Repat: Crying In The Car

Apparently, one of the litmus tests for being a real New Yorker is having cried while walking down the street. I have never openly cried while walking down a street anywhere, but here is something I do do: I cry in my car. The car is the perfect place to cry because you’re completely alone. This is not true, of course. You’re in your car! Any of the dozens of strangers all around you, either crossing the street, walking on the sidewalk, or driving in their own car literally right next to you, would see you if they happened to look your way. But the thing is, no one does look your way. Driving is one of the most isolating, lonely experiences a person has in the States. It’s one of, if not the thing, I hate the most as a repat. Now, I have discovered it has its silver lining in that the isolation and loneliness leaves you free to cry as you drive.

In Zurich, I would sometimes take a very quiet, solitary walk on the Hambergersteig, a steep footpath in the hills above our house whenever I needed to have a moment to catch my breath, hear myself think, or formulate something I was writing. This is one of the funny things about being a mom and living in a small apartment or house with your family, and also working and not really having a lot of time alone ever: It’s tough to find time to reflect and connect with yourself. The Hambergersteig had a balcony sort of landing, which opened up and jutted out from under the tree cover about half way up the winding path. There was a bench with a grand, sweeping view of the lake. It was the perfect place to sit and watch the boats go in and out on the Zurisee. I loved sitting there and thinking. It was so quiet and intimate. It would actually be the perfect place to go have a good cry.

But there is no Hambergersteig around here. These days, I’m so busy fulfilling one role or another all the time that whenever I’m alone driving that is my me time. Often I’ll listen to podcasts. Or just sit in silence and try to hear my own thoughts. But the last few days, I’ve been listening to my old favorite albums. Air Moon Safari, of course, and also Radiohead OK Computer, which is probably the best album of all time and truly a delight to listen to on a really good car stereo at really high volume. With the bizarrely frantic exhaustion that comes with the end of the school year looming, and finding my way to turning 40 this fall, and basically having some sort of weird mid-life thing going on, it turns out it’s is the perfect soundtrack for a good car cry, too. I can’t really say what I was crying about. Mostly I think I was just tired. I love that album, and it carries so many memories and moments for me and it was so cathartic and I felt so much better afterward.

How is life for you lately? Are you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed? Do you sometimes just need a good cry?

(Photo via Shop Style/Pinterest)


  1. I have cried on many NYC streets, and subways. Subways are really almost better for it because someone usually, eventually, passes you a tissue, without a word or even a direct glance. It's kind of what you always want to feel, when you're in that mood: seen, but not interfered with. You don't want to talk, or even make eye contact, but you also want the world to somehow acknowledge that you are there, and sad or exhausted or overwhelmed. Having that tissue passed wordlessly over to you is like the universe saying, "I see you, but I'm not going to tell you to feel better. You can just feel."

    Crying in the car is pretty therapeutic too, though. I remember when I was about 20, I was in a really stressful phase of life - I was managing a high-volume chain retail store that I was honestly too young to handle, but my family needed the money; and I was living at home with my mother, who was recovering from cancer. Everyone my age that I knew was off at college, stressing over exams and having fun in the in-betweens, and I just felt so...on the outskirts of life, somehow. It took me a few weeks to realize that almost as soon as I got in the car each day, I started crying. It surprised me, because I didn't feel particularly sad at any of those times. It was just a way to get everything out. Then I'd arrive at work - or home - and feel refreshed and somehow able to leave the hard feelings in the car.

    1. That subway tissue story is so touching. You’re exactly right that being seen but not interfered with is a great comfort and gives one a sense of belonging and safety. I love that so much! That definitely does not happen in the car. I mean, the car is good, but that sounds way better. I hope that your sharing the story of the stressful time when your mom was sick will comfort others, too. We forget that life has seasons. This too shall pass. Since my car cry last week, I continue to be weepy. I just don’t really think I deal well with change, and it feels like each year zips by faster than the last. It’s all very fleeting. I simultaneously want life to speed up so we can get back to life in Europe, and slow down so that I can hold onto my little children forever. Sigh. The struggle is real. Bring on the therapeutic crying.

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