If Your Tears Could Talk, What Would They be Saying?
And Why I Haven’t Decorated My Room
She waited patiently for my tears to subside.
“What’s going on?” She asked with kind eyes.
“What,” I sniffled, “What do you mean?”
She held her gaze intently. “If your tears could talk, what would they be saying?”
I couldn’t look her in the eyes. I couldn’t stop sobbing. Most of our call so far was me just crying.
“I think-“ I hiccuped. “I think-“ I took an exhausted breath. “I think the last time I felt like this, four years ago in Austin when I hated my job and I felt trapped and hopeless and lonely, Yvonne told me, ‘Come home sis. Just come home.’ But now there is no Yvonne, and there is no home. Sure my mom is in Bali, but you know, she’s in jail, and well sure I have family there, but… I don’t have a home anymore. I don’t have anyone like Yvonne. I can’t run away anymore.”
It felt sinful to say the words out loud, because I knew how rich I was in friendships. I knew that I had Kristina, and Laura, and Anita, and five solid other humans that would help me in a time of dire need. If someone wanted to compare their suffering to mine they’d argue that I had plenty of people I could run away to. But it’s just not the same.
“What else?” She probed.
“I haven’t decorated my room!” I wailed.
“I’m so fucking grateful, I am, my best friend she’s done so much for me, I have hot water showers and coffee in the mornings and this house is cozy and safe. But this chapter where I’m in Sacramento, it’s not my story. I feel like I’m borrowing her friends, her activities — I’m borrowing her life for a bit, but it’s not mine and it won’t last and I won’t be here very long. And I can’t seem to allow myself to connect to it, you know? The people that I meet, this is their real life! They live here they work here they have friends here, and I can’t relate to any of it. So I haven’t pursued deep friendships, let alone any kind of romantic partnership. I feel like a guest in my own life.”
“Have you told your best friend any of this?”
I shook my head shamefully. I knew I should, but wouldn’t it be so insensitive after all she’s done for me?
“What would she say if you told her?”
“She would probably tell me I’m crazy and that of course this is my home too and I’m not just a guest.”
My therapist laughed.
“It’s just ridiculous. When I don’t have a job I’m complaining, when I do have a job I’m complaining. I think last week I just tried to bottle it in and tried to convince myself that my job is not so bad, it’s just hard because I’m new and that it would get easier. But today, I feel so beat down, I can’t deny I hate it. I hate my job, but I need it. It’s time for me to earn my keep and pay my dues. I hate that I need it, I feel so trapped. It’s just hard.”
She waited again. Damn she’s so good at this listening stuff.
“I’m exhausted, I’m really so tired — I thought this would be it. The job description seemed perfect for me. I can’t seem to get my shit together and hold down a job, I’ve been this way my whole life! But…I know that is possible. I know that it’s out there, because I’ve felt it before. There was this sweet spot, when I was at the agency in Bali, when I was actually happy. I remember looking around the office at my coworkers, and this sense of pride and love rushed through me. We were working hard, together, as a team, launching successful campaigns, I loved my work so much, I was making good money, even though it was Covid times, and I had Yvonne, and my dogs, and for a moment in time I was actually happy. So when people tell me to just suck it up and work, I get so defensive. I know firsthand how short life is, so why should I spend what little time I have on Earth doing something that isn’t fulfilling or doesn’t give me pleasure?”
I looked at her for the first time since our video call started. I searched her eyes pleadingly. She took a breath.
“It’s okay, to not like your job, and keep at it, while you search for something else. It’s okay, to feel grateful for what you have, and want the next thing. You are exactly where you need to be, doing exactly what you need to do. Okay?”
I nodded tearfully.
“Didn’t you say that your sister’s one year was a few days ago?”
“It’s actually coming up in a few days, June 25th. Her birthday and also the day she died.”
“Oh I’m not surprised then that you’re sleeping a lot and feeling emotional, even though you said your period is coming up. Are you planning to do anything for that day?”
“No. I don’t really know what to do. I always wanted to write about her, but I’ve been putting it off for so long my memory is starting to fade. I’ve barely been writing at all! What kind of writer doesn’t write? It’s so bad.”
“You’re going to write about her when you’re ready. And for what it’s worth, I don’t usually take that many notes during a session. But so far I’ve filled my whole page.” She showed me her yellow scratch pad. “You’re very articulate and poignant with your words.”
“Thank you so much, that really means so much to me!”
“Right well I’m not saying it, for that, but what I’m saying is…don’t devalue yourself. You’ve got a special skill you could use, since you say you don’t feel valued at your job for your unique skills.”
She was referring to what my boss had said to me last week: “Don’t waste time learning the whole backstory for this account, you’re not the strategist. Our strategists aren’t native English speakers, so you just need to craft the email. Your job is simply to relay the message.”
It stung. I’m just the messenger? My years in digital marketing mean nothing? So I’m friendly and perky and read and write basic English. Who needs a thinking brain and higher education when you can be a congenial translator, is that what you’re saying?
But I’m not writing this to bitch about my job.
I’m writing this because I’m on Step 6 of my 10 Step Get My Shit Together Plan — and gosh it really isn’t like those inspiring movie montages. The growth, the in between parts, the messy lumps of despair that clutter this thing called life — are heart achingly hard and embarrassing. But in Step 5, I managed to get 12 free sessions of therapy through the Wounded Warrior Project. Getting sound advice from someone so detached from the daily intricacies of your life is somehow so much more validating. All that is to say…
You can’t do this shit alone. After a while, for members of society with certain undeniable privileges, survival becomes easier. Thriving is not as linear. Your friends can only help so much. That’s where therapy comes in. Also, I noticed crying tends to make my lips look bigger. I like it.