Everybody who really knows me knows that I am a crier. I’m not so much a sad-crier as I am a happy-crier.
Sure, I’ll indulge in the occasional sad-crying at things that are awful or Liberal party related, but I usually reserve my open-mouth guttural sobs for things that remind me of love, beauty, connection and community.
For example, a dog crying with happiness and fainting with joy after her owner returns from a long time away.
For example, a photo album my family made me for my 21st birthday with a complete chronology of every year of my life painstakingly arranged in a fetching shabby chic cardboard album.
For example, the time my partner organised a huge vegan birthday cake with rainbow icing, emblazoned with “Happy Birthday Jessitchka” and then bought me a moist lemon scroll to eat on the way to my birthday party in case I couldn’t wait long enough for my actual cake.
It is moments like these – the ones that remind you that love is fierce, and stronger than many less lovely things – that make me cry the most.
I feel like the last 24 hours has been a new type of public horrible. We’ve seen politicians kowtow to industry in ways that hurt small voiceless creatures. We’ve seen equal rights advocates put their own needs last in order to protect the little ones who need protecting. We then watched a vampire call them vampires for this selflessness. I had a ten-minute conversation with my colleagues yesterday afternoon about sweet self-defence moves we’ve learnt in various women’s safety classes before a sick feeling descended on us and we realised “we are all experts in something like this, because we have to be.”
Today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. It’s meant to be a sombre day, of reflection, forward planning, and apologies for wrongdoing or cruelty you might have caused.
I don’t remember a Yom Kippur when it hasn’t rained. I don’t believe in a god, but I do feel like there’s something quite ceremoniously apt here: the skies open at the moment that a large group of people become reflective, introspective, and strive to do better. The weeping of the sky takes place when the pursuit of good is crystallised; made intentional.
For Yom Kippur, I facilitated a session with a group of teenagers where they met a Holocaust survivor and heard his story of fleeing the Nazis, being hidden and protected by non-Jews, and miraculously surviving to tell his story. He told us of new chances in many different parts of France, and then in Australia. I watched the 12-year-old boys of the group slink away from childish in-jokes into territory quite different. Mouths drooping open, like the sky above them.
I decided, afterwards, to go for a walk in the biting wind, to process this heavy day of stories, and remind myself of how free I am, even under a big grey sky.
As I headed home, up the stairs to my apartment, I saw a young woman in a sari holding a tiny baby. We smiled at each other, and I walked on. As I rounded the corner, something clicked. The taxi out the front, the luggage on the curb wrapped in long-haul glad wrap. Further down the corridor, I bumped into my new neighbour, a man in his thirties, whom I had met only briefly once before. We said hello, and he grinned a sweet, almost guilty grin, his face bubbling so hot with joy that one could do nothing but grin back.
He gestured to the woman with the baby behind me.
“My wife and my kid just arrived.”
I welcomed them. Embarrassingly excitedly. And then I went inside, and I wept a little bit at the challenges that are ahead of them, at the Australia they are entering, at the world this baby will inhabit.
But then I wept hardest at the beauty behind all of this: at my neighbour’s grin of joy, of having his family in one spot, of the three of them snuggled up together in a warm room, on a cold night, for a new and unknowable beginning.
These are the things that keep us going.