I prayed a short prayer on my drive into work today.
“Please. Let nobody die today.”
I knew it wasn’t a good sign that I was already crying. On my way in. Sun shining, morning crying as opposed to dark sky, moon glowing crying. On my drive home. Ackk. I had already put my eye make-up on. It’s too early. I haven’t started my shift. I need to walk into work strong, ready, happy. Not fragile and sad. I am supposed to arrive secretly clad in some form of protective armor hidden beneath my clothes. The kind of armor that is hard to get on. It’s tight, it grips my chest. I should feel it somehow. And know it’s there even if nobody else does. Right up close to my heart. Always ready, or waiting. On guard, to help protect and defend me from the unpredictable and seemingly inescapable sadness that may seep in.
I keep driving. Hoping that maybe a happy song will come on my favorite radio station. Surely that will help. They usually seem to know when I’m in my car driving to or home from work.
Maybe if I could give a dollar and a Quiktrip gift card to the homeless man that stands and sings off of my exit on Hiway 71, that may be a good sign. A sign that it will be a day where there’s more smiling. And less dying.
Yesterday, I sat in a room playing with a child who laughed easily. Like on the ground, genuinely laughing at the silliest things. Like me popping bubbles with a plastic frying pan. He said, “I like laughing.” And I replied, “Me too.” He had no idea how tightly I would hold onto his innocent and spontaneous words. Spoken freely, out loud. Later, he didn’t want to go back with his parent because he wanted to hang out and walk around with me. He told his mom, “I want to go back to that room with her. Because we both like laughing.” I wish I could have hung out with him and his sweet giggling self all day long. But I couldn’t. The day got hard. Really hard.
And I lost my laugh.
I kept telling myself all day long, in my head, “I like laughing.” Remember. If a little boy notices, it must be true. Because I do. Hard. Belly hurting. Silly, big, open-mouthed loud almost obnoxious laughing. Near snorting, breath catching. That kind of laughing. It feels good. So good. It feels like the world still has a lot of happy left in it. That boy reminded me that I’ve got to step outside from underneath the dark cloud of sadness some days. Make a conscious effort. To find the light. I can’t let the small sliver of gloom consume me. Even though it’s impossibly hard sometimes.
I like laughing. I really love laughing. I told myself this. Over and over. All day long.
But somehow I still managed to be in my car crying on the way home. Again. Sadness can be sneaky, yet strong and overpowering at times. And tricky too. You can’t suppress it for too long or it will explode or change you. It will affect how you treat those who matter the most. It might make you forgetful or short-fused. Or unmotivated to get out of bed.
I laugh when something is funny. Even sometimes when it may not be appropriate. In church or meetings or too serious of times. And I think I function best when I give myself the freedom to cry when something is sad. I have to find the right time and the right place. And cry. Let. It. ALL. Out. It’s really hard to hold back a dam of tears for long. I tell kids all the time, “it’s okay to cry.” I believe it. And it’s okay for adults to cry too.
I didn’t need to cry today. And that made me so happy. So happy that I almost cried. The happy tear kind of crying. The grateful, humbled, overwhelmed smiling kind of short-lived crying. I got to leave work talking with a coworker about how I couldn’t remember where I parked. I got to notice gorgeous Christmas lights. I even noticed Pope Francis was trying to give me a high five from the catholic radio billboard. Or it may have been knuckles. I left work on time after talking and laughing with some of my favorite green zone girls. I feel honored, privileged and just giddy to leave work happy.
I love that place tonight. I really do. Somehow.
I drove up our driveway and saw our sweet little tree barely strong enough to hold its brightly colored lights. And I just could have cried. Again. But I didn’t need to. Not tonight. That tree looked so little, yet so beautiful and happy.
I will always remember that boy saying, “we both like laughing.” He reminds me of a tiny brightly lit tree that can barely hold the weight of the lights, yet somehow unknowingly offers perfectly timed hope and joy.