Monday afternoon at about 5:30, there was a groan in Nashville that was nearly subsonic. More feeling than sound, it was followed by a sharp crack, then a thunderous crash. I heard it. I felt it. But the people around me spoke in normal voices, greeting each other as if everything was normal. It wasn’t. My child walked away from me and into the security checkpoint and my heart broke. The sound was as sonorous and as deafening as a calving glacier. No one heard a thing.
I walked to my car, struggling to contain myself and I remembered when I’d had similar thoughts before. When my friend Joey died, people acted like nothing was wrong, yet I knew that EVERYthing was wrong. Nothing was right or ever would be right again. The world kept spinning even if my part of it was irrevocably broken. I will see my son at Christmas and, in the meantime, I will remember my solo routine. At that moment, though, I wondered how many others I passed in my escape were also fleeing the growing sound of their own internal screams. How many other parents were sending their children off? How many husbands and wives saying good-bye? I couldn’t hear their hearts breaking any more than they could hear mine.
I sat in my car, struggling to breathe in the sudden vacuum, when I decided that the foggy thinking that goes with grief and stress is the direct result of oxygen deprivation.
How many people do I pass on any given day whose worlds have just been irrevocably broken by death, disease, or disappointment? Was that inattentive driver of the blue Charger grieving? Is the slow checker at the grocery store struggling? Is the confused customer ahead of me overloaded with trials? How many people do I judge harshly and unfairly rather than patiently or compassionately? Yet, how quickly do I expect that same patience and compassion from them?
If interpersonal skills are climbing gear, the compassion mask should be in front where I can reach it better to share with those in the vacuum. My ego pick should be around back so I’m less apt to use it to chip away at others.
After all, their glacier may have just calved, even if I didn’t hear it.