Happy New Year!
OK, so it’s Jan 26th and I’m a little behind. Where has the month gone? There was a mixture of glumness in the early days with some very predictable back-to-London, back-to-work blues, followed by some lovely trips to the seaside, plenty of cold, sunny, wintery days and a healthy dose of laughter and joy. I’ve also spent a decent amount of time on my sofa, bingeing on the entire first series of Broadchurch with the heating on and recovering from a sniffle, and while I’m not overly comfortable with sitting still for long periods of time, I’m definitely getting better at it.
Today, it’s a little grey again. I’ve worn myself out with ‘sales and marketing’ (not my favourite activities), drumming up interest in my new line of work – how to play to your strengths (please share the link!) – so I decided to post this slightly grey blog. I wrote the bare bones of this on the Tube 10 days ago and wasn’t sure whether I’d post it, but here it is.
For once, the tears aren’t mine ….
“I have been there too, crying on the Tube. Wiping away the tears with my fist, trying my best to hide the redness in my face behind my hair, thumbing through a paper diary or the apps on my phone to try to distract myself – and you – from my watery eyes.
What is it, what’s wrong, I wonder, as I look over at you from where I’m stood in the crammed aisle. Bereavement, loss, illness, heartache, the January blues? What’s contained in that dark cloud that sits above your head? Or maybe I shouldn’t presume – perhaps they aren’t tears of sadness, maybe you’ve got something in your eye. But it looks like pain to me.
I want to come and sit next to you, reach out and say I’ve been there too, ask if I can help. I want to say don’t worry. I want to remind you that most of these people around us – those in the sharp suits, those with their mascara intact, those with their heads buried in newspapers – have felt the same way too, at some point, even if it doesn’t look like it right now, or even if they’ve never cried on the Tube. They’ve cried on their beds, in the loo, or maybe they’ve never managed to let the tears fall, but they’ve cried inside.
As I look at you and wonder what’s up, I’m reminded of the number of times I’ve cried at inopportune times or in inconvenient places. Yes, I’ve cried on the Tube, trying to keep my eyes fixed on the ground, trying not to be seen.
But I also remember the days I used to scooter into my office in parliament, riding my Vespa down Roseberry Avenue, with tears streaming from my eyes, knowing this wasn’t particularly safe, knowing I should pull up for a while, knowing I probably shouldn’t be going into work at all. When was that? Maybe around the time my Dad died. Or maybe a year later, when it hit me really hard, like a ten-tonne trunk.
Somebody stopped for me once, not so long ago, when I was crying in public. I was on Hampstead Heath, not on the Tube. Maybe it’s easier there, in the great outdoors. Not so many people to look or stare. Or maybe she was braver than me. I was sat sobbing on a log, in the autumn of last year. Lost. Hopeless. Desperate. And she stopped and offered support. We walked. Talked. Laughed a little. She made by day. And not long after that, I took some steps, made some decisions and turned everything around.
But I haven’t come over to you. I’ve taken a seat myself and by the time I glance over again, you’ve got off the Tube and there’s someone else in your place, someone with dry eyes. And maybe you’re pleased about that, maybe a kind word from a stranger would have been unwelcome, maybe you’d have felt embarassed or compelled to cry even more. But I’m still wondering about you – and I’m hoping you’ve found someone to help dry your tears.”
So why write this? I don’t know really. I guess because in that brief moment, I was struck by the universality of pain, suffering, loneliness and depression. And I was struck by the many ways we seek to hide it – successfully or otherwise – or try to push it down.
I’m also writing this because I’d like to help, if not by reaching out to you on the train that day, then perhaps simply by reminding all of us that, whatever our appearances, however much it looks like we’ve got it all sorted, most of us have been in tears on the Tube – or in some other public or private place – or will be in the future.
And most of us understand.
Yes, for once the tears aren’t mine, but if it’s me who’s crying next time, feel free to smile or say Hi. I hope I’ll do the same. And if you don’t want to talk, that’s fine.