Giving into Catharsis
Time for me has always whizzed by since I moved to New York. There was always something to do at every moment. Of course, that is (was?) a major appeal of the city that never sleeps. While NYC is also notoriously expensive for accommodations, a personal perk was that friends would contact me for a place to crash when visiting. So, it was with open arms that Sonia came to stay with me the week before Thanksgiving.
During the week, I was in and out of classes so we planned to spend time together over the weekend, dedicating Friday to dinner and hopefully a Broadway show if she could get tickets. Though early mornings had started to get cold for us Californians, I had class on Fridays at 8:30 AM, and training before starting my day helped me still my mind. I pulled on my layers of pants as a shield against the winter wind, some sort of jacket, my trusty gold Beats to cover my ears, rushed down the apartment stairs and over to campus.
It ended up being a short training day, but I was happy to have hit a new bench PR (personal record). It was early on and my bench training was going great thanks to Zander. I had asked Jamey*, someone who I had met at UC Davis years ago, to spot me. (On a quick side note, it was very awkward seeing him years later on the East Coast at the gym. Recognizing him, I stopped Jamey before he left the gym to say hi. I (re)introduced myself since he was giving me a blank look. I brought up the UC Davis ARC gym to try to jog his memory, and he limply replied that my arms had gotten bigger.)
I headed home and cooked breakfast, a rare occurrence given that I had an early morning class and usually have overwhelming disdain for cooking breakfast. I love cooking and will do it for lunch or dinner, but somehow the effort to eat a heated breakfast just seems so cumbersome. Also, I'm usually not hungry in the morning, even after training. But perhaps this morning I wanted to hoodwink Sonia into thinking I was a normal breakfast-type person, I do not know.
I stood there at the stove cooking eggs and watching the gooiness turn into a more edible mush. As I have said before, I often pushed away the difficult thoughts of knowing that my dad was no longer around. And I know all that jazz about "Oh, try to focus on the positive!" but there were truly just very few positives that could outshine my dad dying on me and my family. Or the other, "It's okay to be sad sometimes." I DID NOT WANT TO FEEL SAD. And it was not a "sometimes" thing, it was an "always" thing when it came to thoughts about my dad.
Not that I ever talked to my dad about hitting PRs or actually anything about my workouts, but I would never be able to tell him that I hit another bench PR. I remembered coming home from my 2nd powerlifting meet and my parents finding out for the first time that I powerlift. In his "dad" way, he ignored the fact that my mom was yelling at me for participating in a sport that was so unbecoming for a lady. Instead, he was entranced by the considerable weight of the two gold medals I had won. He played with the thick fabric attached to them, chuckling as he tapped on the hard gold discs. Even though he didn't say anything, I knew that bringing home double gold assuaged any complaints he might have had and that was enough for me. But also, I am pretty sure my dad was just surprised, shrugged it off and did not think much of it. And that was fine with me too. That was just how my dad was.
This all brought tears to my eyes. The apartment was quiet early that morning. I did not want to wake my flatmate so I kept quiet my sobs, keeping it at an occasional sniffle at most, as I poked at the yellow mush that I was now forcing myself to eat. Eating eggs for breakfast is so overrated. Now I have to wash the pan. I finally calmed down and went to the bathroom to get ready, all the while hoping to avoid my flatmate or Sonia seeing traces of any tears, but it was too late. My eyes were red and puffy. Betrayed by my own body.
I slipped into the room where Sonia had just gotten up. "Good morning!" she said cheerfully. I returned the greeting bleakly and walked quietly over to my desk. Dang, I should work on my acting.
She knew something was off. "How was your workout this morning?"
"It was good. I hit a new PR on bench and I ran into an old friend." I turned away from her and to the mirror to put on makeup. I could feel the tears welling up again.
"Oh, that's nice. Are they a good friend?" I wanted to laugh and tell her all about how awkward it was seeing Jamey that first time again in the gym, but I couldn't.
"Uhm, no, not really." Poor Sonia. I was giving her nothing.
Eventually, with more artful prodding from Sonia, I eked out that I missed my dad and broke down completely. She held me as I cried and cried. Was this normal? It had been over a month since my dad's passing at this point and I could still go into sob mode just thinking and cooking eggs. What was wrong with me? What did Sonia think? Wasn't this all so out of the blue? Uncharacteristic of me? Of course, Sonia asked no such questions. She understood, and she let me let it out. In fact, she was the perfect height for hugs and crying into her shoulder.
Once my breathing returned to a normal pace again, she said we would make the evening activities into something like a date night, just the two of us. We could even match and be twinning, if I wanted. But the main thing was that we were going to go out and enjoy a night in New York City together, and that turned out to be exactly what I needed.
Reflecting on moments like these remind me once again of how much my relationships truly matter to me. While the fact that I cried so much after my dad's passing may now seem commonplace, it does not change the fact that bawling your eyes out can be incredibly vulnerable. That morning, I would not have had a much needed cry had it not been for Sonia. It is only true friends with whom you are comfortable enough to be that vulnerable, that really do make things better.
*name changed to maintain anonymity