Tender responses to tenderness

Dear President Trump,

Maybe they are related, but in addition to being tired much of the time, I’m also in that cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat space much of the time. Can you relate? At all? No? I thought not. You’re more of a rage-at-the-drop-of-a-hat sort of person, aren’t you?

My newly rekindled tearfulness is usually not in response to actual situations or people in my own life. In ‘real’ life I tend to be pretty stoic and matter of fact, though I will admit to having a lower threshold, lately, for getting irritated, which I’m needing to keep a close check on so that I don’t fuss at Laura (just because she’s so handy and right there all the time these days). In ‘real’ life, I’m generally the one offering reassurances that we are going to get through this (whatever “this” might be), including right now. I’m actually really good at this role and don’t mind playing it at all because I’m good at staying grounded in the base rates and really do believe what I’m saying.  Plus, I’m not good at holding on to worry that I can’t do anything about.

However, I think the fact that I am tearing up quite frequently and uncontrollably at every single gosh darn sweet thing that comes across the airwaves or that appears in stories is a sign that I’m stressed and working hard at holding anxiety at bay. I’ll get some upset, mostly angry, when I read or hear about bad things happening (generally involving you), but I’ve gotten very good at steeling myself against those intrusions. It’s the sweet stuff that does me in. Every time.

On Sunday our church’s ministers and lay leaders pieced together bits of the service that each of them contributed ahead of time from their own homes rather than continuing to risk being in one anothers’ presence in the sanctuary like they had the previous two weeks. I was playing the semi-live stream on my laptop while I printed and was paying reasonably close attention to the greeting, confession, assurance, and logistical messages, but wasn’t especially emotionally engaged until our pastor and her daughter started singing the “Happy Birthday… and Anniversary” song she (pastor) wrote that we sing every last Sunday of the month. As soon as I heard the first couple of words I was crying. And then when I heard another pastor’s prayers for the people I was crying. And then when they played Bobby McFarrin’s “The Lord is My Shepherd” I completely lost it.

You probably don’t remember, but I told you about this last song a couple of years ago when it was played at an elderly friend’s funeral and then we learned it for Soul Choir. It’s the one where he replaces all the male pronouns with female ones, and, here’s the way bigger deal, he replaces “son” with “daughter” – it’s an incredible piece. I was listening to all this on headphones and crying so it was super hard to explain to Laura what was going on, but as soon as I got out that it was McFarrin’s piece, she completely understood.

This tenderness in response to tenderness is probably here for the duration of this siege. Actually, realistically, it’s probably here for the rest of my life since it’s been a thing for a long, long time – just not as prominent as it is now. And it’s a good thing. In those moments I generally feel squirmy and a bit embarrassed, but I can live with those socially conditioned reactions since really, I do believe it’s better to be moveable and vulnerable than walled off.

May we be safe to feel what we feel.
May we be willing to be vulnerable.
May we know that there is strength and health in making space for tenderness.
May we make peace with tears.

Tracy Simpson

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