Hello willing passenger, welcome to my car. My trusty Subaru Outback. Her name is Tawanda. She’s got heated seats, all-wheel drive, and a superb sound system. And tissues. She has lots and lots of tissues. Because this space—this sporty little refuge on four wheels—is where I cry.
I didn’t intend for my car to become the place for my tears, but it seems to have just happened that way. It might be because I spend a lot of time in my car, we live in the middle of nowhere, after all, and it takes a good 30 minutes to get anywhere. It might be because the only time I’m ever alone is when I’m driving to and from my office. It might be because I do my best thinking—and feeling—when I’m in my car. Maybe it’s all of these combined, but my car has become my mobile wailing wall.
Last year when I got the call that my husband had a stroke, I cried for nearly the entire hour and 15 minutes it took me to drive from my office to the hospital.
I was in my car six months ago when my best friend called to tell me she was having twins and I cried with her.
Three months ago I cried ugly tears as I drove to pick up my son from school because he’d had another anxiety attack and emotional meltdown, his third that week.
Just last week I cried twice because the song “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman played from my iPod.
When I’m driving I’m remembering and planning and thinking and praying. I’m replaying that argument from last night and crying. I’m mentally calculating the days until my eldest graduates high school and crying. I’m thinking of all I didn’t get done on my to-do list this weekend and how overwhelmed it feels to be Monday again and I’m crying. I’m praying to God to please help the doctors figure out what is wrong with my Grandma, and crying.
Yes, I do a lot of crying, and if you’ve passed me on the road you’ve probably wondered what was wrong with that poor lady, or maybe been thankful to pass me quickly so you didn’t have to share the road with a mentally unstable driver. But I want to assure you that it’s OK. I’m OK.
It’s just that sometimes these thoughts and emotions build up like a river swell after a storm and they push against the dam that is in place all the live-long day. The dam of professionalism at work, the dam of polite conversation at the grocery store and school pick-up line, the dam of focus and action that is needed for everything from folding the laundry to making 50 doctor’s appointments every month. That dam is important because it allows me to go through the day, accomplish the tasks before me, and get all of my jobs done without frightening any small children or bewildered check-out clerks.
But eventually, the waters rise and push against those dams and have to run down, lest they cause it to crack and ultimately crumble. Often the safest place for that run-over is in the car. My Subaru, my Tawanda, has become my emotional spillway.
It’s not that I feel I need to hide my emotions—because the truth is I’m not very good at that anyway. And my close friends, my husband, my family, they are often there when the tears start, and they, God love them, are also the ones helping to dry my eyes. But they have their own jobs and school pick-up lines to attend to. They have errands to run and people to care for and they can’t always be available in the flesh when I need to unburden my soul.
When I’m in my car though, it’s often just me and God—driving down Route 522 or I-66—talking, thinking, and feeling. And you know what? It’s really liberating to leave it all there at mile marker 26.
Yes, there are lots of tissues in my car, but I always have a few clean ones to spare. So if you ever need a safe place to cry, let me know. Tawanda and I will come to your rescue.