When the World Weeps, I Carry the Tears in the Cups of my Hands

by | May 29, 2022 | Anxiety | 20 comments

When the world‘s heart shatters again and again and again, I find myself carrying the tears in the cups of my hands, palms upturned like a lotus flower floating on a lake. It’s a serene image, much too serene for the horrors that continue to befall our world, that continue to drop like bombs through the medium of our screens, reminding us that, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, we are wed to one another. The mothers wailing in Texas, the fathers dead in Ukraine, they are us, they live in a shared story in our hearts, our singular human existence. When I hear her wailing the grief rises up in me and it feels like too much, it feels like it’s going to swallow me, as if I am in an ocean and the water has subsumed me, now entering my lungs, now surrounding me bodily. 

Wednesday morning I had a window of time and I went for a hike. I watched my fellow Boulderites running up the hills. I don’t run; I walk slowly enough to receive the goodness and grounding of the natural world, the iridescent green hills that flourish from our recent rains, the ancient mountains that rise up around me. I lean my forehead against mother tree, thinking about a blog listener who lives in New Zealand and shared that this is a regular practice among the people there. 

I wonder how different our planet might be if every single human made it a regular practice to lean their forehead against the trees and listen. I wonder about the shooter who was bullied in middle school for a speech impediment and his mother, struggling with drug addiction. I wonder what happened to the father. I wonder what might have happened if the boy, in rage and pain, had been taken into the wilderness to be guided by elders, to sit around a fire while he learned how to drum out his stories and channel his pain into song. 

I spent the morning in solitude and silence, knowing that my day still lived ahead of me. I would go to the grocery store. I would work. I will pick up my children, gratefully, blessedly, not taking for granted this most simple act: picking up my children at the end of their school day. The anguish enters again as I write that line and I breathe it in. But at some point I must come back to the day. This is not denial; it is how it must be. Like all trauma work, we pendulate into the heart of the volcano and then we swim back out into the marks that punctuate our daily lives rafts. We allow ourselves to fall apart because we trust that we will put ourselves back together again.

I texted my husband from my hike to say good morning and to tell him about the nightmares I had the night before about bombings. I let him into my anguish and he caught me. And a few texts later I said, “In other news, we need more sweatpants for Asher.” Some part of our hearts and brains says that the juxtaposition of anguish and mundanity feels irreconcilable and bizarre. But from what I understand about trauma work – and this applies to collective trauma as well – is that this pendulation between anguish and the ground of regular life allows us to drop into the depths of the pain, to allow our hearts to be seared by the hot lava and oceanic waters of grief because we know that we can come back to solid ground. This is how we allow ourselves to be guided into action by our heartbreak instead of being swallowed by it or becoming numb to it.

I don’t have answers for the pain of our world. But I know that we must stay open to it, to do our best not to harden or numb or look away for too long. I know that we need all hands on deck so that we can traverse what at times feels like an insurmountable mountain.  But I believe in humanity. I believe that there is more good than evil in the world, more light than darkness. It seems that we must be pushed to our absolute edge before we rally the forces of change. This is true both individually and collectively. But once we decide to show up, take responsibility, and chart the compass in a new direction, real and necessary change can happen. May it be swift and may it be so. 

20 Comments

  1. Thank you so much, Sheryl. <3

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    • This is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful; and it resonates so much with how I currently feel. I appreciate your putting into words what most of us perhaps collectively feel, but may not quite know how to express. Thank you for your words and thoughts!

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  2. Please ask the tree for permission before stepping in to touch. Beautiful wisdom. Thank you.

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  3. I remember you sharing before how we can go into the worlds grief and come out of it and how that is necessary. That helped me this past week. I allowed myself to cry and grieve for all the families and I prayed for them and accompanied them the best I could and then I went about my day. It does feel weird like this sense of do I not care enough that I can now go about my day again as normal? When I lay down to sleep I thought of the families and how they would not be able to sleep. Sometimes there is this sense that if you are worried about something or if you are grieving then you care. I like the idea that I can very much care and still come out and be joyful and present to my family but it does feel odd sometimes. Difficult to hold both. Thank you for sharing.

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    • Yes, it is difficult to hold both, but so important. Thank you for sharing your process here.

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  4. “May it be swift and may it be so.” Beautiful. Thank you, Sheryl. I always feel better after reading your words.

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  5. Thank you for being our cherished, hopeful guidepost.

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  6. Thank you for your words Sheryl. Holding onto the MLK quote, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it always bends towards justice,” has been really helpful for me this week. Sending love to you and your family. <3

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  7. Sheryl – your words are like a blanket to me. Every week. Thank you. I’m a fellow Boulderite now and I am one that runs up (haha) but after reading this, I plan to take more pauses to rest my head on a tree – especially in times like these. To ground myself in nature so that I can come out of the grief to start acting for positive change. So grateful for you and your work.

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  8. Thank you darling Sheryl. Your words have such a soothing effect in me. I’m still processing every single open front in the world. I try to hold space for the pain, moving more slowly than usual, trying not lean into the future as it seems scary. I hope we all wake up from the trance of separation by seeing and holding each other. You certainly hold me every week. Thank you

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    • Thank you, Georgina ❤️❤️❤️🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽

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  9. For anyone who may still be reading this, I wanted to offer this song/poem, which is really a prayer – Come Healing by Leonard Cohen.

    I can’t listen to it without crying. I enter the most tender place inside myself, where grief, love, and hope live and today when I listened to it and mouthed the words I did so as an offering to the world.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pKUwTooZ3o

    (And p.s. to Sheryl – I love this because it explicitly touches on the four realms you always speak of 🙂 )

    Reply
    • Listening right now. Very beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing, Julia. xo

      Reply

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