Coming Undone

When I walked into the Monday Drop-In last week I did not have the capacity to manage the barrage of questions and comments that came my way. Just the day before I had received the news of the death of a friend. Couple that with lack of sleep/general busy-ness/mounting concerns and it equalled me: the one coming undone.

My teammate Joanna maneuvered me into the washroom where we prayed. Actually, with her arm slung around me, she prayed. I became a puddle of tears. In order to catch my breath I left the building for a short walk. As soon as I exited the front doors I saw two of my friends: Chaz and Steve. {Sidebar: I don’t often use people’s actual names in my writing. For this post they are, used with permission and because I think they ought to be publicly thanked}. Chaz and Steve admittedly live life very hard and it shows. “How are you doing girl?” said Chaz. “Crappy”, I responded.

Chaz picked up where Joanna left off: he put his arm around me and said he understood. You know how sometimes people say that and you want to shout, “NO, you don’t!”? This was not one of those times. Chaz showed a depth of empathy that I believed. He then dug around his pockets, pulled out a stack of brown paper towel and provided what I needed to dry my tears.

Steve quietly stood by with his head down. It wasn’t until later in the day that he ushered me over for a hug. He said, “Erinn, I couldn’t eye-ball you earlier because I felt your pain. I know what it’s like. I don’t like seeing you cry because I love ya”. Steve has buried nearly every one of his family members. He thinks he has more than the nine lives of a cat because he just keeps surviving things he likely shouldn’t. I am completely honoured that he cares about me the way he does and chose to express it.

Throughout the day I was supported by Joanna, Chaz, Steve and countless others in the Drop-In who gently slowed my spiral down through a word, a hug or even just a knowing look. This is community. What a relief to be a part of it.

frayed rope



Last week I received a very lovely gift on the occasion of my birthday: a book full of encouragement from a beautiful collection of people in my life. One entry, from a Parkdale friend, said: “When Erinn isn’t smiling, she’s crying…”. This made me laugh out loud (through the tears). She’s right, I have very active tear ducts.

I went through a period when I wanted to temper my tears. I sometimes felt exhausted by the shear force of them. I attempted to will myself to not cry, to hold in that which so freely flowed. It sort of worked. I think I learned more about where my emotion was coming from. In some cases it exposed unhealthy behaviour and patterns in my life. It also made me realize that there is something very precious about crying and that I need not dry myself out.

One of the Bronte sisters once wrote, “But smiles and tears are so alike with me, they are neither of them confined to any particular feelings”. This resonates with me. Tears are a way for me to express my grief, regret, anger, embarrassment, joy and pride. I can laugh so hard that tears stream down my face, and then when no one else finds what I find funny, I tearfully laugh even more (this happens a lot). Occasionally I cry for what seems like no apparent reason until I realize that a smell or some other sense has triggered an old memory. I routinely weep over injustice.

Though sometimes I feel like a crazy mess, I know that crying has a cleansing quality to it. I quite often feel like I need to let myself weep so that I can take a deep breath and keep going. I’m grateful too for friends who know me and accept me as I am, including my friend who says it like it is: when I’m not smiling, I’m crying. Ha.