to myself. So I visit the doctor, sit down in her office and sob, “why am I suffering like this?” My doctor orders blood tests.
“You’re just grieving,” she says two days later. “You’re physically fine. Continue your exercise and go see a therapist.”
She recommends three.
I continue my exercise and visit a therapist.
“You’re just grieving,” she tells me. “It’ll take time. Continue your exercise and see me two times a week.”
I need to see her times three.
But why am I grieving? Nobody died. I’m still in my marriage. I have a job. My kids are all healthy. My husband is fine. I haven’t lost anything. Except for that computer that was stolen from our house in the middle of the night. Regardless, because it was like CSI Miami or NY or Las Vegas or CSI Whatever in our house, it brought me excitement much more than sadness that day. I found it interesting. I really liked it.
So, I kinda don’t get it, and I really don’t enjoy it. The next time I ask “Why?” to my therapist, and she really can’t tell me.
Coming upon the completion of two months of all this, I don’t get an easy solution from therapy or pondering, so I hit the books. Dyer. Tolle. Chopra. Singer. The Dali Lama. Even the Autobiography of Malcolm X one more time. I’m still sobbing. Oprah can’t even help me.
I keep wondering – Does anyone else feel this way? I start to casually prod friends with questions, hoping that no one will guess my plight. “When was the last time you cried?” “Sad movies make me cry. What makes you cry?” “I never cry at work. Do you?” “Do dead cats or dead elephants make you cry more?” Nothing. I get nothing from them. No hints that they may be going through the same exact thing. So I turn to the internet. I search for “Grieving blogs.” “Depression blogs.” “Midlife blogs.” “Crying blogs.” “Undiagnosed But Have Cancer Anyway blogs.” “Midlife Crisis blogs.” “Spiritual blogs.” “Existential Crisis Humor blogs.” After reading article after article, the do’s and the don’ts, the kinda funny and not so funnies, and the downright depressing stuff, I find that not one of them relates to my uncontrollable, dehydrating, sometimes suffocating, problematic sobbing that I’m experiencing. Not one. And I’m not feeling any better.
So doctors, authors, and Me trying to solve my own problem doesn’t help. So next I turn to nature. I look up for answers in the moon and the stars. I meet the ocean in early morning hours for comfort and meaning. I take daily hikes seeking some sort of discovery to making any kind of sense of this at all. I find everything. Yet I find nothing, and the basic riddle remains unsolved. How do I stop this sobbing?
So in December of that year of 2008, after all the decorating, party planning, kids concerts, gift giving and celebrations of Christmas, I am faced with, yet, another end of another year. However, this year I feel different. I look different. I think different. And as I listen to others speak about resolutions of slimming down, beefing up, organizing closets, saving money, cutting out sugar, and tossing out cigarettes, they all seem so trivial to me. I need something bigger. Something better. Something broader and natural and positive. I need something outside of myself to grasp, to hold on to. Something that is not part of my existing life already. Something to save me. I just don’t know what it is.
I continue to sob. I am in an existential crisis. I think.
About 8 pm on New Year’s Eve I walk into a party, happy to have my New Year’s resolution in tow. I’m about to announce it.
The day before I have an idea. What if I narrow my resolution down to one word? So, I come up with three: Positive. Curious. Kind. Then added one with two words: Move forward. Why can’t I pick? By day’s end I am attached to all five. I’m grappling with which to choose. What I really need, I think, is one word that encompasses all five.
Remarkably, after only one sleep more, I wake up with the word “Yes!” hanging from the tip of my lips.
Bingo! I got my New Year’s Resolution. Yes! for all of 2009. I seal the deal with myself to say Yes! to opportunities, requests, and any kind of ideas that pop into my head; keeping in mind, of course, my family and all the “thou shalt nots” that all that Catholic training makes me heed to. Then after rolling out the resolution off the tip of my lips to whomever is in the room that New Year’s Eve night, I instantly get relief from the “whys” and “hows” and “shoulds” and “should nots,” not to mention all the “what ifs,” that come before making any decision between a Yes or a No that I have let plague me all my life. The decision had already been made for me, and I’m beginning to realize that Yes! will serve as my crutch. My anchor. My something to grasp onto for every day of this next year. I don’t know whether I should gasp or sigh or let out a scream of relief. But what I do is…
… I continue to sob.
Then a few days later my first opportunity shows up to test my prowess. My sister calls.
“Wanna go to New Orleans with me for a conference?”
Instantly and out of habit I go through those thoughts of, “Do I deserve this?” “Should I spend the money?” “Will the kids be okay?” “Can I spend that many days out of the gym?” “What if someone dies while I’m gone?” But that Yes! automatically makes my decision for me, so I make it work. I plan kids’ things, plan work things, plan having sex with my husband things, and plan making sure the house is neat and clean things. And I go.
