Yesterday morning, as I drove along the winding Pacific Coast Highway singing my lungs out and smiling like a fool on my way to spend a relaxing solo day / night in Malibu, I pulled up next to a brand new silver Mercedes SUV at a stop light.
“Beautiful car,” I thought, as I shook my shoulders and wagged my head back and forth, dancing in my seat.
I inched forward to see if maybe it was anyone I’d recognize ( * True story: On this very same section of road, I once glanced to my left at the same stop light, and there in the SUV next to me was Julia Roberts. Seriously. Now you understand why I was behaving slightly creepy. * )
So, I glanced at the driver. She was a beautiful lady, I’d say in her mid-30’s, with brown shoulder-length hair styled to perfection. Beautiful earrings sparkled in her ears. Diamonds crusted her delicate wrist. But, something didn’t fit.
This beautiful woman…
she was sobbing.
And I don’t mean crying daintily and dabbing at her doe eyes with a tissue – I mean she was what I call “ugly face crying.” Face contorted, jaw quivering, mouth turned down at the sides, hand to her lips; her chest rising up and down quickly with her uneven breathing. The kind of crying you do when you’ve reached an emotional point of “I can’t contain what I’m feeling anymore,” and unleash because your heart aches too much to hold it in. The kind of crying where your soul is screaming louder than your voice. The kind of crying we usually only feel like we can do when we’re alone.
Only, she wasn’t alone. I could see her.
I quickly turned my radio down, the loud and happy noise now seeming cruel – and looked at her again. “Gosh,” I thought to myself, “this poor lady! What could possibly be making her so sad?!” I mean, maybe it was because I wasn’t in a sad place, but this woman – her sadness was profoundly affecting me! I mean, I REALLY felt for her. I could feel her desperation. I suddenly had the urge to smile at her, to offer her any kind of comfort I could. I wanted to reach out to her in case no one else did. When people cry alone in cars, it’s usually because they have to be brave and keep it together for the rest of their world. It’s a lonely cry.
The light turned green. I sped off, and she turned onto another road – only I couldn’t leave her behind.
Seeing the woman in such dire pain really got me thinking.
I’ve done the same thing many times: Cried and sobbed my eyes out in the safety and isolation of my car. (What is it about cars? Have you done this, too?) I’ve wiped my eyes, controlled my breathing, gotten myself together again, and continued on with my day – no one the wiser to my emotional breakdown. I’ve put on my braveface and made the world think I was fine. But, God, what I wouldn’t have given for someone to reach out. For someone, in my moment of complete isolation, to offer a kind word. A smile. To see that, despite how I held it together in public, I wasn’t okay. To acknowledge the suffering I was feeling. To be kind.
I wondered where this woman was going, did she have someone to talk to, why was she crying? I wondered how she’d behave when she reached her destination. Would she feign happiness and try to convince herself that she wasn’t just “ugly-face crying?” I wondered what her life looks like.
Though I’ll never get a chance to offer this woman comfort, I wanted to tell you about her. This woman was a great reminder. She reminded me that, even if people seem okay, we are ALL fighting battles that the rest of the world may know nothing about. So many of us put on a brave front, when inside, we’re crumbling. This is why it is SO important to BE NICE to each other. There have been days when I’ve been so broken and sad and lonely that the simple kindness of the cashier at the grocery store has brought me to tears.
Just because someone isn’t calling for attention and telling the world they’re sad, does not mean they aren’t suffering.
So today, I just want to extend this to you:
Sometimes we all get a little caught up in our own weird little worlds, but take notice and be gentle and be kind with the people around you, because we are all in the midst of fighting battles invisible to those around us.