— Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
In the days after the stroke I gave myself this luxury: 10 minutes of crying a day. Six hundred seconds of dark in every bright, a sliver of time to accept a new reality and mourn the past and its dead days. No more than 10 minutes, because anything more was ridiculous excess. I set an alarm on my phone for eight minutes and when it went off I would push the jag back inside, force it into the abyss, blow my nose, go for a walk.
Pretty soon I stopped allowing myself the 10 minutes. I was ashamed of my tears, embarrassed by the emotions that brought them to the surface. I put away those thoughts, those things, and turned to the mundane business of life. Resumed the march forward and began to forget why I wanted to cry in the first place.
Tonight I sat alone in silence, reading Márquez and Diana Wynne Jones, and I was careful not to make a sound as I cried into the night and remembered. For the first time in weeks the murky glass in my brain lifted and the memories rushed to refill the chasm, giving me the chance to endure the burden of the past.
After 10 minutes I started to force an end to the crying, then thought better of it. The 10-minute rule did not apply here. The tears that kept falling were not born of sorrow; I was happy to remember again, happy to recall the power and pitfalls of where I have been and the turbulence that brought me here to the other shore. I was, in the words of Gabriel García Márquez, ugly and sad, but all love.