It’s early morning at Whole Foods, we are choreographed in a dance of space and calm.
The music that someone has intentionally chosen reminds me of carefree, simple times - you know, The Beatles, Carole King, Mamas and the Papas… singing tunes.
I hadn’t noticed it until I realized I was humming.
Do the social conventions of only singing in your head still apply in a pandemic?
(Why did they ever apply?)
Alone in the aisle, I decided, oh hell, why not sing out loud?
”Rows and floes of angel hair”…
So I sing the opening lines (that feels good) .. and then I sing the harmony line (rusty, but not bad)….
”and ice cream castles in the air” …
Something akin to joy is bouncing around, how sweet it is to hear my voice out loud (right notes be damned!) and I hope others smile at the sound of bravery in the midst of all this silence.
I have not heard from myself in weeks.
As an extrovert I use my voice to think, to connect, to teach, to tell stories; my chatter is a steady soundtrack to my days. I use my tone and words to calm, guide, encourage and I miss the connections that it facilitates.
I raise my voice higher feeling a sense of freedom and release.
”I've looked at clouds from both sides now”…
and then it happens,
a tightness in my chest
a shallow feeling in my lungs
reddening in the face and
pinching beneath my eyes
I can feel the tears collecting;
for the beauty of the world and my aching heart,
for the protectiveness I feel for the vulnerable,
for our fragility and our resilience,
for my loneliness.
And then I admit, I tear up a little
so I hold myself tenderly, right there in the chip aisle.
It is a short distance from freedom to sadness.
”It's cloud illusions I recall”…
Ok, Tania - get a grip girl, (this is exactly why I can’t let you sing out loud) - you are CHEERFUL, you are OPTIMISTIC and -
ah shit, the dam is breaking-
and then they stream
in one continuous river of wet.
What do I do now? I am not supposed to touch my face and I am also pretty sure I am not supposed to have a breakdown in aisle 6. Which is weird, ‘cuz wasn’t I just feeling happy, right?
”I really don't know clouds at all”…
and the tears keep coming.
And my I am swallowed by a feeling of vulnerability and despair.
How embarrassing and unscripted and
PLEASE….TURN OFF THE MUSIC!
And just when I think the collision of grief, loneliness and shame will glue me to this spot indefinitely, the woman restocking the shelves pivots to face me, eyes locked on mine, she lets her heartbreak a little and sends me a mimed hug.
”The dizzy dancing way you feel”…
Now it is a tsunami of tears because somehow togetherness makes me feel tenderness and tenderness reminds me of the stark feeling of heartache that I have been holding aside, shelved for another day.
Do I abandon the cart? Do they still have toilet paper in the bathroom?
A man enters the top of the aisle, poor guy probably thought all he would find in aisle 6 was a bag of BBQ chips, he looks away but not before he catches my streaming eyes and I see his unshed tears. I know what it is to hide my feelings, to force my eyes wider so the tears won’t fall, and I feel compassionate to his struggle to hold it all in.
”And if you care, don't let them know”…
And then a lady pushes her cart right up in front of mine, and asks in the most tender voice I have ever heard from 8 feet away, “are you ok?”.
And with that question comes the deep breath that I need.
”To say "I love you" right out loud”…
Gone is the shame, replaced by connection.
Just like that.
The peak of emotion has passed, I am feeling raw and a little cracked open and I am steady enough to keep going.
Home with a big cup of coffee and the fireplace lit, I’m listening to Joni Mitchell. I don’t think I have really felt anything in the last 3 weeks. I can now recognize that I am in a cycle of grief, besides the resolve of optimism I now feel the energy of solitude and sorrow.
Our feelings are signposts to things that need our tending to; values and needs that are important and asking for our attention. Tears are the physical manifestation of the emotions that course through us, especially the ones we try and numb and hide.
”Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day”…
I’m still not sure why we hold ourselves back from singing along to the songs that play around us. It seems like such a lost opportunity to raise our voices together.
I am also not sure why we hold ourselves back from living our emotions. This time too is meant to be experienced. We are meant to be alive in it. My fellow shoppers and I discovered that we had an immediate resonance with the depth of pain we are feeling and in that sweet moment of connection, each in our own way, we also realized that collectively we had the power to hold one another. Community and compassion are present when we are connected in our most human of moments.
Don’t be afraid to share the whole experience.
We’re in this together.
Thanks, dear shoppers.
Aisle 6 is clear.
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