Joni Mitchell Made A Mess In Aisle 6
by Tania Carriere
May 16, 2020 - 4:55am

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-
they overflow,

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

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.



NEW! I'm excited to announce GROUNDED RETREATS-WANDERLUST REVIVED! a virtual gathering space that will welcome those who are also missing the experience of retreats and travel. 

It is open to everyone and free of charge. There is more information and registration here.


Peteon May 17, 2020 - 3:31am

So glad Dewitt passed on this link...good thoughts, excellent message. Now I'm humming the tune as well and will be reminded each time I visit the local stores.

Keep on humming Pete (it is a pretty catchy tune, isn't it? Guess she was onto something!!) best, T

jim vintonon May 17, 2020 - 8:46am

It fits, thank you!

Barb Bozzoon May 17, 2020 - 2:38pm

I find that throughout my life it is often some lyrics in a song that brings tears out that have been hovering on the surface for a long time - begging to be released and do the healing they were meant to do.  Often it could be a scene from a movie - especially if a child is involved, as my inner child is more receptive to the power of emotions than I am.  Our limited connections with others during this time is perhaps one of the most difficult things to endure.  Your Coffee Break Connections have been so helpful to me, Tania - not only the messages you give through them, but your soft, calm speaking and genuine caring that comes across.  You are an awesome mentor and "virtual friend" forever.  Looking forward to your Grounded Retreats - Wanderlust.  Many thanks for this powerful blog and all of your support through Celebrate and Advivurn Journeys. 

Ah the "hovering of tears" ... that is such a visceral sentence, that is also such a part of my life. Here's to releasing them more often! T

Terryon May 17, 2020 - 4:33pm

Wonderful sharing. Comforting to know I’m not the only one triggered into tender tears at seemingly random moments. Thank you for this connection. 

thank you for making ME feel like "I am not the only one!" Best, T

Gailon June 7, 2020 - 2:00pm

I just found the blog and THANK eyes leak water at the oddest times seemingly for no reason...sitting at the stoplight, washing dishes, reading a comical book or just listening to a song play in my head.  As I'm typing this, here they go again, leaking!

Our tears always remind us that something important is happening, right before our eyes, if only we would pay attention!! best to you, T

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