This piece was written in response to the prompt I’m tired of crying over people.
I don’t know what happened, but like the piece generated from a good therapist, I suddenly felt a wave of gratitude.
Here’s what I wrote:
“Don’t you get tired of watching people cry?” That’s what someone asked me recently at a dinner party.
“Not everyone cries during a session,” I said, “and the ones who do are doing what they need to do.”
“Spoken like a true therapist,” she said into her Cabernet. So I thanked her.
I’m bound by confidentiality, so I prefer not to talk about my work, but what I wanted to say was this: It’s sacred, this job of listening, of witnessing sorrow and loss. In one day I can travel through the end of a forty-six year relationship, the death of a child, impotence after prostate removal, or cancer that has metastasized. Lost jobs, lost limbs, sex addiction, child abuse. The days sometimes weigh heavily on me, and I drive home in silence, not able to bear the news or listen to another sad song.
But there are also moments of elation: the birth of a child, struggled for for so long; two men marrying after fifty-five years of believing in never; new jobs, new homes, new bodies; drastic changes after years of abuse and neglect. I’m a scribe, keeping close records of their prose poetry—their songs—on big yellow legal pads. I’m their confidant, their parent, a bridge between the hopeless past and an undiscovered tomorrow, or next year, or adulthood, or old age.
On certain days I feel nothing but hopeful; a gold light shimmers around each leaf on the trees when I walk outside. On other days, I don’t think I can drive home without taking some time to center myself first. So I go to the cafe on the corner and order a Chai tea, add honey and soymilk, and sit in the corner seat where I can stare out the window.
Hundreds of people pass by while I cradle the hot cup in my hand. Some of them I know are doing terrible things to little children; some of them are walking wounded.