When A Woman’s Heart Hurts
My heart hurts a little today. I have shed a few tears, well, more than a few tears in this past week. My eyes end up stinging and throats feels constricted. I often have to take a minute, even walk away for a bit and remind myself how to breathe. An action that should be automatic, but I sometimes forget what I am doing. To calm myself down, I even say to myself, breathe in through your noise, out through your mouth. Breathe in. Breathe out. Inhale. Exhale. Doing so, my breathing usually returns to a normal rhythm, I wipe my tears and somehow I find a way to carry on with my day. Other times, I have to sit down, I have to pray, and remind myself that I am alright. I am not in this alone, and this new normal isn’t something that will always feel uncomfortable. That the new normal isn’t something that I would ever choose, but it is something I must get used to.
Yes, a challenging diagnosis for my husband, a lot on my plate all at once, but sometimes the tears come for other reasons. Today it was from the news that a necessary doctor’s appointment was 2 to 3 months out. Yesterday, it was from seeing a loved one cry. My heart aches and it sometimes feels like a normal rhythm will most likely never be restored. Three days ago, a joy-filled experience found me in a pile of tears for the better part of an hour. I wiped them away as fast as they fell, but my tears were seen by everyone. There is no hiding what I am feeling. There never really has been a time in my life when I was able to suppress what I was feeling or thinking. And, even though I have tried, my body language, facial expressions, rapid blinking, and lack of conversation would tell the observer exactly what I am experiencing whether conversation took place or not.
I attended Forest Lake Senior High School in Forest Lake, MN and graduated in 1993. Although Forest Lake isn’t viewed even today as a large town, my graduating class was over 500 students. I never knew everyone in my school, not even in my class. Forest Lake was like every other high school in America. Different groups of kids, hanging out with different types of people. The athletes, the nerds, the stoners, the gifted. The gifted were an interesting bunch that found their way into said group because of who they were. I am not even sure that other people called them this. Maybe it is what I called them, just me. The gifted were often attractive, dressed well, usually had money, did well in school, were involved in multiple activities and they attracted many of the same people. They were usually quite kind and inclusive of everyone, rarely had someone speak an ill word of them and strived to be friendly and outgoing no matter what life had thrown at them.
I had gone to Southwest Junior High and then to FLSHS with many of the same people. When I reached 10th grade, the other students from Central Junior High also joined the student body at the High School. New friendships were formed based on academic interests and extracurricular activities. I was very involved with my church youth group, Choir and Theater. I loved singing and being in plays where I could sing even more. Many of my friends enjoyed sports and speech and debate.
My Senior year, I met a Sophomore girl in the bathroom. I guess you don’t really meet someone in the bathroom, but that is what happened. We crossed paths under unfortunate circumstances. Tears. We were both crying in the girls bathroom by the lunchroom. We hadn’t met each other before or talked to other, and we both happened to be moved to tears during the same lunch hour. Seeking solace in the ugly brown walled bathroom, I was struggling. My heart that day too had been hurt. A conversation had taken place that wounded me to the core. I was afraid I had smeared my makeup and was concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to get my act together before the next bell. I had abandoned my half full lunch tray and quickly and as gracefully as I could made my way to the restroom past the choir room entrance. I quickly locked the stall door and reached for the tissues. The tears flowed more freely once I was alone and in my own little space. Hidden from any onlookers, I took a deep breath which quickly turned into a sob and then gulp for air.
I long sniffle came from two stalls down. “Um, are you okay?” I was appalled. I thought I had checked under each stall door before closing mine. Apparently, I hadn’t checked thoroughly enough. “I know you are crying too. What is it about today? I wish the day was over. I just want to go home.”
Against my will, the salty tears assaulted my cheeks as quickly as I could wipe them away. I just needed a good cry. I needed to dispel all this hurt and just move on. I wasn’t sure I could do this. Another gulp of air and a sob caught in my throat.
I heard a flush and she exited her stall. She went to the sink and turned on the faucet. I heard the soap dispenser spit soap into her waiting hands and then I heard her pull on the paper towel dispenser. There had been silence for a bit and I was trying to figure out if she left the restroom. “I am still here if you were wondering. I am waiting for you to come out of there so I can make sure you are okay before I go.” I gulped. My tears kept flowing yet I had my breathing under control.
I grabbed my bag off the back of the stall door and emerged to find her standing against the sink with her arms folder around herself. “Good. You are going to be okay. Half the battle is learning how to breathe when you feel like-like every attempt makes you hurt even more.” She wasn’t bothered by my tears and she made room so I could wash my hands and make an attempt at fixing my face in the mirrors behind her. “I have some powder and blush if you need it.” She rummaged through her large bag and placed both on the edge of the sink. I nodded to her in thanks as words hadn’t yet been able to leave my lips. I looked at her. Her eyes were still red and a bit puffy, but she had fixed her makeup.
I took a deep breath and she reached forward with the edge of a paper towel and dabbed at my right eye. Such kindness to even try to fix what my tears had made a mess of. “Was it a guy? It is always a guy. A guy made me cry today. I kinda hate him. But I want do nothing other than be with him. What is my problem?! My mom said that any guy worth spending time with will never make you cry. I don’t think my mom knew some of the guys that I do. They seem to be very good at making me cry.” She laughed a little at her joke and I finished applying powder and blush to puffy cheeks.
“Don’t waste any tears on them. They are worth it…she would say. Well, the tears are wasted and he is totally worth it.” I started to wonder if she had realized that I hadn’t yet said a word to her. I nodded in thanks to her again as I handed back both the powder and blush. She took them quickly and placed them in her bottomless bag. “I have to get going. The bell is going to ring, I have a long walk and need to stop at my locker. It has been a pleasure. And may I share one more thing?” She didn’t wait for me to respond. “When you walk out of her, quickly follow behind me. I will say something funny. You laugh and smile. Smile big. Smile like this trip to the bathroom was the best part of your day. And keep smiling as you walk back to your lunch table. That smile isn’t so much for anyone else, not even the boy that hurt you. That smile is for you. A reminder that the rest of the day can be amazing if you decide that will be.” She smiled at me and winked and started moving quickly.
She exited so quickly and I fell in step about five paces behind her. She turned, said something funny and that was my queue. Just as I reached the entrance of the bathroom. A smile to rival all smiles stretched across my face. I held my head high and smiled at her as she walked into the crowd.
The rest of the day was a good day. There were no more free-flowing tears and I even smiled in remembering my odd exchange in the bathroom. I headed home, finished my homework, ate dinner, watched a show, and slept deeply. The next day, I got u, and went back. I went back to school.
I do not know the name of the Sophomore girl that was so kind to me that day in the restroom. I never saw her again in that restroom. I may have known her name at some point in time, but it has escaped me some 25 years later. But I remember that she was able to help me feel better and even encouraged me without even knowing my name. It was a selfless gesture and one that was always remembered. I have told a few friends about my odd bathroom interaction, and every time a do, a smile spreads across the face of the listener.
Women of all ages, from tiny to 80, have the same thing in common. We are women. We should be loving, encouraging and kind to each other whenever we are given a chance. Our world can be harsh and often times cruel, so let’s extend kindness to each other. Extend it like our lives depended on it. Give that hug, ask if they are okay, borrow blush, wipe tears and always encourage. Share your story. Your story may make someone feel not so alone. Your story of being an over comer may be exactly what another woman needs to take the next step forward. Your story might be what makes them understand that tomorrow is a new day, and worth the effort. The effort of reclaiming your breath, of wiping your tears, of fixing your face, of finding your smile, and moving forward to conquer the new day. The effort is always worth it.