The airfare is shockingly cheap. The hotel room is free. And I have a friend who picks us up from the airport and generously shows us around. We tour like tourists, eat like locals, drink like fishes…and we even get to watch Mardi Gras krewe folks build their floats. Something like we’ve never seen before. They are nasty. And raunchy. And sexy. And extraordinarily clever and beautiful. Quite possibly, we will never get to see this again. Every minute of the trip I am overwhelmingly grateful…
… yet I continue to sob.
“If I can get us a bonus, will you take a trip with me?” my colleague asks me a month later.
We get the bonus.
“Wanna go to London next month? I found a cheap fare,” she tells me.
Instantly and out of habit, again, I go through those thoughts of, “Do I deserve this?” “Should I spend the money?” “Will the kids be okay?” “Can I spend that many days out of the gym?” “What if someone dies while I’m gone?” But that Yes! automatically makes my decision for me, so I make it work. I plan kids’ things, plan work things, plan having sex with my husband things, and plan making sure the house is neat and clean things. And I go.
The airfare is cheap. I get to stay with friends in their guest room in their cool flat in a beautiful part of the city. I get treated to a limo ride, tube rides, museum visits, and one right-next-door-very-yummy-pub-visit on my very first night. I experience a once a month magical visit to a candlelit museum, lunch in a bookstore, drink at a bar with my own private exit, find the perfect wallet at an outdoor market, get lost at night/don’t get mugged, deem my first favorite modern art museum, and I do plenty of walking to make up for the gym. I even accept my first double-dog dare. For a city that was last on my bucket list, I fall in love with this city. If it hadn’t of been for that Yes!, I probably would have never bothered to go. I become aware of this quite quickly…
… still, I continue to sob.
I say Yes! to Facebook that year. Yes! to volunteer opportunities. Yes! to work that I think may be too much of a challenge. Yes! to parties. Yes! to movies I normally won’t go to. Yes! to music I usually won’t listen to. Yes! And more Yes! and more Yes! Will you run with me? Yes! Will you walk with me? Yes! Will you go with me? Yes! Can you meet me? Yes! Can you help me with my homework? Yes! Will you tie my shoes? Yes! Thai food? Indian food? Chinese food? Big Wild Game food? Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! I’ll do it all…
…even though, I continue to sob.
In the midst of all this Yes-sing and sobbing, extraordinary things start happening. Gas prices fall before a road trip. I meet the right person at a party. An expensive dress rings up at 70% off. Cheap flights. Free food. Enough sleep. More money. Wrongs are made right. Rights are proven right. I’m in the right place at the right time. I avoid the wrong place at the right time. And with every opportunity that I take, my world opens up just that much more…
… yet, still, I continue to sob.
Then about half way through all this world opening up, colors become more vivid. Sounds are crisper. Fabrics feels smoother. Scents are more distinctive. Art is more interesting. Music is more mind-blowing. My brain works harder. Smarter. Faster. I feel like my surroundings are popping out all around me like I’m in the middle of a newly released, everybody stands in line for, high-def video game. Life becomes more interesting. My senses are so acute.
But as January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September of 2009 passes by, I still sob. Every. Single. Day.
Then, on October 2, 2009,
I do not sob. Not. Once.
Not once that whole day.
It would still take a few months for the sobbing to taper down to nothing at all. But before long, what was to come next would be a metamorphosis. A shedding of skin. Exposed and raw. There would be bucking up. Confronting things. Adjustments. Tweaking things. Some good. Some difficult. Some compromise. Some stick-to-it-iveness. There would be unexplained health issues. Guidance and Support. Resistance and Challenge. There would be questions and answers and why’s and how’s and pleases and thank you’s arising out of things I had never experienced before. My life would be blown up. My true self, exposed.
Since that year – the Year of Yes! – because it all worked out so well for me, I have continued to choose one word resolutions. Some have come instantly. Some not so easily. There’s been the Year of Fitness, Kindness, Courage, Change, Self and for year 2015, I chose Intuition. And each year each of all those words are held steadfast in my life, particularly Yes!
So it’s 2016 now, and as 2015 was coming to a close, I ruminated over five words.
Risk. Bold. Focus. Discipline. Proactive.
Each one on its own, I realized, would not resonate well with me. A couple words I knew I would resist. Others just weren’t so clear for me. I couldn’t decide. What I really needed, I thought, was one word that encompassed all five. When New Year’s Day rolled around, I expected the word to be hanging from the tip of my lips, but it wasn’t, and I still couldn’t decide.
Then, not too long after New Year’s Day I had a check up with the doctor. We chatted a bit about answers to questions like What’s new? What are you doing? How are you feeling? Some of my answers to his questions were trivial, others I answered with depth.
After I answered his How are you feeling? question with depth, he responded with a simple but firm persuasion,
“Don’t Ponder. Just Do.”
And there it was. My 2016 New Year’s Resolution.
Ciao for now,