The tears flowed freely, the available shoulders numerous. At least for the first couple of weeks after the attacks. Slowly others’ tears seemed to outnumber my own. The burden of knowing their pain was feeding from mine became arduous. I understood that they were grieving for someone they loved, and still I was crumbling under the weight. Each tear chiseled at my already broken heart. Out of their pure devotion and well intended concern they needed me to feel better.
I sensed their urgency for my healing. So out came the watercolors and on went the smile. The tears dried up so as not to smear the painted grin. I appeared strong and everyone was pleased with how well I seemed to be recovering. Watercolors are vulnerable even in private rooms, so stoicism preserved the paint.
Authenticity. That was the encouragement of the counselors. Could I thaw my frozen heart and risk letting my painted smile run? I had to weigh the danger of allowing myself to feel again. And what of those I loved?
Advice. Coming from several sources (again) was “Do not grieve to someone else’s expectations.” I must not tailor my recovery to others’ ignorant judgments. Digging deep, was there courage enough to melt the plastic facade? Would it be safe to let others know that healing from rape can take years? If I allowed my feelings to escape rather than to stuff them away, would my friends get tired of me? How long would their shoulders hold up on the days that a sight, sound, or smell suddenly triggers a storm?
Risk. I had to take it. I was decaying on the inside where the trapped feelings were becoming a stench and anger and rage the fumes. I knew there was a volcano simmering right below the surface. How could I release genuine emotion without the explosive force of once subdued fury?
Sorrow. A tear escapes. It is cool and soothing as it runs down my cheek and the artist canvas starts to smear. Wipe it quickly before it ruins the whole charade. There is another, and another, and soon it appears a dam has broken. All the paint is quickly washed away, though there is more and the choice is mine to get it out again. For now the relief and the moisture feel like a small miracle. I do not want to stop the tears, I want permission to cry out until I have nothing left to cry in this moment. I turn and there is a soft shoulder that says, I am a forever friend and I love you right where you are. Could it be they just need help to understand?