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Better Out Than In

Written March 6, 2020 from my parents’ home in Northern California

February 26, after five weeks in the hospital, the last two under hospice care, my father passed. It was a beautiful affair. My brothers and parents were together when Father decided to go off dialysis, ending an intervention that was essential for his survival. It was a quality of life decision, and we all honored and were at peace with this decision.

The healing of oceanic depths that coalesced this fall equipped me with expanded capacity for love. This allowed me to be fully present for him, my mother as she transitions to her “new normal”, and for the loved ones who came to pay their last respects and honor the impact my father had on their lives. One of these individuals was trying to stop himself from crying while he was with my father. This was one of the many, many people who have seen my father as a father to them. I told him, “Better out than in.”

My father chuckled, getting that sparkle in his eye. “Just like gas, tears are better out than in.” We all laughed. You see, my father is notorious for his gas releases out his back-end. His ability to fart was so refined that he could fart while talking without skipping a beat. This always confused people, because usually people have to stop talking to allow the gaseous release. Not R. Wayne Stacks. We would have people over at the house, sitting around the living room conversing and laughing. Wayne would be regaling us with some new information about the world around us that he found fascinating. He would fart without interrupting his diatribe, leaving our guests to confusion. “It sounded like it came from him, but he didn’t register it in any way.” If my father wasn’t able to pull that off, though, he would complain about those pesky barking spiders. Always with that sparkle in his eye and smirk on his face.

I had a close friend when I first started my healing and recovery journey at 24 who said to me once, “I don’t want to cry, because I may not be able to stop.” I get that. When I was in the midst of my trauma, I couldn’t allow myself to cry or be sad. It would compromise my driving aim, which was getting out of that trauma situation. I needed to stay optimistic and visionary to drive out of the chaos that was drowning me. After seven years, I got out. I wanted to live now. I had missed most of my high school and college years, and I wanted to be out and fabulous and creative and connected. I never could cry. It was only four or so years ago when I made the move out to the farmlands of Iowa that I allowed myself to cry. And boy did I! See, I didn’t want to let this grief out in the crowded urban center of Chicago, because I didn’t want to get it all over everyone else. Also, I probably feared losing my dignity and frightening the people around me. So I moved to the country.

And boy did that help! The sessions of weeping and rending of garments was eased by not worrying that someone would see or hear me. I was able to walk into the back 40 and scream, throw stuff around, fall to my knees and rip up grass, and lay in the sun with a towel to my face, catching all my snot. Every time I did it, I felt lighter. I had cleared out old storage, which made room for the life I was living in real time. I spent at least three years clearing out the old stuff, and I still find dust and old containers. Keeping things cleared out allows me to cry for what is in front of me. It allows me to be present for the people and experiences I encounter each day without fear of them triggering something old in me. It allowed me to be present for my parents in one of their most difficult times.

Keeping our tears and gasses bottled up screws up our insides. I’m not saying we need to release them anywhere and anytime, but the consistent release allows us to move on. The bottling process creates a storage problem. If I don’t gas out those brussel sprouts I had for lunch or cry out that heartbreak from not getting that dream job I was so sure I was gonna get, I have to find a place to store it. Let it out. You may find your forward movement eased by the lightness and space you create from gassing and crying.

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